Family learns ‘baby’ as a second language

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2001

News Editor

Visits home have become to few and far between for me, but last Sunday I made it a point to make the trip home.

When there are lapses in time when you see people you immediately notice a change in their behavior and personalities. The change was apparent when I walked in the door – my parents don’t speak English anymore.

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I should have seen the signs sooner. I should have gotten the help they needed before it was too late. Now, I think the damage is irreversible.

It all started a couple of months back when my niece Allison was born. For a while everything remained normal because Allison couldn’t really communicate. But when started goo-gooing and cooing to express herself my parents followed suit.

The metamorphosis was extremely quick.

"We’re having baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans for lunch, goo-goo," my mother said when I got home.

"Goo-goo?" I asked bewildered.

She just looked at me like she had said something out of the ordinary and tried to stick a pacifier in my mouth.

If lunch weren’t already on the stove I would have half expected small jars of Gerber baby food at each place setting with Similac to drink.

I left the kitchen and headed for the den, knowing my dad was immune to the "baby talk" that had replaced my mother’s English. I was wrong.

I sat in a chair to talk to my dad. He looked at me with that wide-eyed look I’d seen him give babies before. It always produced a little giggle from the babies in the times I’d seen it before but it scared me out of my skin.

"And how’s my baby doing today?" he asked with a silly grin. "How’s is your little jobby-wobby going?"

I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t even blink my eyes or swallow. I just sat there and thought, if the grandparents are like this, my brother and sister-in-law must be in really, really bad shape.

It wasn’t long until I found out. In walks the duo with little Allison in tow.

It was the same way with them – goo-goos, coos and squeals of joy. There was talk of brands of diapers, new bottles and the rice cereal Allison ate for breakfast.

The entire baby talk aside, Allison sure had grown and changed so much. She smiled and laughed and made all the same sounds my parents, brother and sister-in-law now made. And that’s when I got concerned. If her parents and grandparents were speaking the same language she was, then how would she ever learn English?

I decided to start teaching her myself, but then thought better. If my parents and brother and sister-in-law continued to regress, I’d have to re-teach them too. I decided to give it a few more months and home school them all.

When it was time to leave, I said my good-byes. As I was walking through the yard my parents’ yellow labs started barking. I thought to myself, "at least some things haven’t changed."

I turned around to speak to them, "Bye big dogs, goo-goo!"

Amy S. Lansdon is the news editor of The Messenger. E-mail her at


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