Dave maintains that Ryan has been a more talkative guy than Nathan since birth. This is quite possibly correct, although I never trust my own memory for such things; it’s amazing how the intense details of each stage fade so quickly as the child grows. Yet another reason for me to get out the video camera sometimes.
But it’s been interesting for me to watch Ryan’s language skills. He’s coming up on seventeen months of age, and arguably has no reliable words. Oh, he talks a lot — a lot — but it’s all babble. “Eh?!” is his favorite questioning sound, and “Na!” is how he comments on or demands something. Both of them can be repeated as often as he feels is necessary for emphasis, sometimes ten times or more. “Eh eh eh eh?!” he’ll say, pointing out the window, to mean, “Oh my gosh! Is that a person walking?!” Or “Na na na na na na na?!” (accompanied by an insistently jabbing finger as he’s sitting in my lap) means “What’s wrong with you, woman?! Nurse me this instant!”
To be fair, he makes a very decent woofing sound when he sees a dog. Perhaps that counts as a word? But “ma-ma,” “da-da,” “ba-ba”… all these are conspicuously absent. I can’t remember when Nathan first started assigning specific sounds to specific meanings, but I do remember that it was after he’d started walking, and that his first word was “ba-ba” which meant “bellybutton.” Ryan shares the universal fascination with that anatomical feature, but hasn’t given it a name.
This is not to say that Ryan is language-deficient in any way. He understands an unbelievable amount of what we say, sometimes even things I don’t expect him to pick up on. The other day he correctly distinguished between “my nose” and “your nose,” which I remember was a concept that was a long time coming with Nathan. (To be fair, he hasn’t consistently repeated that trick, so I can’t be sure he really understands the concept.) He knows an insane number of words for body parts, and loves the “Where’s your…?” game. He also knows sign language for a variety of key words like “more” and “down.”
But I have this feeling with him that it’s going to be all or nothing. Mom and Dad always said that Peter didn’t talk until after he turned two, but that he launched right into using complete sentences. I apparently started talking somewhat before I turned two, and then they couldn’t shut me up. I don’t know what shape Ryan’s speech will take, but I do know that lately the range of sounds he makes when he’s chatting has increased. Maybe there are words stewing around in there, about to bubble to the surface.
In the meantime, he’s plenty good at getting his point across. Especially when he wants nursing.