Eating Ghee-Goos and Playing Alga-Goody
By Scott Klepach, Jr.
We desperately want our children to talk. We want them to speak the language appropriately, and speak it well. But at the same time, there is something charming about those fleeting moments when their own initial language is, somehow, grander than our own.
When we tried to teach our daughter, Elise, to say “blanket,” she uttered “bank-boo,” but just once. I fought the urge to pronounce it “bank-boo” after that because I wanted to hear her say it that way again.
Now she’s 3 years old, and only some of her language choices have stuck, but they have transformed the way the grownups around her speak. Goldfish crackers quickly became known as “ghee-goos,” and it was agreed that this was such a great substitution that my sister took up the habit, accidentally, when talking about the tasty snack at work.
It wasn’t long ago when my daughter uttered “Eh eh?” Inexplicable to outsiders, we learned this was her version of saying, “again?” — as in, “That was hilarious. I want you to do that again — and no, of course, 16 times in a row is not too many! We’re just warming up! Eh eh!”
Now my son, Liam, who just turned 1, keeps busy creating and honing his own language, and I’m not certain if we are wise to overlook his new articulations as merely amusing gobbledygook. “Buh-buh bup, gubbah bup!” he tells us matter-of-factly, with a concluding head nod on the last “bup,” as if to let us know he isn’t just making nonsensical noises. He wants to tell us something, and by the earnestness in his eyes, I truly want to know what it is.
Many people might dismiss this moment as a transition from first sounds to real communication, and an adorable one at that. That may be so. But what if my son really had something significant to offer? What if his vocalizations can offer something more vital, such as a creative yet practical solution to the Gulf oil spill crisis, or a way to lift us out of this economic recession? Can’t someone invent a translator for such purposes?
In all honesty, sometimes what children have to say is decidedly more interesting than what adults have to offer. Too often adults muster barely more than clichés, arguments laden with logical fallacies, and tired conversation starters (or conversation stoppers), like talking about the weather.
I will teach my children, but I also want to be teachable. We will make mistakes parenting, as we do in our own lives. We adults will continue to make errors while speaking and writing, so our children are not the only offenders. It’s just that the little ones’ mistakes are much more charming. I want to enjoy the magic while it lasts. We only have so much time to be with our children, and even less time to enjoy their exercises in language.
Who knows? Maybe some young child will coin a new word or phrase to inspire the next generation. Elise has already devised her own game and titled it “Alga-goody,” which requires the participants to be frogs and hop around saying the title word (Yes, I have done this.). And someday, I should encourage Elise to pitch her game idea to Parker Brothers, or go straight to NBC for the next greatest TV game show hit, “Alga-goody,” hosted by Howie Mandel. But that chance will come later.
After all, there’s only so much time that goldfish will be pronounced “ghee-goo” and blanket will be “bank-boo.”
And they may not always call me dada.
Filed under Dad's Pad, Featured Stories, From the Mag