Daily Operation

Parental Annoyance: When Parents Talk For Their Babies

You’ve heard it, however, you might not notice it. It’s prevalent. Everywhere.

I first noticed it by watching pet owners talk for their pets and now notice that it happens with babies too. And maybe more often.

Take this example:

Acquaintance is holding her baby daughter and I approach to greet both of them. I lean in to the baby cautiously with a big smile and say, “Hey there, sweetie! You’re getting so big!” The baby scowls at me nervously. The mother then says in an attempt to be humorous, “She’s like, ‘I don’t know you so step off!'”

Wait, the baby didn’t say that. Why did the mother say that she said that. Or is the “she’s like” part her saying, “If she could speak, she would say this.” Yeah, but she can’t speak so she didn’t say that. She’s a baby. Can’t she just have a natural reaction to a stimulus without someone attempting to speak for her?

I was speaking to a friend of mine one day while Ellison made her way around the room and probably twelve to fifteen times during our conversation, as he watched Ellison wander around from corner to corner taking in the room, he broke our conversation to speak for Ellison like some outtake of Look Who’s Talking. “She’s like, ‘Hey, this is cool!'” “She’s like, ‘I love light plugs.'” She’s like, ‘Where’s daddy?'” “She’s like, ‘Man, that guy’s shoes are cool.'”

Every time I hear him do this, I felt like asking him to stop. It’s incredibly annoying. And, what’s worse, is I’ve found myself doing the same thing. I try to catch myself when I do it, but sometimes, it’s unpreventable. Maybe it’s a nervous tick. For instance, when you’re talking with someone and you run out of words, but there’s still moments left in your conversation so you just fill it up with really bad comedic material. Stupid, lazy comedic material that includes trying to speak for babies and be funny about it.

What I love about babies is that they can’t talk. Their wonderment in the world is in their eyes, their expressions. Their grunts, screams, laughs. While they can’t speak in clear sentences, they do so with every other part of their face and voice. It doesn’t have to be a running joke for parents to write the punchlines. We don’t have to play the “what if dogs could talk” game with our babies.

And now, for my mother, a photo of Ellison.

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