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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

We'll Say: 'Look Who Has Verbal Diarrhea!'

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Having seen plenty of new parents compare notes before my own daughter came along, the fact that raising kids can be a competitive business should not have come as a surprise.

Nonetheless, I am constantly caught off-guard by friends and colleagues who often ask: chto vy umeyete, or, literally, what can you do? (Note that this question is more often than not asked in the plural, anticipating an answer with the royal we, or my.)

I never quite know how to answer this question. While I find it fascinating to watch my own daughter's development, I would be amazed if others were to find the nuances I take to be milestones equally scintillating. Do they really want to hear such excruciating detail as vchera ona posidela na gorshke, no ne kakala (Yesterday she sat on the potty, but she didn't poo)?

No, it seems to me such intimate bodily functions should be a family affair. What, then, qualifies as the appropriate answer to: chto vy umeyete?

More experienced parents asking this question often coach me on the answer. Can she, they ask, khlopat’ v ladoshi (clap her hands) or stoyat’ samostoyatel’no (stand by herself)? Once she can stand, we move into an entire series of walking-related questions, such as uzhe khodit (is she already walking)?

It was sometime after her first birthday that the questions about talking started pouring in: ona zagovorila (did she start talking)?

I feel as if I am letting them down every time when I tell them no. She is not talking yet, at least not speaking a language that any adult would understand. Multilingual children often start speaking later, I remind them. And since my daughter is a tryokhyazychny rebyonok (a child raised in three languages) — we figure she'll start talking sometime before her fifth birthday.

Ne perezhivaite, or don't worry, people often tell me in response to my daughter's measured verbal progress. I am not worried, but they appear to be. Is it not enough that she understands English, Dutch and Russian? As a matter of fact, I am already starting to pick up some useful words from her. Just the other day when she was stepping out of the sandbox her nanny told her to otryakhnut’ ruki. When I saw her brushing her hands together to dust them off, I secretly added the verb otryakhnut’ (to shake, or brush off) to my vocabulary.

I am eagerly awaiting to see which words — and in which language — will be her first (other than the cross-cultural mama and papa). Skoro nachnyotsya slovesny ponos (soon the verbal diarrhea will begin), our nanny tells us; the words will start tumbling out in all three languages.

And when that happens, just imagine how much my own vocabulary will take off.