This wonderful thing has been happening with increasing frequency: Esmé is yammering.

I know I have written here about Esmé’s language development a bunch…the fits and starts, when she has the occasional break-through, her incredible receptive language skills, and her loss of expressive skills. And I imagine that it must be difficult for you, as readers, to understand what these fits and starts (and steps backward) actually sound like.

Ezzy’s “words” are difficult to characterize. She doesn’t babble like any other young children I have heard. Her sounds can be rather murky–on the surface they seem rather consistent, but there are subtle differences in sound, cadence, emphasis, and tone that slowly sift out as you listen to her. A growled “Muhhh” is different than a soft “Muhmuhmuh.” Her “Maman?” is clear request for me or my attention, while “Mamamamama” is something else altogether.

I keep trying to decipher her sounds…when she is in a talking mood I will try to ask her what something is. Pointing to the gorilla in her copy of Goodnight Gorilla I’ll ask, “Who’s this?” I’m fairly certain she has said gorilla before (it sounds like “ch–ih–AH”) but more often than not she will become silent or irritated. If she does respond it is with a full sentence that no-doubt contains the word I asked for hidden among the “ding ding” and “mammam” sounds. (Either that or she is responding by saying “Maman you are a ding ding for even asking that question, and thusly I refuse to answer”).

I have taken to recording her talking and then watching and re-watching them trying to sort out what she is trying to say.

Here is an example. We are watching Daniel Tiger in bed:

I feel rather certain she is at one point saying “Dan Dan” for Daniel Tiger. But if you listen carefully you will hear some sounds that lean more toward “ding ding” or “NinNin” (maybe Night night? Is she tired?) or “UngNah.”

The thing is I am certain she is saying complete thoughts. I don’t necessarily imagine that she is working with complete sentences (although nothing would shock me at this point)…but I know that she is trying to say more than just identifying familiar nouns. I am desperate to understand…and, based on how irritated she is getting lately, she is pretty desperate for me to understand as well.

Last night she spoke to me for about 45 minutes straight while we were reading books before bed. She got louder and louder–interrupting me as I tried to read. I finally just let her flip through the pages and I encouraged her to “tell” me the story. She was so excited and anxious and insistent…but there was even less than her usual variation of sounds. The entire “story” was “MumMumMum” in various tones and speeds over and over, punctuated by a growl here and there.

After awhile she exhausted herself and fell asleep and I was left to try and sort out what she’d been saying. All I could think was: I keep telling her I am listening…I tell her to keep talking. But at some point listening isn’t enough, I need to understand. She needs me to understand her.

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