- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Jeremy, our 17-month-old, is following in the footsteps of his 4-year-old brother, Sean, when it comes to speech development.

Sean took forever to learn to talk so long, in fact, we ended up getting therapy for him. These days we can laugh about it, because Sean is like an endless recording, talking incessantly sometimes we practically have to bribe him to stop talking.

For all we know right now, Jeremy is thinking to himself, "Why bother talking? I have these foolish grown-ups eating out of my hand anyway." He has developed quite an extensive and intelligent nonverbal "vocabulary" over the last few months.

First of all, there are the hilarious passive-aggressive temper tantrums, if you can call them that. When Jeremy gets mad, he sits on the floor, then, ever so slowly, he lists to one side and finally plops down on his side, then rolls over on his back. Then he kicks his legs in the air once twice if he's really mad and then lies there. Picture a slow-motion death scene in a Sam Peckinpah movie.

If there were words to accompany this routine, they would probably be, "I just want you two to know that I'm mad I can't have more Cheerios. No, make that furious. That's right. I'm simply furious. I'm registering my fury by sitting down, no, make that lying down. Now, I'm really, really mad. Um, this is no time for levity. Why are you two laughing? I'm highly upset here. Believe me."

Oh, he can get Vesuvius mad when he wants to. We've been subjected to what my wife, Lisa, calls "baby profanity" several times, a string of furious babbling when we do something Jeremy doesn't like.

He displays unbridled joy similarly. When one of his favorite words or phrases pops up in conversation "ice cream," "bath time," "go for a ride in the van" he sprints from wherever he is to the front door, or the foot of the stairs, or the kitchen, wherever the action is, yelling something that sounds roughly like "Weeoooweeoooweeoooweeooo."

We try the same techniques we used with Sean to get him to talk, repeating the same words over and over when we do things. When we pick Jeremy up, we say "up." When we carry him downstairs, we say "down." We point to each other and say "Mama," "Dada." Jeremy smiles his Cheshire cat smile and says nothing.

We'll pay for all this golden silence and the passive-aggressive temper tantrums, I'm sure. Once Jeremy catches up, and the inevitable yells of "He took my toy," "No, he did," "No, he did," start, we'll call for peace and quiet, then wonder why we weren't content when we had it.

In other words, we'll be typical parents.

But by then, it will be too late. The train will have already left the station. Next stop: Using full names when we refer to our sons: "Sean Mark Stewart, put that down now." "Jeremy John Stewart, get over here this instant." (OK, we've already done that a few times with Sean.)

The stop after that: "When I was your age …"

And the stop after that: "You call that music?"

And the stop after that: "Twelve o'clock means you're back here by midnight, not noon tomorrow. We're not falling for that again."

And the stop after that: "This wedding is going to cost how much? Have you considered eloping?"

Mark Stewart is the father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a staff writer for the Family Times. He can be reached at stewar@twtmail.com.

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