GateHouse – Apparently what happens is one day toddlers just start talking, that literally overnight they’ll go from making burbly, googly noises with their throat, tongue and mucus to forming what could reasonably pass for complete sentences and thoughts, at least as those sentences and thoughts pertain to Spider-Man and the urgent need to go poop.
This is what Science is telling us, and it makes sense, since it explains why my son, over the past month or so, has gone from talking pretty much exclusively about Lightning McQueen to vaulting me into a small yet significant existential crisis.
Scientists call it a “word spurt,” a time when some little switch in a toddler’s head goes click and the smushy brain parts that are used to form words kick into high gear, where it remains until the child turns 13 and becomes silent, resentful and interested solely in exceedingly terrible music.
Like most developmental milestones, the word spurt happens at different times for different children; for my son it picked up speed in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Well, that’s not entirely right. Perhaps at your house this week you had Christmas, you sat around, gave each other a bunch of silly gifts, slammed some nog, mistled some toe. At my house we didn’t have Christmas, we had Rocket Day, during which my son was bequeathed enough rockets and jets and space shuttles that the leaders of many small nations are probably looking at their militaries and feeling very bad about themselves.
But we were very excited about Christmas/Rocket Day this year, because we had been talking about it ever since my son started seeing the first signs of the impending Christmas season, which occurred in June. By the time Christmas morning rolled around, he was — and I’m afraid I’m speaking quite literally here — wetting his pants in anticipation (Rocket Day, I’m afraid, started off with a bit of torso-sponging).
We spent weeks talking about Santa Claus, how he could possibly finagle his way into a fireplace-free home, which brand of crackers would be most appealing to a fleet of tired reindeer, etc. etc. And Christmas Day was more of the same, his chattering and rambling fueled by what was basically a daylong candy-cane and M&M bender.
So as you might expect, the very next morning, when I went to get the Little Man up, the very first thing out of his mouth was, “Where did Christmas go?”
Now, this is the sort of question that probably makes perfect sense to a 3-year-old, especially one whose most recent memory involves walking downstairs to be greeted by a preposterous amount of free chocolate. And I’m not sure why — maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the early hour, maybe it was the fact that my auditory receptors don’t function until coffee No. 2 — but it occurred to me that not only did my son’s question not have an answer, but also it was a complete mind trip.
Maybe it’s the word spurt, maybe it isn’t, but he’s been doing this a lot: posing random, rambling queries that he probably just sees as a way to filibuster himself out of nap time, but if you think about them long enough are really deep, existential questions that have no satisfying answers, such as “Why is it Thursday?” I do not have much of a history with hallucinogens, but this question COMPLETELY BLEW MY BRAIN. Because the obvious answer is, “Because it’s Thursday,” but the deeper, quieter answer is, “Merciful heavens, I have absolutely no idea why it’s Thursday. And not only that, but I don’t know why tomorrow’s Friday! Who am I!? What is the nature of my being?” It’s at this point that steam began shooting out of my ears and I tend to sprint toward the nearest margarita.
It’s been going on like this. the boy will point at a train and ask, “What’s that?” and because I am extremely gifted I’ll respond, “That’s a train.” Which is when he goes all theoretical on me: “Why is that a train?” Aaaugh! I don’t know! Why is the earth round, what is the nature of darkness and light, how do black holes work, where’s God, why do bad things happen to good people, why are you making me rethink the power of fact and knowledge and why aren’t we talking about Clifford The Big Red Dog right now?
This, I imagine, will go on for weeks, if not the rest of my life. Fortunately, I have discovered a solution, at least a temporary one, that works out well for the both of us, because it turns out — and here’s something that I believe he already knew and was trying to teach me — a lot of your existential troubles sort of float away if you just play with rockets for a while.