Updated: Jan 31, 2021
I was never a proponent of speaking motherese to Laila even though it's been touted as helping with language development. I always made sure I spoke to her as I would speak to another adult because I wanted her to learn how to communicate effectively at an early age. I noticed that she started to babble a few months after she came home from the hospital. She seemed very expressive and was beginning to watch my mouth as I formed words. By two years old, I was starting to understand her and could communicate with her pretty well. We taught her to use sign language to let us know when she wanted to eat or drink. She was able to convey this as soon as she was sitting up and eating on her own. Although comparison is the thief of joy, I was happy to see that she was well within the expected range for the number of words spoken by her 2nd birthday. I took pride in seeing her communication skills progress before my eyes.
Some of Laila’s favorite words were of course “Mommy” and “Daddy.” She also quickly used the infamous “uh oh” and "oh no." There were quite a few instances in which I would sit and have full-blown conversations with her. I was amazed at her level of understanding and desire to get her point across. As expected, there were moments of frustration when she attempted to communicate something that I didn’t quite understand. Those occasions were few and far between.
In addition to our conversations, reading has always been one of our favorite things to do together. I made sure to read books with rich vocabulary and engaging storylines. Even to this day, we read every night before bedtime. In fact, she's upset if anything gets in the way of storytime. Now that she’s old enough to read, she’s able to read to me as well. We can have full conversations about the characters and the plot of each story. I know that those early days of reading played an integral part in her development and ability to communicate effectively.
Laila is older now and impresses me with her articulate communication style. She has a knack for expressing herself and understanding those she’s communicating with. I have watched her grow from a babbling baby to a self-assured girl. It warms my heart to know that the premature baby in the NICU has developed the necessary language skills needed for a productive life. I remember the uncertainty of our journey back then, not knowing if she would have speech delays or other difficulties. It's comforting to know that our little one is well developed and exceeding other’s expectations. I’m sure that our early conversations played an instrumental part in her growth into the young lady that she is today. We didn’t always understand each other initially, but now we are in a place of mutual comprehension and respect. I'm looking forward to watching her communication skills blossom as she matures into new phases of her life.