Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 18, 2013

From the first little walk until you hear the Baby Talk ...

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — There are many boring technical phrases that can describe Baby Talk – "infant-directed speech" or "child-directed speech" or "caretaker speech" to name a few.

But none of them really capture or adequately describe that special, simplified, sweet form of speech that many Mommies and Daddies and MeMaws and PePaws use when speaking to children.

I prefer to call it what is it – "Baby Talk."

Baby Talk is very important to me because my PePa used it with me a lot. Probably more than my Mom and Dad and MeMa or anyone else in my family.

My PePa – Ray Miller – and I were very tight. He was my mentor and my best friend. And my hero. He built me a treehouse and showered me with numerous toys. Growing up, I stayed with him and my MeMaw, Cloteele Miller, many weekends at their home near Love Field in Dallas.

I adored PePa's Baby Talk. So much so that after I grew up I patterned mine after his when caring for my 19-year-old son Jake back when he was an infant. And I use it now with my 2-year-old son Cam.

Some people refuse to use Baby Talk with a child. They contend doing so continuously can actually hamper child development. Some go as far as to describe Baby Talk as demeaning. They say we should be speaking more plainly and informatively to our children and therefore helping them more with their development.

I disagree. Vehemently.

But when I was younger, I was briefly manipulated into that train of thought by some of the more bullying kids in my class. They overheard my PePa talking to me when he picked me up from elementary school, and their venomousness about it really startled and frightened me.

I felt pushed to the wall. I really wasn't thinking clearly. One one night at a campfire with my PePa I abruptly – out of nowhere – asked him to stop using Baby Talk with me.

Almost immediately, I could see his hurt. Like a slap to his face.

I didn't really want PePa to stop. I loved how he spoke to me. But I just wanted the kids at school to leave me alone. (Like it was any of their business.)

PePa didn't speak to me for a few minutes after I said this to him at the campfire.

I realized how much I had hurt my beloved grandfather. And the thought of being the source of any pain for him was too much for me.

I started bawling at the top of my lungs and sprinted up to PePa and apologized to him about it over and over. I hugged him as tightly as I could.

A few minutes later, we both were having fun again, drinking Dr. Pepper and acting like nothing had happened.

The morale of this story is:, Baby Talk IS NOT a stupidity-inducer. It's a special language shared by a loving parent or grandparent with his or her child. It's a soothing way of speaking that immediately lets a stressed-out kiddo know that everything is all right. There's nothing to fear. Daddy is here. PePa is here.

I really don't know when PePa – who died suddenly of a heart attack on Christmas Day, 1983 – stopped speaking Baby Talk to me after that.

Who knows? Maybe he never stopped.

But the minute I had a child of my own to converse with, I used that Baby Talk voice patterned directly after my PePa's,

As children, we yearn to grow up quickly – little knowing or understanding the stresses that lay ahead of us on the adult trail. As adults, we ultimately realize we should have savored every minute of our young years.

We can ease the way for our children by sharing our Baby Talk with them – effectively channeling the love our elders shared with us.

My former schoolmates tried to take that away from me – and my PePa.

Baby talk is SO much more than infant-directed speech. It's a soothing balm of love for a weary child. An immediate signal to the heart that everything is going to be all right. A cure for every psychic ill that could befall a youngster.

Baby Talk is a language of the soul.


Reporter Ben Tinsley can be contacted by email, btinsley@jacksonvilleprogress.com, or by phone at 903-586-2236. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/bentinsley or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.