Tales from the Crib

Toddler ‘talk’ is leaving Emma Milner battered, bruised and confused Discuss this article

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I have a cut lip, what feels like a broken finger and a range of purple-to-green bruises down my legs. No, I haven’t walked into a door, I am being bullied by my 15-month-old son.

If he’s not hitting me in the mouth with a DVD, he’s trapping my fingers in his car box or trampling across me as he practises walking on and over everything. He is finding his communication feet and it is costing me and his dad dearly. Sam’s current inability to find the right words has not stopped him from letting me, and most people he sees, know exactly how he is feeling. If he wants something he makes a range of grunts and points. If he has hurt himself he points specifically at the part that hurts. If he is cold he wraps his arms around himself and if he’s hot he fans himself with his hand.

When it comes to wanting a new nappy, he jabs his finger into his shorts and looks at me with a quizzical ‘so, are you going to do anything about this?’ expression. This look also covers food he has spilt either on himself or me, milk being poured on the floor or a book or other object thrown down the toilet.

His latest – and the most painful for us – way of expressing what he is feeling is by hitting. It is a regular thing and the extent of the bullying can go between a comical slap in the face, to a good whack on the arm or in the stomach. I went to help my husband, Will, bathe Sam the other day only to find Will being bopped continuously on either cheek. Trying not to react, Will just had to take his soggy beating as Sam grinned from ear to ear.

I am not sure how to deal with this as each punch comes with a big smile or chortle, so the beatings are clearly given with love, or so we keep telling ourselves. We have tried to teach him to stroke instead of hit, but now he hits to get attention and then strokes as soon as he has it.

He still cries. It is louder than before and much more emotional; it’s a cry that won’t be ignored. It has also caught the attention of the newest member-to-be of our family – the second son, who also kicks and punches me from the inside as if to say ‘get up, Sam needs you, now.’ I fear this is a sign of things to come.

Sam hasn’t really got the words worked out, but largely that is the fault of Will and I. In the early days, every time Sam grunted, so did we. Anyone looking in from the outside may have been forgiven for thinking they were watching a clan of Neanderthals.

That said, he has managed a couple of recognisable words. At 4am he can quite clearly say ‘mum!’ And a couple of weeks ago, he managed to nab a slice of lemon off the dinner table and very loudly shouted ‘yuck!’.

We are also starting to work out some of Sam’s other noises: ‘er ur’ means ‘here you are’, which is usually followed by a large and rather mauled portion of his lunch being forced into my mouth. (Cue my turn to say ‘yuck’.) ‘Nun nun’ means Night Garden, which I love more than Sam and life itself, because he knows it’s bedtime when it finishes. He pats himself on the wrist and makes an ‘um um’ noise and, while we are a little baffled by this one, we think it might have something to do with food. And ‘Abba’ means daddy, we think. Otherwise it means he really wants to listen to the Swedish foursome. We’ll stick with daddy for now.

The nicest way of expressing himself to date is kissing. He started giving out kisses a couple of months ago to everyone – everything in fact – except me. He kissed his dad, the TV, toys, cars, the mirror, but never mummy. I tried to pretend it didn’t matter, but when he even started to kiss the fridge, his total avoidance of me started to wear thin. But, in the last couple of weeks, he has started giving me a kiss good night and, although the day’s bruises and scratches haven’t gone, after that, they sure don’t hurt as much.

By Emma Milner
Time Out Bahrain,

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