One thing has been clear from birth: le Petit has plenty to say.
At first, when he wasn't exactly where he wanted to be, which was asleep at mom's breast twenty-four seven, he screamed. Loudly enough to get remarks from the veteran children's nurse at the maternity ward. Le Petit was disturbing the other babies and my weary husband, who was just trying to change a diaper, was scolded.
I'm very happy to report that gale-force howling is now a rare occurance. Le Petit is a happy guy, and aside from fussing a bit when we put him to bed or lodging a complaint when we put him in his playpen, he hardly ever cries.
That doesn't mean things have quieted down chez Petit. The register has simply changed, and as I've mentioned before, we've left behind sobbing for the high-pitched shriek. I've been assured this phase is brief, so I'm holding onto my eardrums and waiting for true language skills to emerge. Meanwhile, I listen to mothers who brag that their babies mastered "Mama," "Papa" and "caca" at ten months old with envy and impatience.
I've heard that bilingual children often take longer to talk and it makes sense. He's been immersed since birth in two languages, Mommy's and Daddy's (and Daddy's spoken by Mommy with an odd accent, and vice versa), so it is no surprise to me that it takes some time to sift though and classify. I'm frankly amazed that the human brain is capable of it at all.
Le Petit has responded to his tiny tower of Babel by vocalizing early, often, and loudly. He loves to interrupt our conversations with a forcefully declared "Da da da da da!" It works. We stop talking and parrot his "sentence" back to him with a "that's right!" or "I agree entirely!" at the end. Now our house is tri-lingual.
The vocalizations are slowly settling into patterns, if not yet what I would qualify as words. I've been pushing "dada" as a first word, for it would flatter both my husband (Daddy!) and myself (a first word from his mother tongue!). He's got the "da" down, and sometimes my husband seems to be "da da," but other times "da da" ambiguously refers to an animal, or is murmured softly in a state of deep concentration.
While we were on vacation, we stayed at a farm in the Gers with chickens that roamed freely around the garden. Le Petit loved to chase them, and when the roosters sang, we translated their song into an English "cock-a-doodle-doo!" or a French "cocorico!" By the end of the trip, le Petit started to chirp "cococo" when he heard a rooster. (I took this as further proof of his brilliance. A future actor? Writer? Member of the Académie Française?)
Of course, when he has something urgent to communicate, like an objection to the closing of the kitchen door or the desire to grab something just beyond his reach, he resorts to shrieking. He has shrieks of boredom, shrieks of frustration, shrieks of excitement, and shrieks of let's see how my voice echoes in the apartment corridor.
In France, where children are still often required to be seen and not heard, these shrieks can be a bit embarassing. I don't know what to do other than gently "shhhhh" and remind le Petit in a calm voice that we are indoors, or get down to his eye level and try to ask him what he wants. Often I just ignore the shrieks and the stares and continue with my business, playing the Bad Mom and Oblivious Foreigner.
What else is there to do? He's thirteen months old and he's just discovered he has a lot to explain to the world at large, so he's starting now. At the top of his lungs. In the supermarket. After pulling both his socks off for the tenth time in the last half an hour.
Some day, he will be able to clearly and coherently explain to me just what I've done to wrong or embarass him. In the meantime, I stand in the produce aisle with a barefoot baby who is shrieking the angst of being confined to a stroller.
"Aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" He takes a breath and arches his back. "Aie aie aie!"
"Ah, I understand, your feet must be cold!" I grab a foot and wrestle on a sock soaked with baby drool.
At least for now the translations are up to me.