One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make as I transform into a mother-thing is remembering to talk to my baby. The kid manual books tell you that it is important to speak out loud to a baby all day long so that the little seedlings of language can take root in the mush of their brains. And when I say mush I mean it lovingly yet truthfully, because COME ON. I could bark at Leta all day long and she would find it just as instructional as if I were reading her a dictionary.
To prevent myself from absent-mindedly going hours without saying anything, which has happened many, many times — YOU try talking to a person who refuses to answer you or to give you any indication that she can differentiate your voice from the sound of the dishwasher — I have developed the strategy of describing everything I do. This means that I am talking all the time, non-stop, hours and hours with the describing:
Right now I am lying you down on the bed, Leta. And while you lie there flailing your arms I am going to go turn on the television so that we can watch “Pyramid,” hosted by Donny Osmond who is a Mormon just like Grandmommie. “Pyramid” is our new favorite show, isn’t it? It has nothing to do with Donny Osmond, who is very cute and all, and I know he sits at the right hand of God or whatever, but he has all the charisma of a lima bean. I’ll never force you to eat lima beans, Leta, not like Grandmommie forced me. I’ll also never force you to sing songs about how much you should want to grow up and become a missionary and thus a mindless cog in the wheel that is cultural imperialism. But I digress!
We like “Pyramid” because it is fun to try and guess what these crazy people are trying to describe, isn’t it? And when we do guess correctly we feel good about ourselves, because we’re smart enough to know that when they say, “Not winning, but . . .” the correct answer is “LOSING!” And when they say, “Not a bride, but a . . .” we say “GROOM!” And the thrill of it is exhilarating! Kind of what it feels like to drink a lot of coffee! And inevitably the word “movie” will come up and the person describing the word will say, “You go to the cinema to see a . . . ” and of course the answer is “MOVIE!” but the person on the receiving end of the description will invariably just sit there, dumb as a stick, and go, “Huh? Guh? Whah??” AS IF YOU WOULD EVER GO TO THE CINEMA TO SEE ANYTHING BUT A MOVIE. And we know that if we were sitting there we would totally say “MOVIE!” and we would bask in all our word-guessing glory because we are awesome and totally cool.
That’s how my day goes, really, just verbalizing my stream of consciousness in the hopes that one or two words will stick in her mush, and that maybe her first word will be “imperialism” or maybe “invariably” or maybe even possibly “MOVIE!” But I find that I can’t stop describing things even after we have put her to bed and by the end of the night I have given Jon a blow-by-blow commentary on how I’m brushing my teeth — up and down and up and down, and now the toothpaste is foaming, like an angry dog or maybe a washing machine that has been loaded with too much detergent, and now I’m spitting and isn’t that gross. It has gotten so out of hand that I fully expect Leta to stop in the middle of one of her screaming fits and turn to me and say, “WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY.”