Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Name Game

   These days, Tallen calls all of us by our correct names. He does call me "Mama" and his father "Daddy", but you get my drift. Almost everyday, we stop to reflect on how different he was before his sister was born ( she is 20 months old ) and the amazing improvements he has made since then. Just 20 short months ago, he was still in his own little world for the most part. I think the first whole sentence he had spoken directly  to any of us was on the day we returned from the hospital with his new sister. He didn't run to greet us, or even seem excited at our return. We had the bassinet in the living room and when we placed Ross inside, Tallen eased over and peeked inside. We nearly jumped out of our skin when he sprang into the air and shouted, " IT'S A BABY!" and he began to dance around the room. Then, just as suddenly, he fell silent, ran into our room and slammed the door. Ever so often, he would crack the door a bit, peek into the living room, spot the new baby, and slam the door closed again. I have always credited Ross in a way for the improvements in Tallen, it's like she changed the way he looked at things. Or maybe by seeing her be affectionate, he has learned to be affectionate, I'm not sure I can even put it in words, but she definitely made a difference...

   Not long after her arrival, he began to give each of us "titles".  He didn't call his father anything and usually never even acknowledged that he was in the room. He called me "Mama" but he also called his oldest sister, Renni, " Mama". However, after we had a cookout where he really mingled more with some of my relatives, he started to call my mother and Renni "Granny" and my older sister "Mama". He called his other 2 older sisters "Boy". He just called Ross "that baby". We started getting titles around the time we started insisting that he ask for what he wanted. He referred to himself in 3rd person. "Boy, give Tallen a cookie" or "Mama, take him potty." 

  I finally realized that he was  "naming" people according to their size and likeness to each other. For example, Renni and I were a lot alike, so he called us both "Mama" but once he started noticing other people and I showed him my mother and told him she was "Granny", he saw that she and Renni were about the same height ( very short lol ), so he changed Renni's name to Granny. It was so funny, the looks we got at the store, when he would shout for Granny and Renni would come to him. My sister and I look a lot alike, so much that people confuse us for each other, so he called her "Mama". I am not sure why he called the other 2 girls "Boy, but I do know they both got the same label because they were so close in size at the time. We were so happy that he was addressing us at all, we tolerated the strange names for a while...

  Soon we set to work to teach him who everyone was. For starters, we began calling each other by our correct names in front of him, every chance we got... "Cina, please pass the salt." or Selly, how was your day at school?" I had never given it much thought before then, but at home, around family that they see each and every day, people tend to just rely on the direction of their glance to let others know who they are addressing. But Tallen didn't pick up on little things like that, he avoided eye contact, so of course he wouldn't get a clue just by our looking at someone...

  We also practiced a lot of, "Hello, my name's XXXX, what is your name?" with Tallen. Sometimes, we would intentionally give him the wrong name for ourselves, just so he could "correct" us. Just to help imprint it into his brain. Then we worked on getting him away from speaking in third person. We used a lot of time in the mirror for this. Teaching him that the boy in the mirror was him. Such as handing him a book while he stood in front of the mirror. " I'm giving you the book Tallen" then tapping the mirror, " see you have the book. That boy is you!" I'm not sure why it worked or how it worked, but feeling the book in his hand, even though it appeared that the boy in the mirror was receiving it, helped him make the connection that he was "himself". We also began to correct him gently when he spoke of himself in 3rd person. "Don't you mean to say, "I want a cookie?" etc...

  Today, he calls us all and anyone who introduces themselves to him, by the correct name. He also now has a close relationship with his father and calls him "Daddy. He no longer speaks of himself in 3rd person. He does get a bit confused by "he" and "she" and sometimes mixes those up, but otherwise, those issues are history. It took a lot of hard work! But it did work and I am so thankful.

1 comment:

tara @ kidz said...

It's so great to see his improvements! I'm sure being a big brother was an event that helped catapult him into big brother mode!