Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
For a while, it seemed, we were raising Maggie Simpson — you know, the toddler on the beloved animated TV series who, for 20-plus seasons, hasn’t said more than “Daddy.” Once.
Much like the soother-sucking Maggie, Dear Charlotte hasn’t said much over the past few months. Oh, she’s told us plenty, via pointing fingers, flailing arms, smiles and incoherent (to everyone but her) streams of syllables, but when it comes to words, they’ve been few and far between. I was optimistic for her linguistic future when, on her first birthday, she pointedly called me Mama… but she’s been calling me, and everything around her, nothing but “ehn!” since.
Now granted, Charlotte will only be 20 months old next week; Andrew and I shouldn’t be too worried that she’s not saying much of note. After all, Einstein didn’t begin speaking until the age of three, and he seemed to turn out perfectly fine. Charlotte definitely understands what we’re telling her — and then some, that smart little cookie — so there are no cognitive issues. But we (alright, me) couldn’t help but be somewhat concerned that our little girl, who’s hit every developmental milestone right on time, wasn’t even verbally recognizing us.
While I do admit to being a somewhat anxious first-time mom, I will also admit that I don’t want my little girl to go through the years of speech therapy and self-doubt I did. My father stuttered, and he passed this trait on to me. I also had the quirk of pronouncing Ys as Ls, and being unable to properly pronounce Rs. I seemed to function fine until Grade 2, and then fear set in as I — and especially my classmates — realized I was different.
So, shunted off to the library I was, twice a week, for speech therapy. An hour of repeating words from flashcards held up by a kindly woman, until I got it right. While I loved missing class as much as the next student, I certainly didn’t like being different, or feeling like an incompetent weirdo (I was a very sensitive child). I clammed up for the remainder of elementary school; it was easier to be silent than to stutter out answers to the titters of classmates or the patronizing patience of a teacher.
I got fed up in high school. I joined the drama club, the debating team, and anything else that put me in front of a crowd to finally “cure” myself of my stutter (therapy did solve my pronunciation problems). I’d say I’m 99 per cent there; occasionally if you catch me off-guard, I’ll go silent for a few extra moments as I feel that familiar stoppage in my throat, the words building up behind it, as my conversation partner gives me that all-too-familiar look of concern mixed with confusion.
Any connection between Charlotte’s speech and my experience is purely circumstantial — but it’s any parent’s wish, I think, to make their child’s path through life as smooth as possible. We’ve enrolled her in the Small Talk program at the hospital to give her a kick-start on speaking. Even though she’s only attended the consultation session, the mere threat of speech therapy seems to have motivated her.
Over the past two weeks, we’re started hearing “Mum-MAY” and “Dah-DAY,” and she can tell us what an owl, sheep, and cow says. And she’s learned “no,” which is a cornerstone of any toddler’s vocabulary, we’re told.
We have another reason for being eager to hear Charlotte talk, of course: we can’t wait to hear what she has to say! Even without words, she’s a hilarious little person with her own way of thinking that keeps us well entertained. More experienced parents have told us to enjoy the silence, but we’re looking forward to days filled with the sound of Charlotte’s thoughts.
Maggie Simpson’s first word was voiced by the late Elizabeth Taylor; Charlotte’s crisp little words are no less legendary, to our ears.
Also legendary, in my mind, is Vogue magazine’s food critic Jeffrey Steingarten. He’s held the post since 1989 and loves all aspects of food; his energetic, witty writing on the wide world of culinary topics proves it. In the August edition, he takes on the humble Popsicle; much like Kleenex and Band-Aid, the common name for the staple summer treat is actually a trademark name, hence the capitalization. Here’s Steingarten’s homemade, decadent version of the Fudgsicle. Use plastic molds, or paper cups, inserting Popsicle sticks once the liquid begins to freeze. Even ice cube trays and toothpicks work.
3 cups cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
Heat cream and milk in a saucepan; add cocoa and sugar. Stir to combine. Fully combine in blender for 30 seconds. Allow to cool, then pour into molds to freeze.