Our daughter is at a funny stage. She learns and forgets certain behavioral patterns almost daily, but she practices other, more important behaviors almost routinely.
For example, during a couple of weeks in June, she shook her head as if to say “no” with her body language. Regardless of what we said or did during this period, she would respond by shaking her head left and right, seemingly in dissent (and smiling the entire time). After repeating this gesture several times a day for those two weeks, she hasn’t done it again in the past month.
Whenever I hug anyone, I pat her or him gently on the back. This is a common practice in my mother’s extended family, which is probably where I learned it and why I do it still today. When I pick up Jackie, I pat her too when I first hold her. A few days ago, she patted my back in return. This surprising, yet familiar action blew me away because it was both affectionate and learned. I expect this patting to continue for another day or two before she forgets it.
Her forgetting of behaviors is similar with language, except that some of her language development is not learned by rote, in a mechanical, repetitive way; instead, she has started to attach meaning to her babytalk. The first words we heard her mimic were “uh-oh”. She only repeated it when Katie or I said it. After the first time, Katie and I said “uh-oh” just to hear her repeat it, so I don’t think she connected the word with any particular meaning. She said “uh-oh” several times over the span of a few days, but she didn’t say it for several weeks after. Then, a few days ago, she dropped a toy onto the floor and said “uh-oh”; it was almost like she was keeping the phonological memory of the word on a mental shelf until she made a meaningful association.
Her favorite, and perhaps first true spoken word, is the phonetic equivalent of “goh”. Of course, this isn’t a real English word, but it is obvious that she attaches meaning to the pronunciation of “goh”; the first few times she said it were when she saw Baxter or Robah walking by her. She started saying it more often, as if she was calling for the dogs when they weren’t in the room with her. Lately, she doesn’t say it much at all.
Is it possible that her brain is starting to make retrieval connections between her short-term and long-term memory? I’m no epistemologist, but I wonder if her brain is dividing new knowledge into meaningless (shaking her head randomly) and meaningful (“goh”), and the meaningless eventually gets tossed into her cerebral trashcan. Like “uh-oh” before it, I predict that she will not forget or discard “goh”, because it’s relevant to her daily life in a house with dogs. Instead, I think “goh” will eventually transform into “dog.”