Somehow my youngest child speaks with a southern drawl. This wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy if it weren’t for the fact that neither my husband nor I have a southern accent. Nor do any relatives, close friends, distant acquaintances, or any TV cartoon she has ever been exposed to in her two and a half years. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s rather charming. It’s sort of Cajun yet has a feeling of being a little bit out-of-place in time. Perhaps Gone With the Wind-ish…. In any case, I just love to listen to her talk!
She was holding out on us for a little while, which probably has added to my joy. That child wouldn’t say her name for the longest time! I considered it my Valentine’s gift this year when she woke-up on February 14th, pointed to the letters hanging above her crib and proclaimed, “I Gra-cie!” We couldn’t believe it! She said it! She finally said her name! That little stinker, I swear….
Well, since then, she has had a lot to say. Some of which I wish she wouldn’t. I asked her to say, “thank you” to our hosts the other day and got, “Bye-bye poopy-head!” But there are some things I just can’t get enough of, with, “Yuv you Mommy” topping the list. There is a lot of enthusiastic talk coming out of that little mouth now. While I still can’t understand a good amount (it’s probably the accent), I hang on her every word!
Recently, Gracie said to me, “Mommy, you uh girl. Molly uh girl too. Daddy…Daddy uh boy.” That’s right my little chatter box. For weeks she labeled and categorized all of us. She was on a roll. She would inform her teachers which gender they belonged to, her cousins, even the mail carrier. It was all starting to make sense to her. Everything falling into these two very straightforward categories: boys and girls.
I realize this is very developmentally appropriate. Kids need to categorize things because it helps them to make sense of their world. Gender is something that kids really latch onto because it is simple and salient to them.
“Daddy, I uh girl. I ha girl buttons. You uh boy. You ha boy buttons,” Gracie says pointing to her shirt and then to her daddy’s. Kids love these groupings! First they get the labels down, and then comes the desire to put everything into gender categories. It’s just the way their little minds work. But as they sharpen their skills to successfully sort things out, they are simultaneously developing a strong affiliation with their own group. And so it begins….girls over here, boys over there.