While Ariane was taking a break, I took Emma for a ride on the ‘four-wheeler’, a small ATV that’s good on the unpaved roads here and the big fields beyond. We like to go early in the morning and late in the afternoon after a long day of swimming, walking, bowling, bungee cord jumping — in other words, all things physical and fun.
On our 4-wheeling adventures, it’s not uncommon to spot a variety of wildlife; deer, foxes, a family of coyotes (with four baby cubs!) and unexpected surprises, like today’s sighting of a large, chubby porcupine who was wobbling around behind the barn. Like most of the animals here, he/she? was fairly inured to human contact, but when we approached within fifteen feet I cut the engine, to see if he might stick around long enough for a good visit.
“Look Emma, see that? That’s a porcupine!”
He started wobbling in the opposite direction, crawling beneath the barn, which I assumed was his new living quarters from the practiced ease with which he hid away. Before he vanished I pointed to him again and said, “Emma, can you say porcupine?”
“Morepickpine,” she said, or something to that effect.
“No Emma, PORC-U-PINE,” I slowly enunciated.
“Porkmepine,” she replied.
“No Emma, not porkmepine, porc-ya-pine!” I smiled, shaking my head, changing my pronunciation of the second syllable so she didn’t think I was somehow talking about her (“you”) when identifying the animal.
“Porkapine,” she said.
“That’s right Emma,” I said, starting up the engine.
It was pretty funny, a little frustrating and a little encouraging. Frustrating because she still has such a hard time making distinctions in simple labeling. Encouraging because she was at least grasping the distinction between the words “you” and “me” when it came to identifying herself. Most of the time, she still talks like Elmo when she speaks of herself.
“Emma go on four wheeler?”
Sometimes I’ll just nod and answer, “sure Emma, let’s go for a ride.” But it’s better if I remember to correct her and suggest a more appropriate response:
“Emma, you can say, ‘Daddy, I want to go on the four-wheeler.'”
She will usually echo that response and occasionally (very occasionally) remember to phrase a question correctly. She has the same trouble with “you, I, me, she, he.” So we will often correct her when she says “you” when she means “me”, or “he” when she’s talking about a girl, etc.
Later in the afternoon, Joe took her out to play. She insisted on bringing her stuffed animal Muzzy along. See the attached photos Joe took after Emma buckled Muzzy’s seat belt in the car and then strapped him into a jogger, pushing him down one of the local bike paths. This new affectionate attachment to her stuffed monster-animal pal is another very encouraging sign. Muzzy recently accompanied her in a hospital bed, and now that he seems to have fully recuperated, she’s taken him for an outing in the countryside.
Emma may not care much about prickly porkmepines, but she sure does love her fuzzy Muzzy. And that’s just fine with you.