Lily Speaks Up

Our daughters on Saturday morning…

I’m told that parents are not supposed to compare their children to each other, but how can you not? What we know best about parenting we know from experience, so when some new ailments manifests itself, or child number four does something as yet unseen or unexpected, you noticed.

For example: our number five, Lily, has begun to speak more slowly than her older siblings. We attribute this primarily to the fact that her siblings do the talking for her, anticipating her needs and filling in the blanks – she need only whine, whimper, grunt, or shriek, and her desires are addressed. Lately, however, she is becoming more verbal, showing her strengths, her weaknesses … and a budding sense of humor.

She loves her family, and has said Momma or Mommy for a long time now, and Dada or Daddy only slightly later. Emma came easy, and her hero worship from her eldest brother led to his name being next in her vocabulary: Nennen at first; now Denden.

Among her next words were nanee (banana), and gog and guck (for our Schnauzer Puck). She was a little slower with her other brothers, but that’s fair: they’ve been a little slower with her, as well. Trevor, as she warmed to him was Ruh-ruh, then Reh-Ruh, and now Chreh-ruh.

She then said all of these names for weeks, but we couldn’t get her to say Gabe or Gabey. We couldn’t trick her, couldn’t coerce her – nothing worked; she just looked at him and held her tongue. Then last week she began to call him Abba – which given his priestly inclinations, seemed almost mystical (it’s Hebrew for “father”). That was cool, but only lasted for a couple of days before it devolved (we thought) into Abluh or Uh-bluh. (Gabe quickly tired of everyone asked Lily who he was, or saying, “Lily … where’s Uh-bluh?”)

It seemed like a step backward, until once a couple days ago, when Lily saw Gabe’s photo and said, “Ay-bluh.” You could almost hear Gabriel in her syllables – she knows what she wants to say, but can’t quite articulate it yet.

She is trying out other words, as well, that show up in humorous (and sometimes trying) ways. For example, when we tell her not to do something (or when she is about to do something she knows she shouldn’t), she looks at Jodi or me and says, “no, no, NO!” in a tone that suggests nag, nag, NAG! And one night when she was being clingy and fussy, I made the mistake of steering her away from Jodi by stepping between them, putting my arm around my bride, and saying, “MY mommy!”

I thought it was funny in the moment – but a day or so later, I returned home from work, walked into the kitchen, and kissed my wife, only to see Lily march over, grab her pant leg, and say, “MY MOMMY!” Now she walks around the house claiming everything in her reach: “My mommy, my Denden, mine, mine, MINE.”

Nice going, Dad.

Finally, a couple nights ago we’re seated at the table eating supper, and everyone’s chattering away. It’s hard to listen to five kids at once, and Lily is repeating the same monosyllable over and over, so I’ve tuned her out temporarily.

Finally I focused in, and see that she’s leaning across the table, looking insistently at me as she speaks.

What did she say?

“Jehm. Jehm. Jehm! JEHM!”

“Wait a minute!” I say, and the table quiets. “Lily, who am I?”

She grins. “Jehm.”



Jodi and the kids are giggling. “Who?” I ask again.


“Lily, who am I really?” I say, mock sternly.

She grins until it wrinkles her nose. “Daddy!” she says.

She loves this game now. She won’t call Jodi anything except Momma or Mommy – though she knows her name, too; ask her to give Jodi a hug and see.

I know, I know – it’s not the first time a child has done something precious (or precocious) while taste-testing words. But for us, it could be the last. Jehm is enjoying it, and so is Daddy.

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