The Word Game
I can’t exactly remember when Zoe started talking, although I do recall that she started with the word “Mom” and she would holler that word to me whenever she demands my instant 100% attention. The word “dad” followed a little later and she would holler that word just the same when she demands her dad’s 100% attention. She also made up funny words for “dog” and “horse”. When I first asked her to say “dog”, Zoe went on a coughing fit. I was alarmed, scared s**t that my daughter, who rarely as in rarely, gets sick, has started coughing. But then I realized that her coughing started when I asked her to say “dog”. And when I asked her a second and a third time, I got the same coughing response. So, for a long time, dog for us was “ugghuuh ugghuh”. It was almost the same with her “horse” but this time she kind of acted out the horseback riding part, saying “ya”. This she did while she giddy yapped on my tummy or her dad’s tummy with delight. In no time Zoe was muttering two-syllable words and then three. She surprises us with words we never expected her to know–words we would mention while on a conversation with her and hearing her use that word whenever it applies. Many times I would try my best to decipher what she was saying. Straining my ears, I would ask her to repeat what she just said, and I would say it out loud, waiting for her confirmation. It would go like this:
Me: “Oh, car”
Me: “Bar?” (Upon further guessing I found out she meant “card”)
At this point she would give up, exasperated, wondering why I couldn’t understand such a simple word. Sometimes she would be on the verge of tears and would lie on the bed not wanting to talk to me at all. Other times she would simply spank any hard surface she could get her hands on, as if to say, “If you guess the wrong word again I’m gonna give you a timeout.” The word game could get so frustrating to me, too, because I wonder if I’m the only mom in this planet who doesn’t understand my daughter’s words. It doesn’t help that my mother tells me that she understood EVERY word that came out of my mouth when I was young, no matter how foreign-sounding it was.
And so I practice being an interpreter, listening to and decoding every word she says, even when she prefers to have a conversation with herself and no one else. Sometimes I unearth some words which might have come from my imagination. During one of her monologues, I swear I heard her say “cheeseburger” and another time I was almost sure she said “happy thoughts.” I’m getting the hang of it!
One evening she was about to step into the study room, with an attempt to interrupt me as I spent some time on the computer. But then she paused upon seeing a dead adolescent cockroach on the floor. I say adolescent because it is not the adult full-blown cockroach that freaks me out more, the one that has the ability to crawl up the walls and suddenly fly and the one that sends shivers down my spine as I write about it. Zoe scrambled to the hallway, ran while taking sideway glances to where the dead cockroach was, making sure that it does not rise from the dead and follow her. Her dad, who was watching television, saw the frazzled look on Zoe’s face and assumed Zoe must have been up to something naughty, haha. I watched the whole scene in amusement and was bursting with laughter. Just the sight of my daughter scared to her wits and her rush to escape amused me. Does that make me a bad mom? I thought that was the end of it when suddenly, I heard her conversation with her dad, “Daddy, boom, daddy boom.” She was actually telling her dad to get the broom, and because it took some time for her dad to register what Zoe was saying, Zoe got the broom herself and held her dad’s hand to lead him to the study. That’s when she instructed her dad to sweep the cockroach. “Daddy, boom, dudooch [cockroach].” To this day she tells us about it, “Dudooch” then makes an “aack” sound and pretends to be a dead bug with arms folded at the elbow and wrists. She then tells you how she “an” [ran] and got the “boom.” Her narration of the dead dudooch is hilarious.
One word we look forward to hear every single day is “havoo” which means “love you”. She says it a lot, well, a little less than we hear her say “dede” and “no, no, no,” but she says it just the same. I play her “havoo” in my head and just melt everytime she says it, even if I wonder if she really undertands what love is.
Last night she surprised Suerte and I with “sumting owee,” pointing to my bag. She was looking for a “something for Zoe” when we arrived from work. It took me by surprise because we do not regularly bring home a something for her. We kinda make a conscious effort not to make her get used to receiving everyday somethings, and yet here she was, asking for something. I tried to give an explanation of some sorts, which I hope is good for now, and cheerfully told her that her something for tonight is having her mom and dad home, and I stretched out my arms to her as a present. That didn’t work though. So I put out a half-eaten, day-old cheese bread from my bag and gave it to her. She took a teeny weeny bite, probably sensed it wasn’t new and it was another thing disguising as something, and decided to just forget about the whole thing. In a few seconds, her attention drifted somewhere else, to my breasts to be exact, and she demanded for “dede,” and so we snuggled, my daughter and I, and I listened to her heart, without words, in silence.