September 23, 2003 - Tuesday
Mommy asked Harry what we did this afternoon. It's a common dinner question and something of a game to see whether she can figure out what Harry, Jeremy, and I actually did do that day. Well, it's so much a game as it is an effort to try and establish dialogue and conversation at the dinner table. What makes it a game is that for all Harry's well-spoken and very advanced (for his age) vocabulary, he can be remarkably coy and often not very forthcoming. And, of course, he is only three and when he does speak openly it's often without much sense of context. He'll start talking about something "playing with the bolts" and "driving on the lawn mowers" and mommy well have to interpret that to mean "we went to the Home Depot."
That was pretty easy this evening, the only question being whether the bolts were the Home Depot or the local hardware store. The lawn mowers were pretty much a giveaway. But then, tonight, Harry started talking about seeing a backhoe, one that was digging and scooping and making a big pile of dirt. And, he went on to say something about it building something; was it a road or was he talking about a bridge? We didn't go over the bridge under construction, nor did we go by anything that sounded similar to what Harry was talking about. I made a face toward his mother to suggest that this was not a scene from today. But, he went on; more about the construction, more about moving rocks. Mommy asked if he was still talking about today, but he just kept going on with his imagination. Knowing that we had not seen such thing today or any day recently, I finally asked if he was making it up; if he was playing a 'trick." Remarkably, he smiled and said "yes."
I'm sure Harry has said things that weren't true, but something about this was different. I'd think that language, at least at first, is a utilitarian way to communicate information; wants, needs, and that sort of thing. Harry's heard plenty of stories, but I would think that to a great extent those are also just information for someone who knows so little about the world. For Harry to show that language can be used in other ways is both fascinating and, as a parent, a little alarming.