Sunday, November 26, 2017

Say What??

Kids say the funniest things.  How often have you been surprised by a child's unintentional laugh-out-loud comment?  As my kids were growing up, and I worked with so many kids at school, I kept saying I would write these things down; it would make a great book.  But I never did, and now I'm left with the few quips that made their way into my long-term memory.  I've sort of categorized some of these sayings here.

One of the first that comes to mind is the way that small children can confuse names.  For example, when my daughter was little, someone asked her the name of her doll.  She said, "Allison".  We didn't know anyone by that name, so I asked her, "Who's Allison?".  "Allison Wonderland", she replied.  In the early childhood playground one day a girl said to me, "I know your name.  It's Georgia".  I said, "You're right.  But do you know my Hebrew name?  I'll give you a hint.  It's the same as yours".  She lit up with a bright smile and said, "Princess?".  Another girl told her mother that I was the princess of the school.  Someone had told her that I was the principal, and she confused the words.  And then there are the children who think Ella Mennow invented the alphabet: " l-m-n-o-p".

Some of the things that kids say demonstrate how they are beginning to acquire vocabulary, even though they lack mastery.  Like when my daughter told me she was "boring" because she had nothing to do.  Or a little girl came to class with no pennies for the charity box because her daddy was "broken". I once told a two year old to hit a ball with a bat.  After I tossed it to her, she watched it fall to the ground and then proceeded to beat it with her bat.  A little boy listened as I read Where's Spot? to his toddler class.  On one page there is a big speech bubble next to a turtle and he said, "The turtle's eating a potato!".

I love the way kids can be so unselfconscious about their appearance.  The picture above is of my granddaughter, minutes after she raided her mother's make-up bag and said, "I no do nothing!".  Another time, she was at a family gathering where I had served chips, veggies, and dip.  She came into the kitchen with her face covered in white.  "What's on your face?", asked my daughter.  "Face paint!", she said.  It was dip.  Then there was a little boy in a four year old class that covered his face with a thick layer of white sun block before going out to play.  I told him to look in the full length mirror we had in the housekeeping corner.  He framed his face with his hands, tilted his head, and said, "Adorable!".

Bathroom words are hilarious to young children, and often used to break the ice.  When my daughter was five, she was shy to attend birthday parties.  I once brought her to a party and two little boys ran over to her.  "Doody", said one.  "Pee-pee", said the other.  Done.  She ran off laughing to play with them.  Another time, I brought one of my grandsons to visit his cousin.  They were both five at the time.  At first they were a little shy.  Then one said, "I farted".  The other answered, "I made doody in my pants".  They cracked up laughing and were inseparable all day.  Another grandson was on the toilet with the door ajar.  He called out to his mom, "Mommy, right doody's a bathroom word?".  "Yes" confirmed my daughter.  "Well, I'm in the bathroom now" and he made up a song/chant, "doody, doody, doody, doody,".

There are times when we are surprised by our children's perspectives of the world. My daughter had a treasured Grover doll that she lost.  Weeks later, we were in Toys R Us, and she spotted a Grover doll on the shelf.  "Grover!", she caIled.  "I looked and looked for you!". In a Pre-k class, the teacher was reading a book to the children on the carpet while the assistant prepared the tables for the next activity.  One boy said to the teacher, "Why does the other teacher do all the work?".  An incredibly touching moment happened to me several years ago.  A little boy immigrated from Israel in September and started kindergarten without a word of English.  He began acting out, hitting the other children.  I carved out some time each day to teach him English in my office, with books, songs, and finger plays.  He was very bright, and by December, he was acclimating well to his class.  The next year when he was in first grade he saw me in the cafeteria. He looked up at me and said, "I knew you when I didn't know anything". Wow.  He remembered feeling lost and confused, and he remembered that I helped him.  A definite highlight of my career.

Sometimes kids say things and we scratch our heads, clueless as to where they come up with these things.  A group of four year olds was playing airplane.  They lined up their chairs and were preparing for take-off when one little girl shouted, "No sex on the airplane!" .  ???!!!  In another class, a teacher of three's played music at clean-up time. Each time it started, one little boy jumped up and yelled, "Cha-cha!".  The class started a routine of dancing at clean up time!

Not everything kids say is funny.  I have some very poignant memories too, which I'll save for another time.  But whether funny or serious, we can learn a lot by listening to our children. Maybe it's not too late to start writing things down.

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