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It’s Not How You Say It, It’s What You Say

Words Submitted by Joe Beckman

You: “Honey, why are you mad?”

Spouse:  “Because of what you said.”

You:  “All I said was that if you are going to eat the ice cream I would appreciate it if you would either finish it, or  leave more then just a spoonful’s worth before putting it back in the freezer.”

Spouse:  “It’s not what you said, it’s HOW you said it.”

I’m telling you, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that last phrase…big time millionaire.

The other day however, my 3 year old daughter’s antics got me to think about flipping this phrase on it’s head. 

She was in the process of putting on her socks when she cried out,

“Papa I need help!” 

“Sophia,” I said, “I know you can do it.” 

“I can’t,” she cried. “It’s too TRICKY!”

I busted out laughing.

Too tricky? Too…TRICKY?   Where in the world did she learn the word “tricky.”  Furthermore, when did she learn to use it correctly in a sentence?   Tricky is not a word that my wife or I use often (if at all) yet my daughter threw it out there as smoothly as Joe Pesci throws out the f-bomb. 

It caused me to pause for a moment and think about how truly amazing the feat of linguistics is for children.  At some point they must hear a word…in this case, “tricky.” Their brains then must register that this was a new word.  Then comes the vigorous process of figuring out what the word means, how to pronounce it, and where it correctly fits into a sentence.  I wonder how long it takes in the pipeline to go from “new word heard to new word said?”

Although I will probably never learn the answer to this question, truth be told, it’s not really that important. 

What is important is that in a time in my life where I navigate daily through a gauntlet of meltdowns, mood swings, and migraines, I am learning to find moments of solace; allowing myself to be amazed at what one might call “the little things.”   The fact that my 3 year old uses words like “tricky,” “actually”, and “yester-morning” (her own hybrid version of “yesterday morning”) makes me laugh. Laugh in a “ha ha” sort of way…but also (and maybe even more important) laugh in a “wonder and awe” sort of way.  This is what is keeping me sane, and staying sane is what helps me be a good dad. 

Granted, at some point down the line (as life becomes a bit more “tricky”) how she speaks her mind will be an issue unto itself, but for now, I am declaring, “it’s not how you say it…it’s what you say.”


P.S. Since I first starting writing this post (1 week ago) Sophia came up with a new one.  After falling off a chair, she gathers her wits about her, takes a pause, and says to herself “ah…fooey.”

So awesome.

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