Thursday May 31 2012 741 am
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I’ve got a favorite verbal memory for each of my two kids.
For my now seven-year-old daughter, “Emmie,” it’s “bathing soup.” As in, “Mommy, I want to go in sprinkler now. Where’s my bathing soup?” For my now ten-year-old, math-oriented son, I remember clearly the first time he shared his counting ability with us: “Na, too, tee…”
As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids all manner of correct behavior: how to eat, how to dress, how to speak, how to behave. It never ends, really. But as our children get older and learn to do things the right way, their progress leaves behind contrails of bittersweet memories of the earnest, not-quite-capable preschoolers they used to be. It can be difficult to recall those moments when we’re trying to get dinner on the table amidst the rush of soccer games, dance classes, work responsibilities, sleepover parties and you have got to be kidding me that you have a diorama of the solar system with accompanying powerpoint presentation due tomorrow. But sometimes the reminder of a single mispronunciation can remove us from the school-age rush for just a moment and bring us back to that earlier time, when things were a different breed of crazy. It’s a welcome detour.
This particular nostalgic road trip was triggered for me yesterday when writer pal Nichole Bernier tweeted that her four-year-old had just stopped referring to “water fountains” as “water mountains.” To make up for it, she said, she intended to teach her two-year-old to adopt the incorrect version. I responded to her tweet with a comment about Emmie’s “bathing soups,” and several others quickly chimed in with their own children’s mispronunciation gems.
Why do we love these early speech errors so much? Besides the obvious adorableness factor, is it because they give us such concrete ways to remember a stage of our kids’ childhood forever past, like a first shoe or a tiny set of footy pajamas retrieved from a dusty cardboard box? I can try to recall the silkiness of my babies’ hair when I held them, but the truth is I was in such a foggy state so much of the time throughout their babyhoods, it’s hard to conjure memories of exactly how my babies felt, looked and smelled through that hazy trigger. But say “Na, too, tee,” to me, and I can instantly place my late-talking son at a stage of development when his brain worked ahead of his speech abilities, when it was a victory for him to be able to articulate any of the thoughts running through his head. I see him young, pudgy-cheeked and fat-wristed, with yellow hair and a dinosaur obsession. That little boy is so different from the almost-adolescent who now careens through the house on his way to swipe my iPhone, and I don’t want to go back. But I’m grateful for the access to the memory.
What about you and your verbal memories? What mispronunciations do you remember fondly from when your kids were little? (Or if they’re little now, what will you miss when they get bigger?)