Using (and losing) your words

I read an interesting article once on how a person can lose the ability to speak their native tongue after years of non-use. It is actually possible for a young immigrant to become so entrenched in his new homeland and culture that he forgets the language of his birth.

I found the piece difficult to comprehend. Language often defines our world perspective. It is quintessential to our sense of self. How could people unwittingly forfeit such an integral piece of their history and identity?

Having now gone several years without a toddler in my home, I began to understand. After agreeing to watch my friend’s three-year-old son for the day, I realized that I had inadvertently surrendered a once-familiar dialect. I desperately racked my brain for hints of recall and guidance:

Do you burp toddlers?

Rear facing car seat or booster?

Do three-year-olds drink formula?

Sippy cups or regular cups?

What is the mimic quotient of toddlers (or rather, can I still swear?)

PG-13 movies … a no?

Can I puree the hot dog and bun or simply set to “blend?”

What is with these weird fruit pouches? Are they drinks? Food? Sunscreen?

I once simultaneously burped a newborn, made Play-Doh cookies with a toddler and sang every lyric to “The Lion King” without a second thought. My potty-training skills were legendary. I was consistent, bureaucratic and adept at changing a diaper on my knee in an elevator.

I had owned this world, its secrets and its prose.

But now?

I am old, deaf and soft. To top things off, I spilled that weird prune pouch juice/pudding/sunblock all over myself.

Yet, it is in this sorry state that I will soon be required to learn a whole new language.

The language of teenagers.

Thank God I have the swearing down.

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