I like how every kid has their own secret language that only their parents can understand. This is more evident when children are just learning to talk. It’s not just a matter of decoding mispronounced syllables. It really is a mysterious language of grunts that few people can decipher. Since I’m the one who spends more time with the girls, it feels extra special when Aya doesn’t even have a clue what they are saying, but I do.





It’s like we have this secret codex to communicate with. And by codex, I mean grunts and shrieks. Well, to anyone else they sound like grunts and shrieks, but to me it’s a sophisticated, delicate language where a slight change in intonation of a syllable means a completely different word.

For the longest time, Chloe’s word for “mama, dada, Ellie,” or “grandma,” sounded the same to the untrained ear. She’d just shout, “AAahh ahh, AAahh ahh!”

Eventually, she got the hang of “Mama” and “Dada” and we could tell who she was talking to. We just rarely knew what she was talking about. Well, I could tell.

“Mama! Aaargh ugh araway ugh,” Chloe would grunt.

Aya would look at me puzzled not having a clue what she was saying. But me?  I knew.

“She wants a bowl of rice with tofu, and a side of strawberries,” I said with pride and just a hint of judginess.

“AARGH!” Chloe added.

“Oh right, and some water,” I clarified.

When Aya shakes her head in frustration/amazement about the secret language I can’t help but smile. It’s these little interactions that help me feel validated in my duties (Heh heh, doodies. Man, I need to talk with adults more).

Ellie was the same way. She’s is obviously more articulate now, but for the longest time my dad didn’t know what she was saying half the time. Some people just don’t speak toddler. To give him a little credit, it really is a difficult language and it’s completely unique between kids and their parents. I mean, I can speak toddler, but only a very specific dialect of toddler. As in my own kids. I’ve been with my friends and I have no idea what their kids are saying.

“Can I ab-o wubba cutch o no no,” the child might say.

I’ll attempt translation and suggest, “She wants an apple cut in half with no skin?”

“No, she has to poop,” her mom will respond.

Oh. And then I get the whiff. It’s all about putting things in context too.

The same identical sounding phrase can have multiple meanings depending on where you are, who are with, and what objects are in the room. I’d like to see Rosetta Stone put this into a software package.

As Ellie and Chloe are older now and speak more clearly, I’m obviously proud, but there’s that part of me that’s sad we are losing our secret language. I’ve studied hard to decode it, and I miss it now that it’s fading. It’s a sign that we are really entering a new level of parenthood.

As I lose that secret language with them, Aya is gaining one with them; Japanese.  The kids are so proud to share that with their mother too. It really is special to them because I’m forbidden to speak it.

“Daddy, only Mama speaks Japanese. You speak regular!”

At least there is a real codex for Japanese. And for now I’m completely content only speaking and listening in “regular.”

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