It’s Not All Mary Poppins

In which Mary discovers and unexpected thinness of skin

“Oh, my GOD!”

There was a time in my life when that phrase was offensive to me. It was taking the lord’s name in vain, invoking deity in a meaningless, frivolous way. Even though I no longer have that response, I am still far more likely to say, “Oh, good lord!” (Yes, I am aware those two are essentially identical, but the tweak in semantics works for me. Make of that what you will.)

“Oh! My! GOD!”

Though it has been known to drop from my lips, I generally avoid it for a few reasons: out of habit, out of respect for those whom it does offend, and because these days it’s so much the purview of adolescent girls — OMG! OMG!! OMGGGGG!!!!! — at their most shrieky and annoying.

So I have a pretty muted response to it, all in all. Except, I’ve just this moment discovered, when it is being broadcast from the mouths of babes.

Rory, at the front of the stroller, takes a deep breath.

“Oh. My. GOD!!” he declares, in tones of such rich satisfaction that the others are driven to echo. Grace and Jazz pick up the mantra, and now “Oh! My! GOD!!!” is bouncing around the stroller, from tot to tot, and across the road and up the street and round the city and through the province… “Oh. My. GOOoooooDDDD!”

I’m feeling a smidge self-conscious, is what I’m saying.

Rory takes a breath to start the next call-and-response. “Oh, My, G–” Before he can finish, I thrust a word into the air. “GOODNESS!” He picks it up obligingly.

“Oh, My, Goo’ness!” Grace and Jazz pick up the refrain, and I relax. Because, really. Four kids screeching irreverences up and down the street. Where did they learn that? people will wonder. Probably from that caregiver! people will assume. Why else would all those kids from different families be saying the same thing? Only stands to reason. That caregiver who looks so mild. Bet she’s just awful behind closed doors, screaming and yelling, and “oh-my-god-you-kids!”-ing.

And besides. It just tweaks those long-ago lessons. Adults can say that, doesn’t bother me at all. Little kids? It feels wrong, hell, it fells borderline offensive. Babies should not be saying this. I’m a little surprised by my response, frankly. Sunday School is more deeply ingrained in my psyche than I realized. (Train up a child, and all that. Seems I’m a case in point.) 😀

“Oh, my goo’ness!”

Phew.

“Oh, my GOO’NESS!”

It’s kind of cute, really.

“Oh! My! GOD!!!”

Damn.

So much for bait-and-switch. What we need is a whole different distractor. Conversation about the scenery is ineffective. Questions about their activities similarly so. How about…

“I like to eat, eat, eat…”

Grace LOVES this song! LOVES.IT.

“Appoos and ‘nanaaaaas!”

And the others join in, “I yike to eat, eat, eat, appools and ananas.”

And this one? It sticks.

Phew.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Rory, the things they say! | , , , , | 7 Comments

“Average” is not an insult

Lily is a chatterbox. A sponge for language. She absorbs new words — and spews them back out again — at a tremendous rate. Today’s new one? “Catapult.” “Cah-pull.” She doesn’t know what it means, but she sure does like the way it rolls around in her mouth.

“Rory. Those chick peas are for eating, and you’re not a catapult.” (In case you were wondering.)

“Cah-pull, cah-pull!”

It’s very cute. A friend comments, “She’s very good with language! I believe every child has their area of excellence.”

Really?

Know what? I don’t.

Lily is a chatterbox, and she certainly has an affinity for language. Her vocabulary is about 50 times greater than Rory’s (a pretty standard boy-girl variation at this age), but also than Grace’s (but then, Grace is processing two languages simultaneously). But is this ‘excellence’?

Nope. She’s good with words, but not extraordinarily so. Lily falls solidly within the parameters of ‘normal’. As do Rory and Grace. ‘Normal’ is a pretty broad field. Most of us fall into it. (Which is, after all, what makes it ‘normal’.)

Think about it. If we were all “above average”, then that would be, by definition, “average”. You can’t escape the laws of statistics.

A child who has been told since birth that they’re exceptional for their perfectly standard accomplishments will have very little motivation to strive hard to excel. Why would they, when just chattering up a storm, stacking four blocks, tying your shoes, singing the alphabet, is sufficient to have people marvelling at your ‘excellence’?

Take pleasure in your child’s accomplishments. Expect them to work hard to excel within their capabilities. But to expect exceptionality? Totally unfair. I think it’s arguable that everyone has areas of particular competence, but true ‘excellence’? I doubt it.

“I think mummy… at work.” Lily declares.

Wait, now. A five-word sentence… at 21 (22?) months old…

Hm…

I guess, by that same law of averages, some kids really are exceptional, right?

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Lily | , , , | 7 Comments

language is slippery

“I’m not as old as I used to be,” Nigel announces.

(Nigel, for those of you new to Mary’s place, is an alumnus. He headed off to Big Kid School a while back, but visits on PD days.) “I used to be four and a half, and now I’m four and three quarters.”

(Does he know the difference between one-half and three-quarters, I wonder? Does he even kinow what a half and quarter are? I doubt it, but he does know that three-quarters is more than one-half. Whatever they are. It’ll do for now!)

“I’m not as old as I used to be.”

He means, of course, that he’s not the same age as he used to be. He’s not somehow getting younger — show me how you do that, Nigel! — he’s gotten older. It’s a subtle distinction in vocabulary, but a world of distinction in meaning. A lot of language is like that.

Fascinating to watch them catch the nuances, and really, quite astonishing what we manage to figure out as young as we all do.

Slippery, and fascinating.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Nigel | , , | 4 Comments

He says, she says

814413_child“Hi!”

“Hello, Noah. How are you this morning?”

“Hi!”

The husband comes downstairs.

“Hi!”

“Hi, there, little guy.”

“Hi!”

Anna is dropped off.

“Hi!”

“Hi, Baby Noah! I got my pink snowpants on because my black ones got all dirty in the park last night. Now I have pink snowpants on, and my boots have pink and black, too. See my pink snowpants, Baby Noah? You have black snowpants llike my other ones, but today I am wearing pink snowpants.”

“Hi!”

The dog wanders by.

“Hi! Dah! Hi! Dah! Dah!”

Emily is dropped off.

“Hi!”

“Hi, Baby Noah. Mary, are we going to do a craft today? I didn’t do a craft yesterday and I got sad last night because I wanted to do a craft, and daddy said to ask if maybe we would do a craft today. Maybe we could use the magazines and the glue sticks again today, so I could make a craft when I didn’t make one the other day?”

Timmy is dropped off.

“Hi!”

“Hi, Baby Noah. Mary, I gots a truck, and I can share it.”

The husband starts to put his boots on.

“Hi! Hi!”

“Hello, Noah.”

“Hi!”

“I did that already, buddy.”

Remember this stage?” I grin at him.

“Oh, yeah. When you only have three words in your vocabulary, you have to work them hard. Some kids are like that.”

“The b–”

“Whereas the girr-uls,” my sweetie intones, his voice comicly rueful, “they get their words in flurries.”

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Developmental stuff, Noah, socializing, the things they say! | , , , , | 2 Comments

Babytalk, part two

Yesterday’s post, and particularly Z’s comment, got me to thinking with great fondness of long-gone turns of phrase in my children’s lives.

At the age of three, Haley had the most lyrical imagination. I wish that I’d thought to write her creative phrases and delicious adjectives down at the time, because I know that hundreds have been lost forever. (Can you hear my heartfelt sigh?) Two stay with me.

Upon encountering a lawn sprinkler for the first time, the sort that is a plastic doughnut that sits on the grass and sends out a sort of half-torus of radiating arcs of water, she exclaimed,

“Look, mummy! It’s a droopy-up!”

Isn’t that just so sweeeet?

We were driving home after dark one winter evening. She must have been outside after dark before. Even sleep-hardass Mary wouldn’t have had her children in bed by four p.m., which is when it gets dark in January in these parts, but for whatever reason, she noticed the streetlights for the first time.

“Oooooh.” Her voice was awestruck. “Mummy! See the crystal trees?”

When Adam was just shy of two, we lived a few blocks from a fire station. Imagine the excitement when a firetruck burst onto the street, the deep blast of the horn, the shrill call of the siren. Imagine a little boy in footed pajamas, standing up in his crib and pointing at the window, bouncing to the noise, and calling out,

“Vider-fucks! Vider-fucks!”

There was also “own-der-eye-gle”, which was almost as exciting. Too bad those things don’t have sirens.

Emma, for reasons known only to herself, called socks “gookums” for a solid year. (No, of course I didn’t correct her. She was my third. By now I’d learned how fleeting and precious these things are; I’d also learned that she’d get this sort of thing right without my help…)

Gookums. It’s still a puzzlement!

She was also the one who called her paternal grandparents “Gamma and Gamma”, which was cute right there, but even funnier was her indignation when the WRONG “Gamma” answered.

“Not you, Gamma! GAMMA!” Well, that clears it right up.

It’s probably just as well we didn’t know which was which, because she played favourites. “Gamma is NICER than Gamma.” Okay, then. (And you know, to this day I have no idea which Gamma was the “nicer” one. They were both pretty-near perfect grandparents, far as I could make out.)

Okay. Those are some of my fond remembrances. Thank you to Haley for giving me a couple of these! Note to all you young mothers out there: WRITE THESE THINGS DOWN! You think you could never possibly forget — but you will. And it will cause you deep regret, and many a wistful sigh.

So. Let’s write some of them down, right now! What are your children’s cute sayings, mispronounciations, malapropisms … How do your kids mangle the language in a totally ADORABLE way? Tell us in the comments.

Share, share, share!

July 22, 2008 Posted by | the things they say! | , , , | 38 Comments