Captain Obvious perks up his head, looking for an opening in the conversation. No, I take it back– he doesn’t look for an opening, he just starts talking. And talking, and talking, and talking. “I want some more eggs, please. Because I ate all my eggs and so …now they are all gone and… my plate is empty. There is no food on it at all. Except just one more bite and I am eating it now until it is gone. But… you gave me some eggs for breakfast but… I still want to eat them for such a long time because I need them. Because… you are kidding me, Brother! What is that?” and he’s gone. My continually conversing Callum. He loves to construct long sentences with every conjunction and conjunctive adverb he can squeeze in. He enunciates so pristinely that he sometimes sounds like a computer or a Shakespearean actor. He has a certain earnest pomposity in his delivery that makes his deadly dull observations supremely entertaining. He will often repeat a sentence several times, emphasizing a different word each time. It’s like listening to a little 50-year-old professor with a babyish voice. Dr. G. and I love to imitate him in the evenings as we do our chores.
Ronan, on the other hand, only speaks with a purpose in mind. He allows his brother to prattle on for both of them and only plunges in with a well-placed sentence as necessary: “I want a big sip of your coffee, Mom.” “I am mad at Callum. I broke the train tracks and he bit me.” He is especially intent upon learning to say what I want to hear while continuing to do whatever forbidden thing he is doing. “I’m coloring on paper, Mom.” “I’m just putting this away, Mom.” “I’ll be careful.” “I didn’t.” “I won’t.” “I’m just cleaning it up.” “Just let me try it a little bit, I will do it the right way.” He has managed to dump out all the bubble bath, empty the water filter, scribble on the couch, take things from his siblings, and more, all while doing his best Eddie Haskell impression. He does want to please me so long as he can please himself at the same time, and if the two are in conflict, well– let’s just say I’m developing a very quick response time to ominous silence. I don’t want to make him out to be a child filled entirely with devilment– he is isn’t. He is as sweet as can be, and yet also swept along by a powerful curiosity about the properties of matter and undeterred by time outs or my distress when his experiments go wild.
A special gift of this phase of life with the boys is the opportunity to witness their conversation on a daily basis. In general, young two-year-olds don’t talk to each other much, even if they are in a class or day care. My boys ignore most other toddlers, but when they are alone together, they plot and discuss. They argue about matters of basic fact, and even if I point out that they are both correct, it has no bearing on the level of passion with which they defend their positions. “We are going HOME!” “NO! We are going to our HOUSE!”
I especially love hearing them plan imaginative adventures. “We have to put on our hats and go to work, Brother.”
“Yeah, brother, yeah. Our hats for working. And our hammers!”
“Yes, let’s put our hammers in this bag so we can work on our work stuff at the restaurant.”
“Restaurant? Yum, yum! Let’s eat dinner. I will get the dinner for you, Callum.”
“Okay! And sing Happy Birthday because it’s a cake.”
“Okay!” They sing.
They also enjoy taking turns making up the wrong words for familiar songs, especially Ring Around the Rosie. Callum will sing “Ring around the lola,” and Ronan will add, “Pocket fulla pola!” and then they fall down laughing.
As a child I used to fantasize about sneaking into the secret worlds of the Brownies or Leprechauns and seeing their mischievous magic at work first hand. Now I wake up to the sounds of my boys chatting and singing each morning and feel I’ve somehow stumbled upon the secret door.