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.”