Not everyone does it, thankfully, but every once in a while we must deal with that one relative or friend of the family who doesn’t seem to understand how to talk to kids. At. All. These rare birds are stuck in an era when children were seen and not heard. The dead giveaway is the baby talk. I absolutely cannot stand it, nor will I put up with it. My children are articulate people with robust vocabularies.
You know what I mean by baby talk, right? It isn’t just juvenile gibberish type words — there’s more. Much more. And here’s the thing: When I see these signs of baby talk coming at my kids, I wince. Hard.
It starts with bad body language. Aunt Sally approaches my unsuspecting kid, waving frantically then bending over to get at eye level with him — which isn’t so terrible until she gets obnoxiously close to my child’s face. Because, quite frankly, my kid rarely sees adults this up close and bursting his personal bubble. She then opens her mouth and out comes noise that sounds a lot like infantile words (and yes, she’s patting my poor kid on the head the whole time). It’s all I can do to not roll my eyes.
And have you ever noticed how adult voices go up an octave when little kids are around? What is up that, anyway? Do people really think that kids can hear them better if they talk unnaturally high, which makes the adult unnaturally louder, not to mention goddamn annoying? Listening to this is like having to be polite while listening to the high-pitch screech of air slowly being released from a balloon. To my kids, this shrill chattering is alarming and they tend to back up with wide eyes.
Then, before you know it, out comes the third persona bullsh*t that makes an adult sound like an idiot and undermines my child’s intelligence: Grandma referring to herself as if my child doesn’t know who she is (or what’s going on). “Grammy has to go bye-bye now!” OMG, Mum, really? They know you have to leave. They know who you are. Seriously, chill out and just talk to them like normal people.
Here’s something else that goes hand in hand with this baby talk thing: Even the most basic decision will be deferred to “Mummy.” There is always some bullsh*t about, “Does Mummy know?” or “Did you ask Mummy?” It doesn’t even matter that my kid is seven years old and hasn’t called me Mummy since he was two. Baby talkers will insist on calling me Mummy and urge my son to seek me out for counsel on absolutely everything. Even whether he can go to the toilet. Ugh.
The big finale is usually an annoying warning to be good. To me, telling another parent’s children to behave in the guise of friendly advice feels like a potshot and is nothing short of disrespectful (unless that other adult is someone I would trust to be in charge of my kids). Or at the very least, who my kids don’t feel weird being around, thanks to all the loony communication.
Baby talk isn’t just using gibberish words to converse with kids, it’s disrespectful to them. A 3-year-old is surprisingly adept at following conversations when given the chance and space to be heard and to speak, just as a 7-year-old is. Kids are great little thinkers and creative speakers, and when given the respect to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions they can add marvellous ideas to a conversation.