One of the most precious moments for a new parent is when your baby first begins to try and speak. The nonsensical half words that babies utter are neither comprehensible nor productive, but is signifies a milestone in their ongoing quest to become a real human. Talking is an essential part of human interaction albeit one of the more annoying features in many people. Infants use their environment to procure new skills, which is why being a verbal role model is critical to their linguistic development. My wife still screams at me, but her volume has decreased and I get a lot more mad-dogging these days in place of the overt verbal abuse. Having a child has definitely boosted my self-esteem. I find that as my son learns to speak, he astutely recognizes visual cues as to what demeanor he will adopt when he mutters his next incoherent rambling. Having an infant is kind of like owning a parrot.
Talking to an infant is like talking to a parrot because, at least to some degree, they will attempt to mimic your style. I find that for the most part, my child voices positive and uplifting squeaks and squeals probably because I’m a very positive and uplifting person. He uses my demeanor as a benchmark of how pleasantly or unpleasantly he will squawk. Conversely, when I’m the victim of disgruntlement or backlash from the wife or the workplace, my son takes that as a cue to turn his smile upside down. He still squawks at ungodly volumes, but his tone is guttural. His almost telepathic ability to sense discouragement and channel it into his own behavior is virtually supernatural. In my home, every day is Independence Day.
Talking to an infant is like talking to a parrot because it can be incredibly annoying and raucous. At times, my son’s shrieks and screeches echo through our cavernous living space like the wailing of a lost soul through an unknown catacomb. It can be fairly frightening if you cannot see the smile on his face when he does it. I worry at times that the neighbors have begun to believe that we masochistically punish our son or keep some kind of helium gimp locked away for our erotic forays. The truth is, we got rid of the gimp long before he was born. His wailing is truly out of joy. We’re still not really sure where he summons such euphoria, but he’s reached incredible volumes. It may actually be to our benefit, however, because when our neighbors witness such a deafening howl from our residence, they are less likely to try and engage us in public. Human interaction is so overrated.
Talking with an infant is like talking to a parrot because they like to repeat. Infants trying to repeat after you is one of the most fun and dangerous aspects of them learning to speak. While parrots generally have a limit on the quantity of words they can learn, a human’s potential for retaining new linguistic material is endless. Infants do not have filters and they cannot distinguish productive words from useless ones. When you instruct an infant to say a specific word, more than likely you’ll get anything else. It’s unpredictable. And this is where the danger lies. I have to think twice before I express to my wife that our apartment manager is a greasy behemoth and smells like a cesspool for fear that my son will pick up one or all of those words. He may not pick up any. But I couldn’t safely take him into the same office as the greasy behemoth for fear that he’ll say exactly what I did. I try to be a good role model.
The main difference between infants and parrots is that one will not mature into a human adult and use their language skills in social situations that may dictate their future. While setting the example is beneficial in both cases, an infants vernacular will have a far greater reflection on you as the parent. If my parrot tells a houseguest to fuck off, it’s funny. If my son does it, it’s only funny once the guest leaves and my son believes he did something wrong. Even if his observation was correct, social convention is unfair for infants.