She can’t speak in full sentences yet. Her conversation is little nuggets of information like “ball” or “Wan’ go!” or “juuuice.” These are complemented by pointing, smiles, whines, screams, and various gestures and body language. Sometimes she seems to be requesting something. I ask “What do you want?” and she just nods her head up and down. I forget that she probably hasn’t collected the words yet to express what it is she wants that way. So I say “You have to tell me what you want.” The head nods again. She’s new to talking, but she’s so brilliant I lose track of the fact she can’t engage in dialogue the same ways I might. Of course there are conversation obstacles. We’re human. Even if she weren’t 27 years younger than I am that would be true. And perhaps because we have an age gap of nearly three decades, my nearly 2-year old niece and I try harder to find the space where we can communicate effectively with each other. It’s not a conscious decision, but an instinctive one. She’s curious about the world and gathers words and tools every day to help her respond to it and share her living. She wants to share and understand. So she tries. I want to help her and share and understand, too. So I try.
One day I had to babysit her. When she was dropped off to me, she was asleep. I carried her through the house to my room. At the door of my room, she woke up long enough for this exchange:
Me: “You want to lie on the bed?”
Her: [head nod]
I put her on the bed, and she was down for the count. While she slept I ate brunch then played around on my computer. She woke up after about 2 hours. For a few seconds as she woke up, she was groggy and trying to figure out where she was. Then she turned around and saw me. Her face lit up and she just started giggling.
She didn’t have to try hard to make me understand that. I didn’t have to try hard to get it. We just knew. I looked at her and said, “You’re silly.” But I giggled, too.