There's been a word explosion at our house.
Words are everywhere. Bud's writing them. He's reading them. And, best of all, he's saying them - all over the place.
Bud spends a lot of time these days with his nose in a book. His favorite is one that Santa brought him - Arthur's First Sleepover, which comes with a CD of the story read by its author, Marc Brown. Bud listens to it every day, following the words as Brown reads them, turning the pages appropriately at the end of each line.
He's still watching TV and movies, of course, but these days he insists that I turn on the closed captioning while he watches ("Mama, can you get the words, please?"), so he can read along with the dialogue he's hearing.
And the talking - oh, the talking! We're still hearing plenty of scripts, but his spontaneous language is getting more sophisticated all the time. Bud has started using lots of words to offer up information about his day - what he ate for snack, the project he worked on in art class, who he played with at recess, which part of his day didn't go as well as he'd hoped it would. He uses words to share insight into his emotional state - "I miss Ms. Parker," or "That makes me angry!" He uses words to seek out information from us: "Hi, Daddy. How was your day?" or "What's so funny, Mama?" These days, our back-and-forth has been going back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth-and-back again repeatedly, as it did last night at bedtime:
"What happened at school today, Bud?"
"I was sad."
"Oh. What made you sad?"
"Ms. Parker was working with another friend."
"Which friend was she working with?"
"Well, that's her job, honey. Ms. Parker has to work with all the children."
"And then me."
"Yes, and then you."
"Okay. Tomorrow is school?"
"Yes, tomorrow is Friday. It's going to be very cold, so you'll be staying inside for winter activity day."
"I'll stay with Ms. Parker."
"Remember? Ms. Parker called and said she's sick so she can't go to school tomorrow. Ms. Jones will be with you."
"No, not with Ms. Jones. I can stay with Ms. Parker."
"Ms. Parker is sick, sweetie. She can't come to school. She has to rest."
"I can take care of Ms. Parker. I can rest with him. I'll just hold her arm." (Yesterday, as Ms. Parker felt she might be coming down with something, she asked Bud not to hold her hand because she didn't want to transmit germs to him. He held her arm instead.)
"That's very nice, Bud. You are a good friend to Ms. Parker. Maybe you could make her a "Get Well Soon" card."
"Yes, at home, and we'll send it to her. But at school tomorrow, you'll be with Ms. Jones."
"And Ms. Jones will teach the kids?"
"Yes, she will."
He's also made huge strides in finding words to help us understand his needs, even when the words don't come to him readily. One night after he'd gotten into bed he called out to me in a somewhat panicked voice: "Mooooom! I need your heeeeelp!"
I went to his doorway and asked what was wrong, and he answered slowly, "It's - it's - it's tih-ing me!"
"It's what, honey?"
"Tih-ing me! It's TIH-ing me!" he paused, listening, so I paused and listened as well. Then I heard the click of the baseboard heaters kicking on as the chilly night swallowed the warmish day: tih - tih - tih - tih.
I explained that the noise was the heat coming on so that we would be warm all night and, satisfied, he rolled over and fell asleep. I wonder how a similar scenario might have played out a year ago, before he was able to find - to create - those words. I imagine that he would have called for me, but he would not have been able to tell me why he needed me. I would have thought he was restless and agitated and being difficult for no reason. I would have told him - probably too sternly - that it was time to sleep. He might have tried again, but ultimately he would have found himself in the dark, alone with his fears and anxieties as he listened to the mysterious, unexplained tih-tih-tih that seemed to be getting closer and closer.
The most exciting recent development, though, is that Bud's starting to be able to answer "why" questions. It's still an inconsistent skill. He has mastered the why/because question/answer format, but often his "because..." answer is not quite congruent with the "why" question that was asked. But sometimes - sometimes - he nails it. One night last week, he nailed it despite being in the middle of having himself a good cry.
He was overtired but fighting the idea of going to bed, and in protest he dumped water from his water bottle onto the floor. I handed him a towel and took his water bottle, explaining that he was done with it and could have it back in the morning. Much weeping and snuffling and melodrama ensued, and in the midst of it he threw his arms around my neck and exclaimed "But, Mama, I'm so SAD!"
I decided to go for it: "Why are you sad, Bud?"
"I'm sad because, because... I'm sad because I lost my favorite water bottle!" he wailed.
I consoled him, gave him a brief reminder of how the situation came to be, and assured him that the water bottle was not lost and would be returned to him in the morning. He sniffed and snuffed and tried to pull himself together, and I stayed somber and sympathetic on the outside. But on the inside, my heart was doing a big old dance of joy.
Because there's been a word explosion at our house - and it's rocking my world!