Tag Archives: language

Say it with a song

Arthur is having a very musical week this week. More specifically, he is immersing himself in the world of song: he appears to be a sponge for the lyrics he hears, and is managing to reproduce them pretty accurately with very cute (and sometimes very amusing) results.

image

He’s always been into music – unsurprisingly perhaps given the gigs and festivals we’ve taken him to and the fact we love to listen to music at home. But this love for lyrics – or the ability to remember them anyway – is a fairly recent thing.

It started when ‘The You and Me Song’ came on the radio. Now I love this song, but I’d almost forgotten about it when Jo Whiley used it to begin her show. She often does that to me – spins a tune that returns me to the recesses of my record collection and has me hunting for my old CDs. I started singing along, and Arthur was quite taken with it too. And before I knew it he was singing ‘you and me always, and forever’ over and over again. I’d like to think it could be our theme tune.

Then, with a bit of a cultural shift, came ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. This one’s obviously been on his radar for a while, but he surprised me last weekend with an almost word and note perfect rendition of it – right up to the little boy who lives down the lane. I’m still impressed when I hear him sing it – which is good, because he sings it a lot.

The other thing he’s been doing is singing songs from the movies he’s been watching, and this is where it gets especially entertaining.

Like (I hope) most toddlers, he likes to boss me around, often telling me to ‘move it!’ if there is something in his way or otherwise not in exactly the right place. But this week, whenever he’s given me that order, it’s been like a little lightbulb has gone off in his brain, flashing up his favourite scene from Madagascar. And then, with a grin on his face, he launches into ‘I like to move it, move it, I like to move it, move it’. Seriously funny, though I’m not sure I should be laughing quite so much at my little tyrant.

This morning he had me in hysterics again. We were walking down the stairs in our pyjamas, me holding his hand as I am wont to do, and he began to sing ‘Let it go! Let it go!’. I responded in my usual gushing, proud mummy way – and he stopped, looked me very seriously, and said ‘let go’. I guess he didn’t want me to hold his hand after all.

I’m finding the development of Arthur’s language skills such a joy, and his ability to reproduce what he hears – and twist it to fit new situations – particularly fascinating. The fact that his current propensity for singing is turning our lives into one big musical is just an added bonus!

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

 

My word of the week this week is musical.

The Reading Residence

On words, and perceptions of reality

words

I have been thinking a lot lately about how words shape reality.

It is true of course in my writing. As I immerse myself in the third draft of my novel I am increasingly aware of being engaged in a complex choreography of choosing just the right words to draw the reader along with the story I want them to believe.

I can also see it in Arthur’s emerging language – the distinctions and categorisations he is now able to make with his expanding vocabulary. It’s hard to be sure, but it feels like his world is expanding as his words do. There are not just birds any more, but seagulls and pigeons, peacocks and penguins. He is starting to recognise and label emotions too. To articulate happiness, fear and love. And – through those emotions perhaps – he is beginning to make judgements.

As adults, our judgements are inherent in so much of the language we use everyday, from ‘pretty’ girls to ‘naughty’ boys, from well meaning labels that can inadvertently limit someone’s concept of what they might be capable of to jokey insults laden with prejudice that can exclude whole groups of people on a whim.

That really bothers me, that labelling. But that’s a post for another time.

I think what’s unnerving me most at the moment is how words can be used to twist an otherwise secure reality into something else. I have realised that the protagonist in my novel is the victim of narcissistic abuse. Her experience is rooted to an extent in my own, and that of some of my closest friends. If you haven’t (and I hope you haven’t) fallen under the spell of a narcissist, their modus operandus is to make themselves invaluable to a person and then gradually undermine them and chip away at their self-esteem until their victim has no idea what is right or true any more. Almost all of this they do with words.

It is incredible how mere words, used judiciously, can plant seeds of doubt that cause the things you thought you knew to be true to collapse before your eyes. I don’t know if you’ve been watching Broadchurch, but watching Joe Miller’s defence lawyer rewrite history – to the extent that even viewers who had seen what had actually happened began to doubt whether it had – was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen on TV.

An old friend, one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known, is going through something akin to this currently. He is at risk of losing access to his children entirely unless he can convince the courts that his words are worth more than those of his estranged wife, that his truth is more valid than hers.

Most of us, I hope, will not be so calculated in the way we use words to manipulate reality. Not unless the reality we are weaving is accepted to be fictional by all concerned. But I wonder how conscious we are about the need to speak the truth – and if we’re not, to be honest about how what we say is clouded by opinion.

It is easy to forget sometimes, whilst simply recounting an event or expressing a point of view, that every single word we choose – consciously or otherwise – will alter the message we are communicating.

As a writer the limitless possibilities are undeniably exciting. But as a human being – and especially as a parent – I find it just a teensy bit scary. The potential for getting it wrong is sometimes almost enough to make me not want to say anything at all.

Almost.

But we most definitely need to choose our words carefully, in what we write and what we say. Who knows whose perception of reality might be depending on it?

 

 

mumturnedmom

Now you are two

IMG_0663

Dear Arthur,

A year ago today I wrote my very first post on this blog: a letter to you, a week and a day after your first birthday.

Reading back over those words now it is hard to believe that only twelve months have passed – and at the same time I wonder where that time has gone, where my little baby has disappeared to.

You are still my baby of course. I suspect that will be the case for many, many years to come. But there is no denying that you are growing up.

A month or so after that first post you started walking. Unsteady on your feet at first, you soon leapt in confidence. You are so strong and fast now – running around on your tiptoes, a look of glee on your face. You have finally learnt to jump: you worked on that for ages, such determination as you squatted down and pushed upwards, not quite understanding why your feet wouldn’t leave the ground. Gymnastics has taught you to be increasingly comfortable in your body in many ways – walking backwards and sideways, rolling and balancing and climbing. I reckon it’s going to be a pretty active year ahead!

There’s swimming too. You’ve loved the water since you were little, but in your second summer, with the help of your float suit, you began to move yourself around in the pool and the sea. It made me very glad to live where we do, that there were so many opportunities for swimming in the open air feeling the breeze on your skin and the sun on your hair, looking out over our beautiful bay.

But the biggest steps you’ve taken this year have to be in your language and communication. You had a handful of words by your first birthday, and as you learnt to use them and discovered where they could get you your vocabulary snowballed. I stopped counting back in April as your list of words neared one hundred. Since then you’ve picked up many more from your books and films and conversation and just listening. You can put them together in simple sentences now, ask questions and express your preferences. Your definitely starting to do that rather a lot: I love the clear-minded and strong-willed personality that is emerging.

Your independence takes me by surprise sometimes. You still like your booba, and cuddles in the sling, and the moment in the night when you come and join mummy and daddy in the big bed. But none of these things are stopping you from developing your own sense of self.

You like to sit on your own table at mealtimes now – the blue table with the blue chair. You feed yourself with a fork or spoon, still wolfing down porridge and pasta. You love fruit too, especially bananas and satsumas and pears. And salmon – well, all fish really. Especially if it comes with chips. Though potatoes in general are pretty popular.

We took the side off your cot this week, and you’re very excited about your ‘new bed’. You like to be able to climb in and out. That was the problem with the high cot side in the end – it was a good thing daddy was there to catch you! You haven’t quite mastered staying in your bed when you’re asleep either, but you’re very close to the floor. The last couple of nights, when I’ve come in to check on you, you’ve been fast asleep on the mat we laid out to cushion your fall. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it, and for now I can’t help but find it super cute, especially since rolling out of bed doesn’t seem to wake you.

If you do wake in the night then more often than not daddy’s songs will soothe you back to sleep. You definitely still love your music – dancing and singing, playing piano and drums and your little ukulele. We actually had to replace that finally last month – it’s taken a bit of a battering with all your enthusiasm. Definitely worth it though.

The other thing you love, more than anything at the moment, is trains. You have a wooden train set which was added to this Christmas and birthday with all sorts of new and exciting bits of track. You could happily sit and play with it for hours. We’re lucky to have the steam train so close – we went on it for your birthday again this year, remembering that life-changing trip two years before when my waters broke at Paignton station. You love to watch trains too – Thomas is becoming a firm favourite, but you’re just as happy with the hours of footage on YouTube of steam trains all over the world, chugging and choo-chooing along with them as you sit on daddy’s knee.

There is so much more than this. Sitting here now trying to capture you at two years old is really quite overwhelming. I know that as this year unfolds you will blossom more and more – finding the words to express all the increasingly complex concepts swimming around your head, growing in strength and dexterity, playing with more and more purpose and absorption as your imagination opens up a whole new world.

And so, just for a moment, I will hold you close and breathe you in, savour the magic and wonder of your existence. And then I will take your hand and let you lead me into the next year of our adventure.

All my love for always, Mummy xxx

 

 photo 93142f35-6d39-479f-b3de-d94dbca68162_zps58499252.jpg

Twenty months

 image

Dear Arthur,

Twenty months ago today, you came into the world. That might not seem like a particularly important milestone. I meant to make more of your half birthday – that day in midsummer when you turned eighteen months – but there was just too much going on to stop and reflect.

It’s generally been a summer like that to be honest. We’ve had so many adventures – boating and swimming and camping and exploring. I’ve written about lots of them here, snatching minutes to upload photos and try to capture the things that you’ve been up to. But in focusing on what we’ve been doing I fear I’ve missed some of the most significant things that have happened this summer: the changes that I’ve seen in you, all the ways you’ve grown and developed.

Language has been a really big one. You have so many words! We stopped counting back in June some time, and it was seventy seven then. I reckon it might be double that by now – you’re a brilliant mimic, not only of the words themselves but of the intonation too. It’s not just that though – you can use your words independently as well, naming things and making your requests. You’re so thrilled when we understand you, the glee literally lights up your face.

I think you still understand way more than you can vocalise, and that might be why we’re starting to get some tantrums. That frustration we caught glimpses of when you were younger is showing itself more clearly now. It comes from not being able to get your point across I think, from the world going from making perfect sense to suddenly slipping through your fingers. You are still such wonderful company, but there are times when you seem so unhappy in your skin that I wonder if anything I can say or do will make it better.

It’s times like those I’m really glad I’m still wearing you regularly, still nursing you several times a day. If I hold you close, if we focus back in on that special bond we share, then the angst soon passes. The world is a pretty confusing place after all – it’s totally understandable that there are things that won’t make sense to you.

And despite that closeness being so important sometimes, there’s no doubt that you’re becoming more independent too. You love to sit on your own little chair at your own little table in the kitchen, to shake off my hand whenever you can and wander off by yourself, following your own path.

Sometimes you’ll then decide you want company, but on your terms. You’ll reach up expectantly and say ‘hand?’, mainly to Daddy as you lead him into your world. I know he’s treasured every moment he’s been able to spend with you this summer and he’s going to miss you dreadfully when he goes back to school.

You’ve had lots of different playmates over the summer, and you’ve so enjoyed all the different interactions, particularly with children a few years older than you. It almost makes me sad to watch you mistake strangers for your new friends who we’ve had to say goodbye to for now, to hear you call for Abbie or Fifi in the street, but I know we’ll see them again soon and you’re learning something important about friendship and memory. You’ve had the chance to nurture relationships with family too – with Grampa and Mimi, with your uncles and aunts and cousins. Again you’ll sit and run through their names when they’re not here. I hope you won’t be too lonely when you’re stuck with only me most of the time come September. We have lots of fun things planned though, lots of local friends to catch up with. It’ll be good for you to hang out with children your own age, to start to learn those big skills like sharing and kindness and taking turns.

It’s fascinating to watch your interests and preferences develop. You still love music, your little ukulele guitar but also the piano and the drum. You love to move too – dancing, running, climbing, jumping. You’re still working on that last one – it makes me smile to watch you squat down with such focus in your face and thrust yourself upwards only to find your toes are still in contact with the ground. You will get there soon, I promise.

You’ve had your fair share of scrapes as you’ve found your feet this summer. A succession of firsts that would never have come at all if I’d have had my way: first stubbed toe, first nose bleed, first scraped knee. I guess the bumps and bruises are all part of it though. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

And I think I can safely say that for the most part your world is a happy one. That word itself has become increasingly important to you, it’s become our little ‘I love you’: ‘Happy Arthur, happy daddy, happy mummy’ you’ll say, with a look of pure contentment on your face. You get such joy from the joy of others too: sitting around the table joining in with the laughter of adults at some grown up joke, waiting for a lull before you proclaim it ‘funny’. I don’t know whether you know that will provoke even more laughter, but it invariably does.

There’s so much I haven’t found a way to fit in here. Your love of trains and tractors and anything with wheels. The way you can almost count to ten when the mood takes you but somewhere along the way have got six and seven mixed up with chicken and motorbike. How your perception of crayons is slowly shifting from tasty snack to something to create pictures with, and how I want to frame every one even though I know we’d soon need another house to keep them all. 

I have big plans for the autumn, but I’m really looking forward to hanging out with you too. To savouring everything you learn and say and do, and helping you make sense of this crazy world. The memories of summer will carry us through the cooler days and darker nights, and I know you will continue to astound me.

All my love for always,

Mummy xxx

 

Thank you to Sara at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt ‘Memories of summer’. 

mumturnedmom

Word of the Week: Cuddle

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:

image

Arthur has been wanting lots of cuddles recently. Partly I think he’s needed the comfort: his teeth have been bothering him for sure – he has eight coming through at the moment – and he’s had a bit of a cold this week too. More than that though he’s worked out how to name them – they’re ‘duddles’ rather than ‘cuddles’, but now he can ask for them he wants them all the time.

image

It starts from the moment he wakes up in the morning: reaching out his arms for cuddles, not only from us but also from his bears.

image   image

As the day goes on he’ll keep checking in to recharge, making sure he gets his cuddle quota. If we’re hard to reach then anything will do – his water bottle, or perhaps a piece of roasted carrot.

image   image

Each expression of cuddly affection is accompanied by a cry of ‘duddle!’, full of urgency and enthusiasm. It is the cutest thing to watch, and to be on the receiving end of the duddles is even more adorable.

image

I hope that this isn’t entirely just a phase, that what we’re witnessing is the growth of our baby into a little boy fuelled by the exchange of such heartfelt affection. It might just be one of the best things about being a mum, and if I’m honest I’m not sure how I coped when I didn’t have so many cuddles in my life.

 

The Reading Residence

 

Word of the Week: Bird

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:

image

Arthur’s had a bit of a thing for birds for a while now. I think it started with the simple swallow mobile that hangs above his changing table: that’s certainly where I first remember him saying the word ‘bird’ back in February. The seagulls that circle round our town might have something to do with it to: as Arthur’s become more aware of the world around him he’s pointed them out any chance he gets. He looks for them in books and pictures too, and has surprised us by being able to identify even very abstract images as birds, excitedly naming them as he realises what they are.

It turned out that Cyprus was a bit of a bird lover’s haven. There were so many little birds flying around the gardens of the hotel, sitting in the trees and delighting Arthur as they hopped on the ground in front of him or swooshed past him as he toddled around. When we finally made it to the Paphos Archeological Site we learnt why there were so many – Cyprus’s geographical location puts it right in the path of migrating birds travelling between Europe and Africa and the Middle East, with over 390 species of bird having been recorded on the island.

One of Arthur’s cutest bird interactions was at the archeological site: strolling between the ruins and mosaics through tree-lined avenues he spotted a couple scratching around in the grass. He headed straight for them, calling out ‘bird’ in his adorable little voice, and staring and pointing as they made their escape just before he reached them.

image

image

image

His identification of things as birds has expanded now to cover things that fly – or things with wings at least. So when we passed a jasmine bush awash with butterflies he called those birds, and one night we awoke to the sound of his voice as he lay between us, pointing at a moth on the ceiling and marvelling at the bird that had made its way into our room.

And on our flight home, as he started to begin to compute the experience of air travel, he looked out of the window at the wing of the plane and decided that too was a bird. I’m pretty sure at that point his mind was well and truly blown…

image

The Reading Residence