A secret language for three

Last week, Olivia and I were playing a particular favourite game of hers, where I have to be Olivia and she gets to be me, Mummy. She likes to roll this one out at bedtime to delay the whole going to sleep lark as she gets to put me/Olivia to bed and then she/Mummy reads a bedtime story and carries out the whole bedtime routine.

So there I am lying in her tiny bed, blankie in my hand, foot slightly cramped, being tucked in by her as she huffs and puffs pulling her duvet around me to make sure I am ‘nice and cosy’. Then she tucks her IronMan teddy in beside me, leans in, gives me a kiss and says in her best Mummy voice ‘night, night I love you very much’. And my heart broke.

You see it marked a moment in time when a part of her was gone forever. She was no longer the little toddler who cute as you like told you ‘I lobe you berry much’. She was a little girl who confidently said ‘love’ and ‘very’ and they rolled off her tongue so simply, as if she had always been able to say them. I must have missed it. Somewhere in these last mad few weeks she suddenly started pronouncing her V’s.

Later that evening I pulled out their baby books. A delivery of free prints (free prints my ass, how can they expect me to stay within the free 45 photo limit) had arrived a few days before and I had specifically ordered certain milestone photos to add into each of their books.

Once I had dutifully snipped, glued and placed the photos onto each page, I leafed through Olivias book, stopping at the last page. There were no milestones to be carefully noted down, it was simply a blank page. But I had been jotting words and phrases down on it as she grew. Those words she said in her own way, phrases that were almost a language for just her, her dad and me. Phrases such as ‘hard work is lillia’ and words such as ‘pushion’ and ‘lego’ (not to be confused with actual lego). Phrases few outside us three would understand. Naturally they wouldn’t, no one would come to the conclusion that ‘I too heaby’ with outstretched arms means ‘will you lift me’.

It started with Derek jokingly telling her she was too heavy but he lifted her anyway. In her little mind she came to the conclusion that Olivia is too heavy means Olivia gets carried. And so with her V’s still very much B’s the phrase ‘I too heaby’ was coined.

I recorded the memory by writing it in her book, even though at the time she was still saying it every day and every bedtime as she stood at the bottom of the stairs with those chubby little arms reaching out to one of us. But I was worried in years to come, despite the frequency we heard it, we might forget it. I hope we don’t. But as the day, weeks and months passed, it was said less and less, until it stopped. I can’t tell you the last time she said it. That phrase, once a big part of our conversations, had disappeared.

I am, of course, delighted her speech is coming on in leaps and bounds and I know that toddler talk and misused words shouldn’t last forever. But I still record them, as phonetically as I can so that no matter how many years pass, we can still pick up that book and read aloud the language which belonged to just three people for a little moment in time.

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