22 July 2010

You Don't Know What Words Mean

Just as the Gentlemen's Hunt Club once asked of Edmond Premington, so I turned to my son recently and offered the rhetorical question, "You don't know what words mean, do you?"

As his vocabulary grows by leaps and bounds, as single words become slightly more complex thoughts, as random assortments of words become more involved phrases, and even, entire strings of words that resemble actual sentences, there is still the occasional disconnect when it comes to meaning. The greater context of the words he uses he has yet to grasp. Why don't they understand? How long does it take for comprehension? Real comprehension?

Although, many times, I think he's just messing with me. That he understands just fine and he's pretending not to. He's figured out how to play me and it's only going to get worse as time goes on.

On this particular occasion, the Doozer was in an adjacent room and I heard him call out, "Not a toy! Not a toy!" We've told him this about a great many things around the house and out in the world (perhaps this phrase is losing its impact and we need to find more creative ways of expressing the same idea). He comes into the room with my alarm clock. He holds it up in the air, proudly. Beaming. "Not a toy!"

Right. Not a toy, indeed.

"So, why then," I ask him, "are you playing with it?

"Not a toy! Dada clock, not a toy!"

I'm the one that told you that, you don't have to tell me it's not a toy. I already know.

"Put it back, please."

"Not a toy!"

Why does he keep saying that? And he just keeps staring at me, this wide open grin on his face. So pleased with himself, so proud of this particular accomplishment. It just kills me.

"Just because you acknowledge that, it does not erase the fact that you are still playing with it. Hence, not a toy."

"Not a toy! Dada clock, not a toy!"

This goes on for several minutes. Finally, I manage to wrangle him back into the bedroom and get him to relinquish the alarm clock, placing it back in its original location on the night stand. And I actually find myself saying, "Thank you." Rather than offer an impassioned lecture on the subject of words and their deeper meanings, I simply sigh and thank him for undoing something he should not have been doing in the first place. Really, when we say it's not a toy, what we're really saying is please don't play with that. How hard a concept is that? Come on, Doozer, keep up.

A few nights later, we're all seated at the dining room table, having dinner. Suddenly, I hear a faint, yet insistent, beeping noise coming from somewhere inside the house. It doesn't take long for me to realize the origin of that sound. Poking my head out into the foyer, I'm able to quickly discern that it's coming from upstairs, from the bedroom.

It's my alarm clock.

"Were you playing with my alarm clock again?"


"Come on. Were you playing with my alarm clock again?"

Moment of silence. Contemplation. Then:


I'm not kidding, this is how he says the word "Yes." And his voice goes all deep and gravelly when he says it, he sounds just like Karl from Sling Blade. Seriously.

"Dada clock . . . not . . . a toy!"

And here we go again . . .

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