Have to share a dad thought (or more).

Ben loves to say new words, and often will repeat one until someone else says it in recognition. He always has had a bit of trouble with the word “placemat.” We have a few that only Ben uses, because they do not soak up spills like our more decorative placemats. That’s a great feature when you consider that toddlers often do not keep food within the boundaries of a dinner plate.

The word has gone through an evolution of sorts, but Ben’s latest and most confidently pronounced version of the word is, as you might have guessed by the title of this post, “spacebat.” It isn’t muddled at all. Sitting atop his booster seat eagerly awaiting whatever we’ve managed to concoct for him, Ben repeats “spacebat” as clearly and crisply as a finely tuned radio announcer. More often than not, he keeps saying it even after he gets it. It’s very hard for my wife and me to keep a straight face, so we are constantly turning our backs to laugh.

It’s tempting to repeat back “spacebat,” just as many parents repeat back mispronounced words that sound funny. It’s better than just any mispronunciation, because in addition to being terrifically cute, it actually forms a real word — well, real in a science fiction sense. Being a science fiction fan myself (as is my wife to some extent), I will hate to see “spacebat” go.

Trying our best to encourage proper speech, we just repeat it back, “Yes, placemat, that’s right. You like to use your placemat,” or some similar phrase that in most contexts crosses the line into corny.

Another one, which he comes by honestly, is his slight mangling of the word “magazine.” Whenever he sees one of us reading any type of thin, floppy publication with color print, he proudly identifies it as a “mazagine.” It has meaning for me, because I said it as a child. Again, we repeat it properly and know that the sad day will come when we’ll never again read a “mazagine.”

There are many times that Ben says something, and we can tell he really means it, because he will repeat back the same sound after it’s clear to him we have no idea what he just said. Once we realize what we think it might be, and repeat it back in English, he gets an excited look in his eyes, nods, and says, “Yes.” If we’re wrong, he repeats himself until we get it right, or until it’s clear that the situation is hopeless and that there are more important things to accomplish.

Things like throwing his milk cup.

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We’re back from vacation, and after two days of work, real life is back in full force.

Typically, I come home from work, and then spend time with Ben until I bathe him and put him to bed. We don’t even turn on the TV until after he’s in bed. It’s just a distraction from time with Ben. I have friends and family who are not as fortunate as I am when it comes to family time, and I know that one day I would regret plopping down in front of the great brain sucker instead of living life.

(begin brief foray into computer geekery)

I got a new gadget before our vacation, and tonight was the first chance I had to play with it. It’s a wireless router, but I’ve set it as a wireless access point, since I already had a wired router with all my customizations. It was cheaper to do it that way, as a kit with the wireless PCMCIA card, than to buy just a wireless access point. After the mail-in rebate, I’m only paying $26 for the kit. That’s a crazy good deal for an 802.11g router and a PCMCIA card at 54Mbps. Now I can’t use the hot computer room as an excuse not to continue revising my novel. I’ll use the hot laptop as an excuse instead.

After using a random key generator and turning on the WPA encryption (couldn’t get WPA2 going yet), I was connected as securely as I know how. I also cranked my subnet numbers up so that my router only allows the number of computers I have in the house. I’m pulling the plug on the wireless unit when I’m not using it, since our main PC is still connected directly to the wired router. I’m sure I can turn on some IP filtering, too.

(computer nerd speak over)

It’s way too late for me to be up.

I live in the Dallas metro area, where reportedly about 50,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees now live, either in churches, makeshift shelters, or individual homes. Many of them want to stay, and I believe that with time our local job market can handle those who do. I just wish they could have discovered the area on better terms than losing everything.

I Yike it a Yot

This weekend, I managed to install two more of our ceiling fans. Living pretty much anywhere in Texas without fans is not recommended. The second one went in Ben’s room, and after I finished it, he looked up and said, “Ben’s san.”

Now, Ben doesn’t use the”f” sound yet. Instead, he uses the “s.” I said that yes, he was right, this was Ben’s fan, and I asked if he liked it. He said, “I yike it. I yike it a yot.” Just to catch you up, Ben’s not saying the “L” sound yet, either.

As I came back from putting away the ladder and my tools, I could hear Ben yelling from his room, “Yike it a yot, yike it a yot.” Shannon and I always get a big kick out of things like that, because, well, they’re cute. There’s no better way to put it. When something like that happens, something that you never would have predicted, you can’t help smiling.

There’s another upside to it. When Ben goes out on the Chesapeake Bay next week with his grandparents, he’ll be able to say not only that he’s on a boat, but that he’s on a “yot.”

Ben Makes Me Think

When I was playing with Ben in his room this weekend, I asked him if he could go get a car (which was in the living room). He said, “Yes,” and then as he stood up he looked at me, held out his balled-up hand toward me and said, “Wye back.” I could tell this meant, “I’ll be right back,” something we sometimes say to him when we’re leaving a room. I repeated back to him, “Oh, you’ll be right back? Okay.”

He pumped his hand at me again, as if pointing, but without any fingers out, and repeated, “Wye back. Wye back.” He walked toward the door, repeating that phrase over and over. As he reached to close the door behind him (not sure why he did that), he said it again. Just when the door touched the jam, he push it back open enough to look in and say, “Wye back.” Then he added, “Say here,” which I knew meant, “Stay here.” I assured him I would do that, and he closed the door.

Upon his return, I could hear his hand fumbling at the doorknob. “Help,” his muffled voice said through the door. “Daddy help.” It was funny that after so proudly taking charge of the situation, he had to stop and ask for help. I got up and let him in. He walked in with a car and we played for a while. As I continued to ask him where a certain toy was, he would repeat “Wye back,” and “Say here,” before going to get it.

This is a moment I know I get more out of than I would with someone else’s child. It is not just the cuteness of a two-year old reassuring an adult he would be right back, or even that he instructed said adult to stay where he was. Although, that was ridiculously cute. It’s that our boy is learning. Not something we tried to teach him, but something he picked up just by observing us. He wants to be like us so strongly that he makes sure we acknowledge what he’s doing.

That’s when it hit me. Had we brought Ben up as something radically from our current lifestyle, whether something acceptable like the Amish or something hateful like white supremacists, Ben would be right there trying to be the same thing, with absolutely no standard by which to judge. That’s how some children go for years being abused, yet still love their parents; they have no idea that their treatment is wrong. It’s also why they usually go on to be abusers. That way of thinking and behaving is wired into their brains from such an early age that it’s nearly impossible to clear from their minds. I’m not trying to excuse abhorrent behavior, but as a first-time father witnessing how impressionable children are, I’m taken aback by the joy and the concern. It’s kind of scary, but it makes me glad that so far Ben watches nothing but commercial-free programs, and only about one or two hours per day.

I haven’t written much about Ben in this blog until now. Maybe that’s because I consciously was trying to avoid being the annoying guy who chatters incessantly about his kid. Other parents react in one of two ways to that kind of behavior; they either love it because it reminds them of when their child was that age, or they can’t stand it because they’re thinking, “So what, my kid did (or does) that, and I’m not writing about it.” To the latter I say, you choose what you do or do not read, not me. I’m not even sure anybody’s reading this thing, except Shannon, who is turning out to be my retroactive editor — for better or worse. I try not to actively bore people.

Honestly, I could go on for quite a while about Ben. I wouldn’t do it to brag, because I know the skills children exhibit at any given age vary for reasons doctors cannot name. At the same time, I worry whether he’ll stop saying “coa” instead of “car.”

Parents who work tirelessly to get their child to walk may get frustrated, while others who take a completely hands-off approach may see their child walk sooner than expected. We were a bit worried about Ben at one point, because we thought he “should” be crawling. He rolled to get around, and at first only in one direction. That meant that someone had to flip him around once he hit an obstacle. He used that method quite a while, and ended up crawling for a somewhat shorter period than many babies. Without any problems at all, though, he started walking right at about one year.

The same thing goes for talking. We don’t know for certain whether our efforts are making a difference. We make sure that we repeat back correctly anything he mis-pronounces. I think that might have contributed to Ben’s habit of repeating something until someone repeats it back, but I could be completely wrong.

Ben can’t jump yet. I’ve seen kids 6 months younger jumping like jackrabbits, but at nearly 26 months, when he tries he still manages to get only his heels off the ground. Oh well, one of these days, little buddy.

This post has wandered all around. I guess that’s why we have journals. We’re not writing on assignment — we’re just putting down our thoughts. What will I post about next time, and when?

Wye back. Say here.