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Stages of toddlerhood: The chatterbox

Toddler talk

Toddler talk  

Has your toddler hit the chatterbox stage yet?

There comes a stage of toddlerhood when conversation becomes a constant.

I’m not exaggerating here. My three-year-old has been in full-fledged chatterbox mode for the past few months. She starts talking the moment she wakes up in the morning, and stops only when she goes to sleep at night. (Actually, she’s taken to talking in her sleep too recently, lest I miss anything during those meagre hours of rest). She’s talking to me continuously even as I type this sentence, updating me on a) the cartoons she watched this morning, b) the status of the chapati she’s making right now, and c) the story she’s going to tell me next.

Every activity of the day must be accompanied by a running commentary, or her experience of it is incomplete. It’s like being plugged into a live feed online with 24/7 updates – “Amma! I’m feeding my dolly! I’m walking my puppy! I’m an astronaut! I’m a shopkeeper!” Data is shared –“I’m a big girl! I’m three years old! I have three friends!” So is intent – “When I become four years old, I’ll drive daddy’s car!” (No sweetie, you won’t). Wise observations abound – “Amma! Daddy is your husband and you’re daddy’s wife. But I don’t have a husband or wife.” Demands are made at random intervals – “Amma amma amma! I want a lollipop/roller skates/real live bunny rabbit!”, “Amma! Look at me/my drawing/my boo-boo!” and so are oh-so-ironic complaints – “Amma! You’re not listening to me! Amma! Don’t talk so loud! Daddy! Daddy! Don’t sleep!”

She talks while I brush my teeth and while I (attempt to) brush her teeth. She talks while she’s on the potty and if I happen to step away, sends me updates at the top of her voice (toddlers aren’t acquainted with the term ‘Too Much Information’). She talks while eating, so that the spoon is left hovering, forgotten, a couple of inches from her face, and she talks between sips of her milk. She even talks while I’m putting her to sleep, offering alternative suggestions of stories to tell and songs to sing until I threaten dire consequences (“No more stories!”).

Don’t get me wrong – it’s an adorable phase and I do enjoy it. She’s stretching her conversational muscles. She’s finally got the vocabulary to tell me all the things she’s been longing to tell me for the past three years. She’s revelling in the freedom of being able to put it all in words. I get it. I really do. But sometimes, it just gets a little too much.

Even questions being gunned at you non-stop at the rate of 10 to 15 queries a minute are easier to handle. Because you can answer them one after another like a rapid fire round in a quiz, and you feel like you’re getting somewhere. But general toddler conversation has no beginning or end, no particular agenda, and no context. It just goes on and on, taking off on random trajectories without warning (the other day, out of the blue, she said, “You know, amma, I was caught in a bear’s mouth yesterday!” What do you even say?).

The responses – that’s the toughest part. It isn’t just that the non-stop chattering has your brain buzzing until you can barely think straight. You also have to respond properly, or your toddler will simply keep repeating herself (at higher and higher volume) until your head feels like it’ll burst. Vague murmurs of, “that’s good, baby,” or “very nice” can only take you so far; at some point, she will demand an actual reply. Especially if you slip up and mumble, “Good job,” in response to her urgent, “Amma! My spaceship has crashed! Help!”

On the really brain-buzzy days, I remind myself that I should cherish the chatter. After all, there’ll come a time soon when she’ll want to shut herself up in her room and talk to her friends instead. But, darling, is it too much to ask that I finish this one sentence without an update on how much grass your (toy) puppy has eaten?

What’s that? You’re a rockstar now? Oh, that’s nice, baby.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 7:24:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/stages-of-toddlerhood-the-chatterbox/article7294917.ece

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