I always assumed Tommy’s first language would be English. Nope, it was Klingon. I recognized the sounds since I’m a Star Trek fan, but I couldn’t translate them. Tommy sat in his high chair, well into age 2, chattering guttural sounds that were more like growls than words. He’d cast his blue eyes up at me after a long string of, “Heek, awwww, chok, too, rawrrrrr” pronounced like he was clearing his throat of phlegm.

I nodded my head encouragingly and replied with a smile, “Uh huh. Tell me more, Tommy” like I thought a good mommy should do. I tried to hide my shame that I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. What mother can’t translate their own toddler’s words? I’d seen a string of babble and drool end with a smile as another mom produced the right item.

Why was I surprised that his “words” sounded more like gargling small pebbles? At the same age, his older brother, Garry, made squeaks and grunts like my old Dodge Omni right before the car died in the mall parking lot. Both boys gave unintelligible pronouncements with such gusto and confidence that I always wondered what great thoughts I missed. Actually, I have a similar sensation now that they’re grown up. When I hear them talking about computers or physics most of their words sound like they made them up.

Translating toddler talk isn’t easy.

Tommy hacked up another string of sounds like a cat with a hairball and stared at me intently. Normally, he was in constant motion so his stillness got my attention like the sudden end of wild wind and rain in the the eye of a hurricane.

“Can you tell me that again, Tommy?” I leaned in as if closing the distance would give his gnashing sounds more meaning. His eyes were wide and intense.

“I’m sorry, kiddo. I don’t know what you’re saying. Are you hungry?”

We stared at one another in silence without moving.

Then, the frustration inside him bubbled out in one forceful sound, “Muntz!” His brow wrinkled with anger and disapproval.

Despite our previous lack of communication, one point became very clear. Tommy just uttered his first swear word.