In the vocabulary of Small 1, doidens were dogs. Possibly. It might have been the name of one of our dogs (Bronwyn) or it could have been anything furry with four legs (because cats were also doidens). Then again, it might have been a greeting (because it was often employed when a doiden was first spotted and this included mum, who wasn’t furry and four legged). Alternatively it could have merely been an exclamation of surprise and delight because the bees buzzing lazily through the lavender were doidens too.
For our purposes, here and now, we will pretend that doidens meant dogs, so that I can tell you about dogs.
Dogs are great for Smalls. Sadly Smalls are not necessarily great for dogs. The dogs will not only suffer from physical abuse, such as the pulling of hair and the poking of eyes and noses [and other more private and gruesome areas] but also the mental anguishes associated with the introduction of a new pack member. There will be the usual jockeying for hierarchical pack position. This may not be a problem if the dog knows its place is firmly at the bottom of the pile but even then it may consider that any new recruit to the pack should automatically rank below it. There will be even more of a problem if the dog is a social climber.
We had one of each variety; a Scottie who seemed to know her place but was nevertheless put out when a new pack member instantly got better privileges than her (such as eating and sleeping on demand and almost constant attention from the Pack Leader and the Lead Bitch) and a Corgi ‘princess’ who was constantly seeking ways to elevate her status to that of Lead Bitch. So, whilst the Scottie was mildly frustrated with the new pack members’ instant high status, the Corgi’s royal nose was put completely out of joint; she now had three extra rivals to climb over on her way to the top.
- doidens were fun to play with, in particular they were good to chase under the dining room table and chairs;
- Small grew up unafraid of doidens; and
- from a medical point of view, early interaction with doidens can assist the development of Smalls immune system.
There are obvious disadvantages should the physically and mentally abused doiden turn on Small, which always has to be a consideration. If you are concerned about this at all then you should seek some professional advice as the problem, or perceived problem, may be easily overcome.
Dogs as horses – I have been asked by my Corgi to make a quick note at this point – dogs are not horses (or ponies, mules, donkeys or anything similar) and should not be ridden by Small (or to use her own words, “One is a princess, not a beast of burden. One was born to ride, not to be ridden.”
It later became apparent that doiden in Smallish wasn’t a direct translation of dog or doggies after all. It was more probably an attempt at ‘gentle’. Of course, doggies became doidens because every time Small approached them, fingers extended ready to probe, he was told to be gentle. The same can be said for cats, bees and mummy.
Ironically, the doggies in the household are now referred to as gentles.
Small’s first words were an exciting time for both of us. Finally a stage had been reached where we were able to communicate fully. Now Small could tell me what all the tears were about. He could get his life sorted and I could bypass all that noise whilst I tried to guess what was wrong. Sadly not. Early verbal communication was extremely frustrating. What exactly did doiden mean? Small had spent months learning how to say doiden and now daddy didn’t seem to know what it meant! Even with the frantic waving of arms and repeating the word several times the message didn’t seem to be getting across. Needless to say, daddy wouldn’t have known a doiden if it came up and bit him, which was a possibility depending on which definition was accepted.
This was particularly maddening during activities that had a high latent background tension, such as mealtimes. Already a battleground, Small now had a new weapon. Thinking myself familiar with the routine, I had set out my battle plan. I knew my goals: all food eaten – unrealistic and unobtainable; food half eaten – total victory; one spoonful smeared around the vicinity of Small’s mouth – victory; nothing eaten but not too much of it ending up all over small, the high chair, the floor and me – victory. I knew small’s moves and I could counter them, sometimes.
Then Small changed the game completely by throwing a direct command at me.
Scratching my head I wondered what he meant.
He must have wanted something. What?
“I don’t know what a doiden is.”
Nerves ragged I cast about – spoon! I handed over the spoon. The spoon hit the floor as, “DOIDEN!!!” reverberated from the walls. There was a lot of seemingly random pointing and vague gesturing in the general direction of the thing that was required. Drink? The drink joined the spoon.
“I don’t know what a doiden is! Why can’t you just tell me?”
Biscuit? The floor was looking quite cluttered now.
Totally phased I threw some idioms at the problem: discretion is the better part of valour – best to think this through and live to fight another day. I hoisted Small from the chair and he toddled happily away, gleefully throwing over his shoulder, “Doiden!”
Small was very keen on his first word and didn’t particularly want to have to go through the effort of learning a second one, so I had to learn to pick up the subtle differences in pronunciation which deferred a different meaning to the same word. We have already discussed how doiden could mean many things. The second stage added tiny variations, for instance darden meant garden and daden meant daddy (possibly).
In those moments of confused communication I dearly wished that Small would develop a greater vocabulary. A few more words would have helped enormously. It was a shame he couldn’t read a dictionary. What if there was a recorded one he could listen to? Or a video showing him what things were called? Was there an app that could be downloaded? I realised that was modern, lazy thinking and that it was my job to teach him the names of things. So, when I offered him a cup, I told him it was a cup or a drink or juice. Once he had mastered the sounds he would repeat it back and progress was made. [Of course, progress would have been faster if I hadn’t confused him by calling the same thing a number of different names.] More words appeared and communication became less fraught. There was less frantic waving of arms and shouting because Small could start to tell me exactly what his urgent need was.
Things went well from there until somehow he picked up the word, ‘why’. From that point every sentence became prefixed with, ‘why’. Sometimes there was no sentence, just that word, ‘why’. It drove me very close to the edge of insanity. There was no end to the use of the word. At one point I counted how many ‘whys’ Small 3 used in a two minute period: 27! The worst thing was, there actually was no answer to the question ‘why’ that couldn’t be countered with a further, “Why?”. The closest I came was, “Because!” Not correct but Small learnt that once that point had been reached it was best to shut up for a minute or two.
Thankfully the whys eventually dried up. I breathed a sigh of relief at the time but a few years later I find myself complaining that Small(ish) never shows much interest in the things going on around him. Why does he never wonder about how things work or what they are there for? Sadly the answer is probably that I drove it out of him with, “Because!”
Whilst on the subject of first words, it is well known that a common first, or at least early, word is daddy. This is not because daddy is the greatest thing in Small’s world, it is because it is a nice easy sound for a Small to make. Nevertheless, it is a sound that filled me with joy: my Small was finally communicating in real words and was recognising me and the efforts I had been putting in on his behalf. I was his daddy.
Later in Small’s development, “Daddy,” became a hammer blow to my central nervous system. Every question and every demand became prefixed with, “Daddy…” “Daddy, I’m hungry!” “Daddy, I’m thirsty!” “Daddy, I need a poo!” “Daddy, my legs are bendy!” “Daddy, why…?” Daddy was used countless times an hour and soon lost its charm.
Sometimes first words did not bear much relationship to the actual word Small was trying to master. Communication is of course a two way process and, as such, I had to master Small’s language as much as he had to learn mine. In the same way that Small had to hear a word and be shown its association many times, I required the same. For instance, it took me some time to realise that ‘Stidid’ was Small 1’s best attempt at Small 2’s name. For a long time after that he was always called Stidid, which probably didn’t help Small 1’s language development at all.
First words are cute. In most cases they can only be interpreted by the parents and are a meaningless noise to a third party. However, Small 3 managed to articulate, “Oh God!” clearly and loudly from a very young age, a phrase he learnt from his older brothers (six and seven years older). A blaspheming one year old certainly turns heads in public.
His older brothers also taught Small 3 useful words like poo. In fact the ring tone on my phone is a rendition of the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat… at full gusto by Small 3 using only the word poo for lyrics.
As Small developed he also came out with priceless sentences that I will never forget. One bright sunny day, when setting off for the crèche, with snacks in hand, in our super flash, Porche red, three wheeled, twin sports buggy, with the top down, Small 1 turned to Small 2 and said, “This is the life, eh Stidid!” Goodness knows where he picked up that phrase but it was perfect for the moment.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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