Little by little, Westley's idiosyncratic language, his baby speech, is disappearing. It's probably most noticeable in his pronunciation of his own name. Almost exactly two years ago, on October 27, 2009 I wrote (but never published) the following:
W.Westley has decided to go by "West." That's what he's been calling himself for several months now. I find this completely awesome, partly because I'm fascinated by names and nicknames and whether or not a name is "nicknameable." But more importantly, it's given me a new appreciation for toddler-speak.
What he what he actually says is "Est," because he can't make the W sound very well—unless he's substituting it for an R somewhere in the middle of a word: if you're getting a "dwink" at night, the refrigerator light seems very "bwight."
Shortly after I wrote this, he switched to calling himself "Wessy." He'd sit at the top of the slide and gleefully announce, "Here Wessy comes!" before pushing off. These days, he takes care to say "Westley," paying special attention to the first syllable, stopping firmly on the T.
Before Westley's second birthday, I often felt like I was chatting with an adorable little Elmer Fudd impersonator. (It didn't hurt, of course, that Westley was short, round, and practically bald at the time.) Now, I often think I'm conversing with a tiny philosopher. It's not just his annunciation and grammar that's grown up, it's his thought-processes and the way he uses language to express them.
Recently I was explaining to him that driving our car less often is one of the ways we can take care of our Earth. We talked about plants and certain kinds of trash breaking down, being biodegradable.
"And animals?" he asked.
"Yes, animals are biodegradable. When animals die their bodies break down and help feed the soil."
"That's good for the Earth," he stated. Then, after a moment, he asked, "Is singing good for our Earth?"
"Yeah, is singing good for the Earth?"
He wasn't making a joke, so I didn't laugh, but I totally wanted to. I mean, come on! I said, "Well...singing can make people feel happy, and happy people are more likely to do good things in the world, so...yes, buddy, I guess you could say singing is good for the Earth."
Westley surprises me every day with a new word or phrase to express what's on his mind. Time after time I find myself wondering, Where did you learn that? Last week he asked me, "Mommy, what do you have against Barney?"
"I find him unaesthetic," I said. And then we talked about what unaesthetic means.
While I love listening to Westley's voice grow up, and I delight in teaching him new,
age-inappropriate polysyllabic words, I'm also mourning the loss of his baby speech just a bit.
For a long time, the letter L gave him trouble. Lady was "wadey" and girl became "girr." His own name came out "Westwey," which I found irresistible. Now, he'll just say the L perfectly the first time—"Please?"—or he'll correct himself. He'll start to say someone was "sweeping," and then stop, take half a breath, and enunciate with the utmost care: "s-l-eeping." This editing-on-the-fly melts my heart every time. It's one thing to get older and just—oh, hey, whadda y'know?!—start saying words correctly. But it's another thing altogether for Westley to acknowledge the shift by setting himself straight.
It makes me want to throw a party while simultaneously screaming, "No! Not so fast! Stay little!"
(Or maybe even wittle.)