Before I had kids, I had a pretty good idea how it would go. My children would be well behaved and of course would not have public tantrums. They would use their manners, eat their greens, and never, ever hit. Though I had a sense those might be lofty goals, I was fairly sure I could manage it. I was absolutely CERTAIN, however, that I would never EVER talk baby talk.
I’m sure I read somewhere that it’s better to talk to babies with real words so that they learn to speak properly or something, but honestly my aversion to baby talk has no basis in science and is purely based on the fact that it annoys me. I HATE it.
My first son used a soother for a few months after he was born, and we referred to it as a soother. (Well, I referred to it as a soother. I think my husband most commonly referred to it as, ‘that thing’.) It AMAZED me how many different words for it people came up with it. My mom raised all of us kids (as babies, at least) in England, so she is excused for calling it a dummy – that’s not even baby-talk, just different county talk. But I’ve had others refer to it as a binky, a boo, a paci, and a soo-soo. (I love my mother-in-law dearly, but wanted to die a little every time I heard her coo to my son, “Uh-oh, you’ve lost your soo-soo!). It never seemed to matter to anyone that I only ever referred to it as a soother, people would still call it whatever weird pet name they were used to.
But I remained steadfast. It was a soother.
He never took a bottle, but if he had, I assure you I would’ve referred to it as his bottle, not his baba, or anything else. My two were both breastfed and I didn’t even have a baby-talk nickname for milk. I occasionally referred to it as ‘mamma milk’ but even that made me feel a little squirrely. For some reason, I just could not handle any kind of cutesy baby-talk words.
That is, until my kid started talking.
When your kids say their first words, everything is mispronounced, or spoken with such an adorable ‘kid accent’ that absolutely every word is the cutest thing you’ve ever heard. My son at 18 months old was in love with garbage. Every garbage can, garbage truck or piece of garbage was referred to as ‘Gar’ for almost 6 months. And you think that I would say, “Oh look, garbage truck!” when I wanted to point it out to him? Nope. Gar. “Look! Gar gar!!”. Sure, a lot of the time I would use the proper terminology, but this ‘Gar’ thing was a slippery slope for me.
From ‘gar’ our baby-talk repertoire expanded slowly but steadily. The names for stuff that my husband and I started to use in conversation as if it was a real word began to border on ridiculous. “Have you seen Racky?” (referring to the stuffed raccoon.). “He wants his boon.” (balloon). “Ugh. Hide the seal somewhere so he forgets it exists.” (in reference to the yam my son adopted around Christmas time and carried with him everywhere for like a month straight til it was sneakily peeled, boiled and eaten by his heartless mother.)
With all these things, though, I still maintained at least a shred of dignity, in that while at times we would use the pet names, the real words for things were also used frequently, and adult speech prevailed the majority of the time.
And then we got blan-blan.
My second son who is now 16 months old likes to say words in pairs. One of his first words was car but it has almost always been ‘Car car!’ and pretty much never just ‘car’. We noticed he started getting attached to one of his blankets because he would yell, “Blan! Blan!” when we lifted him out of his crib if he wasn’t holding onto his blanket. So of course I’d say, “Oh, you want your blanket?”, Except after a few days this became, “Oh, you want your blan?” and now for several months we have been exclusively referring to this particular blanket as blan-blan, and it even seems to have become a proper noun. When it’s bed time we say, “Go and get Blan-Blan!”, and off he toddles to get Blan-Blan. My husband calls it Blan-Blan. My 3.5 year old calls it Blan-Blan. It is, without question, Blan-Blan.
Baby-talk has got me. I held out for as long as I could, but at some point you just have to give in. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, I was wrong about how everything else would go, too.