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The End of Baby Talk is One of the Toughest Milestones

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How could any woman hear the word ‘chocolate’ and want to totally bawl her eyes out? I’ll tell you. This weekend, my four-year old, who is addicted to chocolate milk and has always asked for ‘Cholicmilk’ and sometimes ‘Charliemilk’ asked for ‘Chocolate Milk’—properly pronouncing ‘chocolate’ correctly for the first time.

My reaction was pretty much: ‘Noooooo!!!!! Say you want Cholicmilk! Please say you want Cholicmilk or Charliemilk!”

My son didn’t budge. He was done, done, done asking for Cholicmilk or Charliemilk and demanded, ‘Chocolate milk’ again perfectly. ‘No, I want chocolate milk’, he said, looking at me seriously, even enunciating the word chocolate. Somehow, overnight, he could pronounce the word chocolate and that made me feel very sad and want to eat a box of chocolate in bed.

Some would call it a bittersweet moment. Not me. I didn’t get all, ‘Yay you! You pronounced that right! Let me get you a sticker! And some Lucky Charms with your chocolate milk. And a hug!’

Instead, I was practically on my knees begging for my son to mispronounce the word, like he had only 12 hours earlier.

I remember this happening with my daughter, who is now 12. She would always say, ‘lellow’ instead of ‘yellow’ when she was a toddler. And, yes, as parent of the year, I did try and hold her back a bit. I can remember the day when ‘lellow’ became ‘yellow’, and I remember that my response was, ‘No, say, ‘lellow!’ It’s ‘lellow!’

Thankfully, my daughter (who has always been more eager to please and less stubborn than my son) knew to appease me. I would hold up yellow coloured items and ask her, ‘What colour is this?’ and she would respond, ‘lellow’ as I giggled, even though we both knew she could pronounce the colour correctly.

Even to this day, even though she’s twelve, I’ll occasionally ask her how she used to say the word ‘yellow’ just so I can, for a fleeting moment, hear the mispronounced word that I always thought was so cute and have a laugh.

Of course we want our children to learn to talk and pronounce words correctly. But you get used to their little baby voices mispronouncing certain words so often that when they actually do pronounce the word correctly, it feels like a little piece of you died. And it happens so fast.

It’s not so much that they are growing up. Kids tend to do that. But when the cuteness factor of hearing your children mispronouncing certain words goes away so suddenly, I find it to be a very difficult transition.

A parent friend of mine, now in his fifties, still remembers to this day how one of his children used to pronounce barbecue like ‘barkaboo’. Obviously, it’s a treasured memory—as this baby is now in their third year of University.

As parents, we all remember certain words our children mispronounced, don’t we?

When I told my best friend, who has four children, how I was so upset that my kid could now pronounce chocolate correctly, I received only a supremely sympathetic ear.

‘Oh, I miss those days.’ she said, even though her eldest is starting university and her three others are in middle and high schools. One of her sons use to pronounce ‘bubblegum’ as ‘Gugglebum.’ Her other son, instead of saying, ‘L’Chaim’ (good luck in Hebrew) used to say ‘My Hymen.’ Her third used to say ‘Meeewore’ for ‘mirror.’ And her fourth used to pronounce ‘noodles’ as ‘Nanus’. She didn’t have to pause for even a nanosecond to remember these examples.

I truly don’t remember how my son learned to go to the washroom by himself, or the day he got off the bottle, or even the first time he said, ‘Mommy.’ I don’t remember the day my daughter started grade three, or the day she got braces, or the time she won her first ski race. I know they happened, I just don’t remember the day or who I was with.

But I remember clearly, and I think I always will, the exact day, and where I was when my daughter stopped saying ‘lellow’ instead of ‘yellow’ (It was a Tuesday night, and we were in Calgary with her grandparents!)

Forever stuck in my mind will now also be, ‘The Day My Son Said Chocolate Milk’ for the first time. I remember where I was (in the hallway at home, him sitting on the stairs) what time of day it was (morning) and even the day (a Sunday).

But to make this mommy feel better, she’s going to buy her favourite cholibar tonight. And maybe share it with my son, but only if he asks for it incorrectly, that is.

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