Parental Cognitive Development: Devolution to BUS

The kid continues to grow and learn. He’s picking up all sorts of phrases at daycare… and inventing some of his own? (For example, asking for “don don choo choo” videos. I have no idea what kind of train that might be.) He can count to five in both English and Japanese, and seems to understand that you use numbers to refer to a series of objects, although it’s also clear that he doesn’t understand the idea of “four apples” and “five apples” as such yet. He continues to pay attention to the behavior of trains (we live near train tracks and what seems to be a relatively busy switching station, so there are quite a few of them every day), and I’ve been using them to teach him a couple new verbs like “move” and “stop.” Oh, and he’s picked up colors (red, blue, white, black, green, and silver). And the adjective 速い (fast), which he gleefully shouts while running.

One unexpected and fascinating aspect of his development is that he repeats certain phrases a lot. For a while, hardly a day went by when he doesn’t see the rail lines and comment that チューチュー、線路走る (“choo choo runs on the railroad”). Now he comments on what is present or absent, and what’s moving or not.

All this communication is a two-way street, though. As I teach him nouns and verbs and adjectives, he forces me to develop search images that I hadn’t been using before.

I notice trains and other vehicles now. I notice whether a train is short or long, fast or slow, and what kinds of cars it’s composed of. I’ve become acutely aware of buses, which used to be just part of the scenery unless I was specifically interested in catching one at the time, but which now I notice from blocks away. And at times I’ve caught myself muttering, or at least thinking, “BUS!” The same with animals: “DOG!” “CAT!” “BIRD!” “SQUIRREL!”


Turns out it’s just that he’d had puppies at some point previously and his neural circuitry was altered forever by the experience.

It affects my speech, too, at least at home. When I’m ready to turn in at night, I tell my wife that I’m going to 寝ね (ne-ne), i.e. “sleep-sleep”. When I need to go use the restroom, I might say I have to pee-pee. And of all things – a while back we borrowed the Captain America: Civil War movie from the library and watched it. And during the final dramatic fight, when one of the guys got absolutely clobbered in the face, I unthinkingly exclaimed 痛い痛いやろう (itai itai yarou) – roughly, “That must be a boo-boo!”

I’d read that becoming a parent does things to your brain as you bond with your squirmy little poop monkey. And I’m probably aware, on some subconscious level, of a bunch of quirks my parents had when I was a kid that will make perfect sense when I find them cropping up suddenly in my own behavior. But this was the first big one to really jump out and hit me. Kids, man.

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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