Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Baby (and Non-Baby) Talk

Managing small children is a gene I think I was born without, so it’s as remarkable to me as to you that Carol and I are spending a long weekend in Des Plaines looking after our two newest godchildren, aged 27 months and 10 months. Their parents are taking their first (short) vacation together absent offspring since Katie Beth’s birth in November 2006, and although we were well-briefed on things like which girl got what foods and where the mother lode of baby socks is, we knew it would be quite an education.

Katie is picking up language with frightening speed. When I last saw her she was just discovering the bare bones of complete sentences and most of her words had to be understood from context if they were to be understood at all. Now, well, we’re on the verge of genuine conversation.

Example: Yesterday we were sitting on the couch and looking at the photo montage my mother had on her wall the last few years of her life. When I asked Katie, “Where’s mommy?” she she pointed unerringly to Gretchen’s face on their 1994 wedding photo. Ditto “Where’s daddy?” and Katie’s finger pointed to Bill. The montage is short on recent photos of certain people (like me) and when I asked her, “Where’s Uncle Jeff?” she pointed to a photo of my father instead of a shot of me in college, when I still had abundant hair. I chewed my tongue for a second but let it go; she was born five years after her last grandparent died, and the whole notion of “grandparents” may have to await the birth of abstract reasoning.

So we went on to the other photos in the montage. “Who’s this?” I asked, pointing to a 1957 photo of Gretchen at one year.

“Baby,” said Katie, referring to her little sister Julie, who in truth strongly resembles her mother at that age.

“No, that’s mommy!” I said.

She looked at me very funny. “What you talk about?” was her response.

But that wasn’t the best of it. Earlier this week, just after we had arrived in town and come by with QBit and Aero, QBit hit the jackpot when he discovered a very stale scone that Katie had dropped behind the livingroom couch eons ago. Carol took it away from him, and in a fit of pique he decided to go hunting. We saw him make a beeline for the stairs to the second story, and I ran right after him, remembering certain adventures up there last summer when he had dug a dirty diaper out of the wastebasket in the bathroom and was furiously shredding it to get at the gooey chocolate center. Katie ran after the both of us, and as I reached the top of the stairs and almost had QBit in my grip, Katie announced at the top of her little lungs: “Doggie chew poop!

Except that this time, I had grabbed him before he reached the bathroom, and nothing got chewed. Doggie spent most of the rest of that evening in his kennel, but I found it remarkable that Katie would remember an event that had occurred eight months earlier, when she was only nineteen months old and spoke primarily in monosyllables. (Especially the ever-popular “No!” which QBit can’t say and rarely understands.)

We flew Gretchen’s 25-year old winged fabric box kite at the playground yesterday, while Julie chewed the plastic reel holding the string and Katie chased the kite’s shadow on the grass. It’s hard work, this kid stuff, even for the kids–and we all slept very well last night. This morning at breakfast, Carol grabbed Katie’s piece of toast to cut it up for her, and Katie made her wishes plain: “Come back with that!”
The next time we’re here, well, she may not be quoting Shakespeare, but she may be quoting Space Cat. We’ll do our best to make it so.


  1. Bob Fegert says:

    Toddlers are such fun to spend time with 🙂

    As a guy I find that many people look at me strangely when I say something like that….so sad that we live in such an awkward time.

    I once babysat frequently with a toddler and we had great times…we’d go to the park almost every time I cared for her…then one day a sign had been put up…a police order that said no males were allowed in the little fenced in kids park area….I felt very hurt for quite a long time over that. And even worse It somehow caused me to make excuses and not sit with the child ever again. :-/

  2. Rich, N8UX says:

    Amazing, and somewhat frightening, isn’t it? I have a 15 month old grand-niece (that alone frightens me). She was walking at 10 months, and soaks in all information presented to her senses. Uncle Rich has her identifying the brighter stars in the night sky. Ask her, “Where’s the Pleiades?” and she points right at it.

    Her favorite book right now is “Good night Moon”, but I have a Norton Star Atlas waiting in the bookshelf for her. At this rate, she’ll be ready for it in another year.


  3. Terry says:

    What??!! You ALL slept well and 50% of you are little kids? Those aren’t kids, they’re angels! Thank your lucky stars your sister has good sleepers. I actually think sleep deprivation is one of the toughest parts of parenthood in the early years.

    1. My sister has always been an Olympic-quality sleeper (unlike her insomniac big brother) and mercifully for us, both of her girls go to bed when they’re told and sleep for as much as 11 hours without interruptions of any kind. (OK, Katie fussed maybe a little last night. For about five minutes.) I’m told that this is uncommon. Carol and I have been able to wake up, take a shower, have a leisurely coffee and breakfast, tidy up the family room from the previous night’s pandemonium, and maybe have a second cup and a scone before the little ones start making a racket.

      Nonetheless, we are tired. Bill and Gretchen arrive at Midway in 23 hours and 45 minutes. We’re ready.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *