Lost in Translation

It’s said that moms have many jobs, including maid, chef, waitress, daycare attendant, nurse, taxi driver, teacher, etc. But one of the things the people who write these lists seem to consistently leave off is the job I find myself assuming most often — that of interpreter.

The difficulty of this job rivals that of any such position at the U.N., for what language is more rare than the one that belongs exclusively to one person and is evolving almost hourly? Maddi has a unique patois in which most words sound remarkably similar and in which the last consonant — and often the last few syllables along with it — is completely unnecessary.

“Ba,” for instance, means ball — unless it means “bear,” “bottle,” “box,” or “bath.” Much like Mandarin, inflection is key. Depending on the subtlest nuances, “tchee” could mean “cheese” or “Cheerios.” “Bwuh” could be “brush” — but is equally likely to mean “bracelet.” Of course, the interpretation must be quick and accurate lest we incur the wrath of the toddler; thus, Chris and I have become quite the experts in translations from the Maddish tongue.

To the uninitiated, there’s very little difference between her words for “Daddy,” “James,” “Sticker,” “drink,” “pacifier” and “What’s this?” — yet we can tell you in a millisecond exactly which one she’s using.

Like Trekkies who learn the Klingon lexicon, Maddi’s fans find great joy in learning new “words.” For instance, today, as she was digging around on the floor with a giant upside-down fake flower and saying, “Shuddo ‘no! Shuddo, shuddo, shuddo!” I was delighted to figure out that rather than spouting gibberish, our daughter was actually saying “Shovel snow! Shovel, shovel, shovel!” as she imitated what Chris was doing that very moment outside the window.

Maddi can also be seen cooking breakfast for her dolls on any given day. She’ll sit the doll in her toy high chair and say “Ghoogey?” (“Yogurt?”). Then she’ll cook up a bowl of something in the play kitchen’s microwave and serve it up to her doll, admonishing, “Hot, hot!” (We’re not sure why yogurt would be hot — perhaps her baby opted for oatmeal instead and we weren’t privy to the order as it was given telepathically. After all, oatmeal, like anything else that comes from the stove or microwave, except for “paba,” or pasta, is called “hot-hot.”) Her doll will often utter an appreciative “Mmmmmmm!”

She’s also working on her table manners. Maddi has the cutest little “please” you’ve ever heard. When prompted — or if she remembers — she will smile and yell a very enthusiastic (and persuasive) “Peeeeeeee?” Occasionally she will also say “Thank you,” which, like her words for “pacifier” and “sticker,” still sounds a lot like “Dada.”

One of the cutest things she’s done recently is name her first doll. Among the decorations for her baby shower was a bathtub with a tiny kewpie doll in it. Maddi recently discovered the doll and immediately dubbed the doll — her smallest by quite a bit — “James.” (Or as she says, “Dzhay-dzhay.”) I thought it was a one-afternoon thing, but she has continued calling him Jay Jay, and has persuaded Chris to put the little doll in James’ bouncy seat when James isn’t available to fill it.

She continues to dote on James, sharing tummy time with him, trying to brush his hair and adjust his pacifier, and burping him (she has actually produced a few good belches!). Today, since James is doing much better in the head-control department, I asked her if she’d like to hold James in her lap. Maddi beamed the biggest smile you ever saw and held James for a good several minutes until he began crying (through no fault of hers — she did a stellar job and was very gentle!). For the rest of the day, she pestered me for the baby, patting her outstretched legs and begging, “Dzhay? Dzhay?”

Speaking of new experiences, on Friday, for the first time ever, Maddi put her own shirt on without any help from Mommy or Daddy. Then today, she did it again, but also put on her own pants unassisted. She was extremely proud, needless to say, and uttered a happy “I-didit!”

And here, for your viewing pleasure, are some images of pure Maddi cuteness!

Oh, boy! A “pane”!

Hot dog! (If you don’t “get” the caption, take a look in the microwave!)

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

Tummy time with Jay

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