Now don’t get yourself in a lather thinking this is some kind of theological dissertation. No, “the word” I’m speaking about is that very word one never utters in the presence of a three year old. Mention “the word” and your lovable little darling’s behavior shifts into overdrive.
In your home the word might be “chocolate” while in your neighbor’s home it could well be “Uncle Billy”. Maybe you can’t say “candy” or Mickey D’s”. You see, the difficulty with “the word” is that no one knows what it is until it has been said. Once said, everybody in the house is in big trouble, especially if you have a toddler in your family.
I guess that’s why adults quickly resort to one tried and true anti-word-deflection strategy. Let’s call itthe “spell it, don’t say it” technique.
“Do you want to go out for an ‘i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m’, dear?”
“Maybe we should rent a m-o-v-i-e?”
For the alphabetically impaired, the word substitution technique might work. We might choose to substitute, “the you-know-what, the thing-a-ma-bob, or the whatch-ya-may-call-it” for that culprit word.
For example, “Did you pick up the ‘you-know-what‘, honey?”
The unspoken “word” around our house these days is “baseball”. Joshua, our three year old, is a baseball fanatic. He sleeps with his ball and his glove tucked-in beside him at night. The consequence of forgetting to spell the word “baseball” at our house goes something like this.
Daughter Meghan gets the ball rolling. (Pun intended)
“Are we going to Matt’s BASEBALL game, Daddy?”
“Shhhhhhhhsh!,” I reply. I frantically wave my hands indicating to Meghan that she should drop the subject. I put my “Peter Pointer” up to lips giving the universal sign for, “Shush up!”
But I’m too late because now we are in a minefield in the middle of no man’s land. Joshua’s sparkling eyes tell me that he has entered that wonderful state of one-track-mindedness.
“We go baseball?” Joshua has the face of a cherub. His eyes are as bright as streetlamps. “We go baseball, daddy!”
“Yes, we’ll go to Matt’s game later,” I reply.
“No, Daddy, we go Matt’s baseball game NOW!” Josh exclaims as tears well up in his eyes.
It is clear that Joshua’s mind is made up. If I don’t handle this in the NOW, there will be a lot of pain and suffering in the LATER
“No, Joshua, we’ll go to the game tonight.” I try to delineate a time line; give him some reference that relates to him. “We’ll go after SUPPER. You know TONIGHT. Like much LATER than now.”
Joshua’s quizzical expression indicates that his mind is changing gears. He’s figured out the time factor now so he’s about to put more stress on the activity factor. He runs off to his room and quickly returns clutching his glove, bat and ball.
“I take my baseball gov, Daddy?” he asks.
“Yes, we’ll take it along,” I answer.
“You play catch, Daddy?” He pounds the ball into the pocket of his glove.
“Not now, Joshua, we have to eat breakfast first.” Heck, it’s eight in the morning and the ball game is scheduled for eight at night. I brace myself for his next volley.
“I not hungry, Daddy. We play catch NOW!” His shrill whine is not unlike nails scratching a chalkboard. Those teary eyes appear as if they might just escalate into a downpour.
At that moment, our seventeen year old, lumbers into the kitchen. Matthew’s hair is askew and he’s dragging his feet like a zombie. Eight in the morning is like a few hours after bedtime for him.
“Matt, you play catch with me?” Joshua pounces like a cat. He can retarget in a nanosecond.
“Get real!” Matt’s eyes are two slits. He slumps in his chair as if his bones were jelly.
Josh is indignant. “I tell Mommy you no play baseball with me.”
“Stop perseverating,” Matt mumbles, using a term we’ve thrown his way more than once.
“I tell mommy you say bad word to me!” Josh says in a huff as he hops down from the chair he was standing on.
He stomps down the hall. He’s headed in the direction of the bedroom where mother is catching some well-deserved R and R. I scurry after him with the hope that I can make an interception. This could cost me big time. I snatch him up as if scooping a prize trout from a brook.
The remainder of the day follows a particular pattern. Joshua drags his glove around the house. Each of us take a turn playing catch with him both indoors and out.
He races around the living room, jumps and then slides into a “pillow” until I shout “you’re safe.” He swings that plastic bat of his precariously close both the breakables and the unbreakable. He shows no preference. The question, “We go baseball NOW?” gets asked at least a zillion times.
Just imagine that this day long activity was stimulated by the utterance of a single “word”.
Indeed, it only goes to show you that the word “Baseball” is a very powerful word in my house.
Leigh Townsend, in her BLOG “Butterflies and Dragons: Adventures in Trying to Get Published” had this to say about the very power of a single word.
“We all know there is power in words. We wouldn’t be readers, or authors, or even humans without words. The power that amazes me, however, is the power of a single word.
You don’t think a single word can have power? You think it needs friends to back it up?
Try saying “bomb” in an airport.
In my example, I guess we were fortunate. Our only cost was a day of “theme” play with our youngest child.
However, baseball season ends in a couple of weeks and Joshua’s penchant for this great summer pastime will, no doubt, dwindle. Of course, this means that the verboten “word” will once again go through a metamorphosis. You see, November brings us the beginning of Matt’s “b-a-s-k-e-t-b-a-l-l” season.
I know Joshua will be ready for action. He’s surely to remark, “I’ll get my ball! You play with me, daddy?” I guess I’ll have to get busy and blow up the “you-know-what”.
Hey, do you have any stories about verboten “words” in your house? Why not send me an email or put those thoughts in the comments below. I’m sure others would love to read them. Don’t be shy now! Let’s all share in the grief.