For some reason when I was pregnant with Alex, I somehow got it into my head that all babies were alike. I’ll allow you to revel in my stupidity for a moment, because even for me, this is quite a doozy. Go ahead, roll your eyes. I do.

I think Dr. Spock probably said that most PREGNANCIES were alike, you know, if you puked your guts out from the moment the sperm hit the ova, to the moment the baby crowned, it was likely that you repeated that with Baby #2. I can’t honestly say that my pregnancies were all that alike, besides my propensity to become brilliantly fat with each baby, no matter if I was hugging the bowl or stuffing my face.

But Alex was born and BAM! He was IMMEDIATELY nothing like his brother. He looked like a small yellow old man/garden gnome whereas Ben had looked shockingly like Chairman Mao. Then he acted nothing like his brother, further solidifying how dumb that thought train had been.

Where Ben preferred the company of his mobile to human interaction, I literally could not put Alex down without evoking a tantrum. He was born with separation anxiety so fierce that I nearly lost my marbles. No, I mean, like Crazy Town USA type marble loss (not ACTUAL marbles, because with a toddler, why on earth would I have marbles around?).

Language is one of those pesky ways in which Alex was nothing like his brother. Where Alex sat in his bouncy seat and babbled different sounds and managed a first word by age one, “kitty,*” Ben barely spoke until he was three. And then, only with the aid of speech and occupational therapy.

Now, of course, he never STOPS talking, and Alex is right along side of him, yelling over each other to hear and be heard. The tone and timbre of their voices are identical (Finally! Something that IS the same) and if I can’t hear who is doing the speaking, I cannot tell them apart.

When you get closer, of course, one of them speaks coherently and the other speaks and while some words may emerge, it’s more like listening to a long monologue done by someone in another language. Either Toddler or Devil, depending on his mood. Alex is my clone, be it good or bad, he’s very similar to me, although he’s infinitesimally more charming than I could ever be.

As proof of his infinite charm-a-bility I offer you this:

Whenever Alex has something with ketchup plopped neatly onto his tray for ultimate dipping pleasure, he partakes of the sweet red goo. Rather than use a pointless utensil, he would much prefer to place one of his fingers into the mound, coat the tip of his finger in it and then offer it to whomever it is that is sitting nearest to him.

Which is often me.

He offers it to me as “ice cream.” As in “Want some ice cream, Mommy?” Although with less intelligible words. And obviously, with less ice cream. Alex tears through the entire mound that way, finger full by disgusting finger full, each time gently promising ice cream when he will only deliver ketchup.

Can we get him a shirt that says, “Future Used Car Salesman?”

Anyway. Like I alluded to, you can understand a fraction of what Alex is saying up and to a point, always with context, and it’s frustrating for us all as he is obviously really saying SOMETHING. What it was, nobody really knew, except, of course, for Alex.

Earlier in the week, though, I woke up, grumbled to myself about having to get up and shuffled down the stairs to come upon my Alex, who ran full steam into my legs, demanding to be picked up.

Hi Mommy,” he screamed joyfully. “How’s it going?

“I’m fine, Alex,” I replied, confused. “How are you?”

I’m watching TV with Ben,” he hollered (Alex was born without an inside voice. This is, apparently, genetic). “Come sit with us.”

It was like I’d somehow gone to Turkey, gotten off the plane knowing all the Turkish I know (answer: none), and found that I could understand the cabbie perfectly. I don’t know if it was me or Alex or both, but it was like the Intelligible Switch was flipped into the ON position.

And now, the talking back begins. The Terrible and Terrific Two’s. I couldn’t be happier**.


“Might I interest you in a genuine pair of WOODEN NICKELS? I only have one pair left and they’re going fast! Hurry and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime offer!”

*sounded like “titty.”

**I could, but it would involve a pit of black beans and wrestling female gladiators. And oodles of illegal AND immoral narcotics.

57 thoughts on “Like Babelfish for Toddlers

  1. The same thing happened with my son. At first trying to understand what he was saying was like trying to understand what Ozzy Osbourne with a mouth full of cotton balls was saying. Then one day, like magic, we were totally understanding him.

    Alex is so stinkin’ cute. He has heartbreaker written all over that face.

  2. Dude. What it is with the no-inside-voice gene? Maybe you and all your science-y goodness should get on that because El seems to have inherited the same malfunction. Yipes.

  3. I’ve only got the one…and she went from a few words to complete sentences inside of a week just after she turned two. She still has her moments when I have no idea what she’s talking about, but they are few and far between.

  4. oh, this is a clone of middle child Dean… looks and all. Dean is NOT a used car salesman as I thought he my be.. but instead he rents cars . Lookie want 6 years of college and batchelors degree in sport management will get ya. *sigh*

  5. I didn’t speak much of anything until I was 4. My mom was convinced that I would never speak. Come to find out, it was because my dad spoiled me so much. I would point and he would get it for me. I never had to say a word. 🙂

    I want to be 4 again.

  6. Too cute! it’s amazing how the are so alike, yet so different! My oldest was born talking in full sentences. The second spoke Maglish, and still does sometimes.

    My brother-in-law was holding Maggie and she was just babbling something loudly in his direction. He asked Grace what her sister was saying, and she responded “I don’t know. She’s speaking Spanish.”

  7. Pingback: Like Babelfish for Toddlers
  8. My kids look so much alike I can only tell their baby pictures apart by the fact that The Boy is dressed like a boy and The Girl is dressed like a girl. And that, is where the similarities end. My kids have used a rope-a-dope strategy on me. They must have known each other and planned this prior to being born. The Boy came out barely crying and was a fat, pacifier-sucking, mommy-cuddling, easy going guy (my exact personality sans the fat). The Boy lulled me into thinking I was the finest mommy to ever walk the planet. Then The Girl arrived – screaming, back-arching, put me in the f’ing crib already and get out of my personal space, little bundle of pink attitude. Soon after she was born, I surrendered to them and admitted that the awesomeness that my kids possess did not happen because of any type of mothering I did. They just are.

  9. Seriously…. my child would buy his wooden nickels if it came with that amount HAIR. Neither of my children will EVER be blessed with hair as awesome as his.

  10. Your son is so stinking cute, I can’t stand it.

    My daughter was absolutely batshit crazy until she was 4. She wouldn’t go to bed by herself, she could climb out of her crib at 10 months, was awfully naughty and could speak full sentences at a year.

    I didn’t want anymore kids. EVER.

    My son is 20 months and goes to bed by himself every night, can’t climb out of his crib, is generally the best baby ever and can only say four words. That you really can’t understand.

    If he would have been born first, I would have 12 kids.

    Except not really because they are super needy and I’m lazy.

  11. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have an inside voice because used car salesmen don’t need them (at least not on the commercials that I’ve seen)! I would buy those wooden nickels in a heartbeat!

  12. Gosh, he’s a cutie!! Love his hair!

    I love the speech of wee ones, it’s so funny. It’s hilarious when I run into a parent who can decipher their kid’s language but everyone else is like “she said what?! really?! I didn’t hear that!” I really shouldn’t laugh, because I’m sure I’ll be there someday! 🙂

  13. My third child is Satans sister. Im sure of it. She didnt like me or even want me to hold her until she was three. They say not to prop bottles, but if I didnt, she wouldnt eat! Breastfeeding isnt an option when your chil cant stand you! Shes Four now and seems to be warming up to me.

  14. Look at that face! My goodness.
    I had something relevant to say, but now I’m mesmerized. You’d think that I would just not comment then, right? Nope, not me. I’m going to comment anyway. Relevance be damned.

  15. Well, I can only speak from experience, but I have two girls and two boys and they are ALL different… They even all cried differently in the delivery room. Craziness.
    My 7 year old son would totally buy those wooden nickels (OMGNICKELSI’MRICH!). My 5 year old daughter would be all “dude. please.”
    Gotta love diversity. 🙂

  16. A used car salesman…aim higher…I think it sound more like a politician. I mean he’s promising ice cream and produces something that’s ok but not great and expects you to buy into a repeat.

  17. My youngest had no inside voice either. (It will develop as he gets to be a teen. Remember how you had to learn to be quiet to get the liquor past your parents?) The highlight was when he asked me during a lull in the conversation at EVERY table in a crowded restaurant, “Mom, where do babies come from?” The guy at the next table said, “Yeah Mom, where do babies come from?” Why me?

  18. God, I wish I were as cute as that little bug. Cutest little smile ever.

    After I had my first child, I was totally high-fiving myself for being such an awesome parent. He was SO well behaved, a good sleeper, such a grown-up pleaser. And then his sister was born, and it became completely, painstakingly, brilliantly clear that I had absolutely nothing to do with either one of them.

  19. You think your boys are different, wait till your daughter gets to that point. You will seriously be thinking “Okay, where the hell did that come from?”

  20. My brother’s favorite word around age 2 was truck. Imagine this out of the unrefined mouth of a toddler and you will realize why it was really embarrassing to go out in public.

    Actually, it was embarrassing to go out in public because I had tight-rolled jeans and a perm (remind me to post that pic on FB sometime), having your brother yell FUCK at every passing vehicle was just icing on the cake.

  21. Having twins provided us with a case study in nature vs. nurture – having a second set of twins provided us with a case study in “what were we thinking?”
    On the language side: our older twins spoke Gelf, our younger son spoke Chinese and our daughter spoke Serbo-croatian…and disliked everyone equally.

  22. Our Moo had trouble (and still sometimes does) w/her “r” and “s”. When I can’t understand her, Im like “what, what?” And she says “Moo, you’re such a goof” plain as day. Cracks me up. She also is w/o an indoor voice or a mute son is effin ADORABLE btw!!

  23. I can completely understand what you are saying. My daughter is turning 4 *sigh* on Monday. She didn’t say more than “baa” until we started speech therapy when she was 2 1/2. Everything was “baa”, but I, being the one who was with her 24/7, knew exactly what she was saying by the inflection of the “baa”. She started using words about 4 months into therapy. She seems to have skipped that stage where toddlers put everything in their mouths and that’s really important in speech development. She also wouldn’t let enyone, even me, touch her around her mouth and, God forbid, we had to go in her mouth. As a side note she has an intense fear of stickers, like the ones with cute little pictures on them.

    So, she’s been going to speech therapy for about 1 1/2 years and about 4 months ago it was like a light went on and all of a sudden she was so clear and intelligable and had such a huge vocabulary. My mom was even able to understand her over the phone, that was a big deal because my mom lives about 500 miles away and hasn’t seen her in nearly forever. There’s still a lot that we don’t understand, especially when she gets excited or gets started a topic and starts rambling. She also yells everything, and I mean everything, no matter where we are. She just has no clue what “inside voice” is.

    I’m very excited that she’s starting Head Start in the fall and they will be working with her through the special education program with her speech.

  24. Girl, that kid’s been two forever! I think you’re just in denial and telling yourself he’s two, because you know three is when all hell breaks loose.

    Either way, he’s super cute!

  25. Used to find it amazing that mothers could understand their own kids when all I heard was gobbly gook. But now the bug will say something and people will look at me for translation, and the worst part is I know what she is trying to say.

  26. OMG, our Alex’s are clones. Both cute, and both with no inside voice, both glued to their mommies, and both holy terrors. Amazing! I was nodding my head the entire time I read this post, because Tyler is soooo different-quiet, laid back, easy going…it was a trick to make me have another one, I swear!

  27. I can’t wait for Peanut to start talking! Right now she grunts which is cute but I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about since I don’t speak “This is what I sound like when I’m trying to poop.”

  28. I used to translate what my sister was saying to my mom. We’re only a year apart. Come to think of it, my sister speaks so fast sometimes that I still translate for my parents.

  29. Mine didn’t do that with speaking but they did do it with reading. One day I am fighting to get them to recognize a lowercase t and the next they are reading me magazine headlines in the check out line.

    “ten sec, ten seceereets your man wants to do in bed mama!”

  30. I am starting to feel like we were soul twins, lost in the great Cosmos until Google and Facebook brought us back together. I discovered your blog after my best friend posted it on Facebook and now I cant get enough.

    My son sounds much like your Ben, happily content and slept through the night from birth. My daughter, OMG! I thought I’d given birth to an extra apendage! She was jaundiced and cranky and could NEVER be put down. The child never slept in her crib, and I’m STILL WAITING (9 years later) for her to sleep an entire week in her own bed.

    She looks just like me, acts just like me.. it’s like I spat her right out of my mouth. Though I didn’t like her very much the 1st year of her life (it’s true.. I wanted to trade her in), she’s my very best friend now and I cant imagine life without her.

  31. First of all, I am going to admit that I do not judge you for believing all babies were more or less alike; when my second son was born, I was terrified and shocked. I thought I had this baby thing down, and then came this screaming, gassy little thing. I didn’t know what to do! Now, of course, they’re 6 and 3 1/2, and the differences–and similarities–are more profound every day.

    I love Alex, I really do. There is something about a drop-dead beautiful child who has no inside voice and loves sharing ketchup and is that enthusiastic about watching TV together that makes me think he’s turning out to be a pretty terrific little guy.

  32. Okay – I’ve been reading through your archives for the last week or two (at work *gasp* because my job is so ridiculously boring) and I often find myself doing the hiss-laugh in my cubicle (haha! cubicle!!) and I have to play it off like I’m having a coughing fit, or blowing my nose…

    But right now, I’m sitting at our local bar with the wonderful wi-fi, savoring a beer, while my husband does homework (because he says he works sooo much better here…. I think it’s the lack of a need for smoke breaks, which does rock, I must admit)

    Point: Being able to guffaw mercilessly while throwing back a cold one is FAR superior.

    We have our own toddler-ese going on at home, and I am waiting with bated breath for the day I discover toddler-fish…

    We bought brand-new furniture and decorations (what else do you call them? – even though it sounds like we bought a bunch of streamers and kazoos and pinatas….) shortly before our daughter was born and we moved 1000 miles across the country (smart, real smart). Anwyay, we arent’ big marbles fans, but we were stupid enough to fill a vase with decorative rocks and fake blue flowers to match the rug. I *actually* found one in a diaper once, like pre-digested and all – thank god for a kid who has never choked!

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