Saturday, August 16, 2014


M:  Have you noticed when they make movies there are always three parts?  Like one, two, and three?

Me: Yeah, trilogies.

M (breathless with exitement): What's a trilogy?!?!!?!

A variation on this conversation happens- if not daily- then at least many times a week in our house.  There were three today, but I only remember this one.

It normally drives me nuts!  I want to rip my hair and say: what do you think it means based on our conversation over the last 5 seconds!?  I feel like: how can he be so smart and ask questions like that?   I actually say something like: I think you can figure it out, right?

He knows.  He said, in this case, "A set of three movies."  So why the adrenaline-fused question every time he hears a new word? 

Today I had a little revelation.  He just loves words. He doesn't mean any harm.  He wants to define them and file them all away for later.  If I had answered his question with, "Yes, those three-part series are called trilogies" I could save myself the frustration, but I don't talk like that.  I'm just not wired to expect every other conversation to be a vocabulary lesson. Plus this kid says stuff like elasticity and nemesis and ajar (just today!).  He's not a toddler anymore, how am I supposed to keep track of which words he doesn't know yet?

I'm obviously not going to manipulate conversation to avoid springing new words on him.  It's ridiculous and besides, what about when he's out and he hears a new word "in the wild"?  He likes words, I'm happy to teach them, I just don't like the current dynamic of him demanding a definition seconds after hearing it used in context.

So, in a totally not crazy mom move, I'm making a plan while he sleeps.  This problem can be solved.
Tomorrow I will tell him to say: "I haven't heard that word before.  Does that mean ________?"  This phrasing will not make my blood pressure rise.  He will still get his definition.  I will smile like Mr. Rogers and say, "Yes!  Way to use context!"  And he will learn a conversation skill.

I tend to assign motivation to things my kids do and then turn out to be wrong.  In this case, in the moment I feel like he's 1) smart but responding foolishly, ie not using the ol' noggin, 2) speaking too quickly and not thinking first, 3) being annoying.

I realize now that he's not being foolish, he's just checking.  He is listening and thinking, and he wants to know the exact definition before he saves that word in his vocabulary file.  And he doesn't know that other people (at least I) perceive the question as annoying.  He's just being authentically excited about something he cares about.  There's a lot of worse things to be than a curious kid.  That shouldn't have taken me so long to figure out.

Similarly, today- post revelation- he asked me why I gasped during a "funny video" of a skateboarder falling down.  First I got that old feeling: Why do you think I gasped!!?  But I remembered in time.
I asked: Do you know that it hurts when someone falls on a skateboard?
He answered: Of course.
I continued: Do you know that people usually gasp when they see someone get hurt.
He answered: Oh.

What!?!?  How?  But ok!  See? Somehow he didn't know that common part of the human experience, but ok.
Now he knows!  The question had purpose.

I vow to no longer be annoyed by questions.
I will call him a wordsmith and a lexivore and prepare myself for the inevitable!


  1. That picture is adorable. I know I just commented on another post about being just like Miles, but seriously. I still do this as an adult, but I look it up on my phone - even if I know the word - because I want to get it right! I don't want to file a word away and have the definition wrong. I'm anal and a perfectionist when it comes to words and I love knowing how and when a word should be used.

    I love your trick and I hope it works. Also, what a smartie using big words like that! Yeesh, I think I need to do some more dictionary perusing :)

    1. The trick is working like gangbusters! They've already both said it this morning!

      That picture is so old, but I felt like it fit.

      And I love hearing you say you had/have things in common with Miles. It makes me think he will grow up to be fun and interesting!

    2. You think I'm fun and interesting?! Aww thanks!! :)