There is a bit of foreign language around our house. Not a formal language, not a dialect, recognized by a group. No one, except my son, speaks this language but it is pretty easy to understand.
There are so many benign, everyday words out there that we use to convey some simple meanings. Colors, such as green and purple, objects such as wheels and dinosaurs conjure up the objects and colors they represent. Words known to all four year olds. My son uses these words differently.
Let me preface this story by telling you that, early on, when he was about 18 months old, my little boy did not know a lot of words. He knew and could say the words apple, banana, and peach. He could not or would not say the word orange. Now, looking back on it, I don’t know if it was a audio-sensory issue, a speech issue or something else.
Regardless of the adversity to “orange”, in one of his first attempts at improvisation, my son created a new word for this round, citrus fruit we all know and love. “ZHUH-ZHEE!” (like the French pronounce “Jaune”) he would exclaim for the orange. Thus, a new language was born. “Zhuh-zhee” was very French sounding. None of us in the house speak French, so for all I know it is an actual word. At any rate, in our house, it meant orange.
These days, orange has long replaced “zhuh-zhee” but I will never forget his little chubby body, reaching for the fruit and giving me his little “French-ish” word. It was adorable. Back then, he would also completely fall apart crying if I pronounced the letters “p” or “r”. Especially the “r”. He was absolutely averse to the sound of those two letters made. He has become desensitized to those sounds now and tolerates them just fine (knock on wood). He has graduated from those issues and moved on.
Nowadays, my little sophisticate, expresses a variety of emotions including frustration, impatience, and anger at various situations that trigger these emotions. (Who knows where he could have picked up such traits?! ). Now, some people around him may possibly use an inappropriate word now and then. The child may have observed the slip up of someone uttering a word in frustration.
My son either chooses not to use the occasional words that he may hear from adults or cannot access them to use. However, his own impatience or frustration simply cannot remain trapped in his little body! If he is mad, he uses his own language to vent.
This foreign language became clear when Greg, the director of the behavioral therapy organization that provides services to my son, assessed my son last summer. I dreaded yet another assessment because, frankly, he was not loving these strangers asking my son a bunch of questions. And Greg, for all his kind and mellow demeanor, is a big man. Very tall and big. At the time, my son was about 3 feet 6 inches tall and weighed maybe 48 pounds. I was afraid my son would fear Greg.
He didn’t. In an empty room on the floor, one of the tasks my son performed was to assemble some blocks from largest to smallest in a stack. My son really liked these blocks.
When Greg saw how fast the little guy could build the tower, the task was complete and Greg put them away. Uh-uh. My son wanted those blocks. Greg allowed him to play with them for a minute more and then put them away in a black case. My son went directly to the case to pull them out. Greg loudly said “No. You can’t have those. They are mine.” Well! My son got an inch from his face and said to him, “GREEN, GREEN! G-R-E-E-N!” Neither of them budged. It made a funny picture. This very large, grown-up man, saying “No.” and my little guy, standing, in-your-face style, shouting out a color and spelling it. Greg recognized it for what it was. “He’s cussing me out!” he said. He said he’d never seen a child react this way and was trying not to laugh in front of my son.
This was not the last we saw of the swearing-without-using-swear-words kid. He has become an expert in this field.
“Give me the back the iPhone,”
“ PURPLE DINOSAUR!”
“Time to go home”
“ICE CREAM!! DONUT!”
“You have to wait your turn,” (a classic)
“FIRE TRUCK!! FIRE TRUCK!!!” (classic response)
Yeah, that last one is pretty funny, huh? I get that one in public all the time. At the coffee shop, toy store, and the bank, just to name a few. It’s accompanied by the standard dirty looks from all the strangers about my clear inability to parent…And when I get those looks, you know, of course, what I really want to do?
I’d really like to tell them all to mind their own ICE CREAM DONUT business and stick their dirty looks right up their PURPLE DINOSAURS!! So there. Maybe I’ll do that someday…