Sage Advice: Daughter-in-Law Is Sick of Baby Talk

By Amy Dickinson | February 19th, 2020

Is an annoying habit worth bringing up?


Baby with grandma who does baby talk too much Image

Dear Amy: I have an unconventional problem with my mother-in-law.

She does not meddle, undermine me, tell me how to raise my children, or imply that I’m not good enough for her son. She provides free childcare willingly, and always brings gifts for the kids, most of which I approve of.

My problem is that she’s unbearably annoying.

She has an extremely high-pitched voice, a thick Russian accent, and a pronounced stutter.

I can’t hold these things against her, and they are only mildly bothersome in normal conversation. But when she talks to my kids, especially the baby, it becomes unbearable.

She speaks exclusively in a mix of broken English baby talk and nonsense noises, and the level of repetition is borderline pathological.

She may repeat the same high-pitched sing-song “Oo goo goosh! Oo goo goosh!” sound to my baby literally hundreds of times over the course of an hour.

Once when I was feeling particularly snarky, I started timing her verbal runs. Many go for over 10 minutes without a break.

My level of annoyance is so high that I turn away, cringe, and silent-scream expletives when it gets bad.

I don’t know how to address this, or if it’s worth it.

I want to stop dreading spending time with her and feeling stressed waiting for the next round of high-pitched baby-nonsense to start. Please help!

– Annoyed

Dear Annoyed: You say that you can’t hold your mother-in-law’s verbal tics against her, so … don’t. Just don’t.

Much of what you report comes off as very unkind. I’m going to assume that you are suffering from a short-term form of annoyance-onset psychosis.

This kind woman is your children’s beloved grandmother. She cannot control her accent or her stutter. Her “goo goo gooshing” and baby talk are annoying to you, but she is really singing an ancient song – this is a song of human connection, passed from elders to babies since the dawn of time. She is also passing along part of her (and your kids’) heritage.

When the kids are older, they may say to her, “Babushka, I’m a big kid now. Don’t talk to me like I’m a baby, because I’m big.”

All the same, I totally understand how aurally annoying this would be to grown-up ears.

When it gets to you, excuse yourself and go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Take deep breaths while the water is boiling. Unleash your silent rant. And then congratulate yourself for being patient.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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