As an adult we get the illusion we’ve got things together and we’re presenting an articulate and refined person to the world. I watch this in myself and others with great fascination and I’ve written before about things not being as they seem on the outside. But once you start raising a person who uses your façade as a blueprint, the cracks in your perfect presentation become quite glaring.
At the moment we’re seeing this in our use of the English language. I always thought I had a pretty good grasp on usage and proper diction. Our little man is teaching me otherwise.
The problem begins because we’re currently raising a little C-3P0. From the moment his bright eyes switch open in the morning until he powers down at night we receive a constant running commentary of his thoughts, feelings, musings, and discoveries. It can be cute, helpful, funny, or annoying depending on the moment, and sometimes all of those at once.
Recently it seems that the first letter of most every word is silent for our little guy. I first noticed this phenomenon whenever he would say “there you go” as it would always come out “hare you go”. The consistency seemed to suggest he’d learned it this way and heard it many times.
What idiot drops the “t” on this sentence? Who doesn’t say “there” correctly?
And then I began to listen to myself whenever I would hand him something or help him through a new discovery.
“Hare you go, little man.”
“Oh, you need help… hare you go.”
Apparently I’ve been going through life this way, wantonly ignoring that this word has a “t” on the beginning. Everyone around me has been too polite or lazy to point out my error and now my son has embraced it as correct.
Some of you are thinking “oh, he’ll grow out of that,” and you may be correct. However it ignores two further issues. 1) I didn’t grow out of it – apparently I grew into the problem. 2) the issue has now become widespread.
Needs to wash his hands? He’d like some “_oap”.
That new thing he tried the other evening which came in a bowl? That was “_oup”
Don’t want to be in the house anymore? You want to be “_utside”
What’s the perfect activity once you’re outside? How about going on the “_ _ ing” – cause that’s so cool it’s worth dropping not one, but two of the first letters!
Now my wife is not immune to this parroting problem as she spends the days at home with the little guy and he’s picked up her outbursts toward her internet based clients.
You’ve not heard sarcastic frustration done correctly until you hear “Oh my god, are you kidding me!” coming out of a two-year old.
Note that he doesn’t drop any letters when uttering this declaration. Which means that, unlike me, my wife has near perfect diction.
Of course, many of these moments have occurred behind closed doors and the irony of our parenting example goes widely unnoticed. The real sociology experiment occurs when you find yourself parenting in a way others might judge and it begs the questions “do I care?” and it’s partner in crime “should I change?”.
The boy and I went to Home Depot the other day. I used to take the dog, but since she acts like a two year old in public place and the boy actually is a two-year old I now only take them one at a time. Apparently I can’t leave the boy home alone.
Strolling into the store we grabbed a shopping cart and he quickly started repeating:
“ride the _art, ride the _art”. There’s a “c” in that word, son… oh, never-mind.
I hauled him up and placed him in the big part of the cart and he promptly sat down and held on as we rolled down the aisles. At least, he started that way.
Eventually he was standing and pointing. Leaning. Turning every direction like his ankles were a Lazy-Susan. For a while he played with the part of the basket that’s supposed to be his chair. And as he buckled the child-seatbelt – from the outside, mind you, and just for the fun of it – I noticed the diagram on the seat. It was like a little prophetic pictogram of everything he’d done for the past ten minutes. A comic-strip dedicated to what not to do. Except clip the seatbelt together… That is supposed to happen.
So the thought crossed my mind as I rolled past other children in carts and strollers while my son leaned out to pet a passing dog. “What are these folks thinking of me and my parenting skills?”. I’ve become that haggard father who stands in a daze while their child juggles fire and giggles.
“Um, sir… that’s dangerous shouldn’t you do something about that?”
“Nope. He’s happy.”
About this time little blue eyes looked up at me and grinned. He’d completed clipping the seatbelt together while he sat on the other side clipped to nothing. I reached down and unbuckled it for him again.
“hare you go, son”
“hank you Dada.”
And we continued on in our own wrong-headed, letter-missing little world.