cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

the lexicon of a family - July 19, 2005

When you start a family with deliberation, you have big and little dreams about how it will be. The annual family camping trip to a special place. The silly stories Daddy tells. And the words and sayings that grow up with your children, becoming part of the family lexicon. The lisping, lilting way kids talk; the funny retort that you never forget; that nickname that sticks despite its silliness.

While Everett and I were walking home from Trader Joe's today, I realized that we're developing our lexicon, piece by piece. It's a beautiful, special thing, and it's just beginning. There's "those are not my CHOICES!" from Everett's outburst after I laid down the law one too many times. There's "that's not Truby, that's just Truman!" after we named a doll "Truby" and took a liking to the nickname (but Everett wasn't having any of it). There's "checkup" for ketchup and "chicken" instead of kitchen and "choschage" and "hangurber" and "canpakes."

Even though Everett's growing up so that he pronounces most of his words correctly - even if Truman never mixes up his "ka" and "ch" sounds - we'll always have these cute pronunciations, we'll be offering our family their hangurbers and checkup at the barbecue when Everett graduates from high school; we'll offer his fiancee a breakfast of canpakes when she comes over to discuss wedding plans.

It's something I'm loving thoroughly every time we talk. Everett puts the word "bird" on the end of every bird name, so it's "heron bird" and "jay bird" and "robin bird." He uses "p" sounds for "f" and so it's, hilariously, "someping." Even though he's grown up big and STRONG! we still call milk "milka" and sometimes we ask if he's like "toast with butters" which is what he used to call peanut butter toast (it's toast, not sandwiches, here).

In our family lexicon, we don't have horsey rides, it's "riding the range" from the Backyardigans. And our spies are secret agents (sung to the tune of Backyardigans' "Secret Agent"). A ripped-up-jersey sheet is a "star blankie" and having it on your head makes you a "scary GHOST." The attic is the "hole" and, no, the ghosts are NOT up in the hole. And everyone - everyone - is being silly, or "siwwy," as the case may be.

In your family lexicon, you have your own special substitutes for swearwords (growing up, it was "rats"), the choices on what you'll call the private parts, the diminutives that distinguish the various grandparents, the description of the ideal outing (we have "Mabel's" and "Bugebill" and "OMSI" among others), the special words for punishments (we've already graduated from "go to your room" to the occasional "stingy spank" thanks to our extraordinarily willful child). What words do your kids know at 26 months that you didn't learn until you were 20? What words will your kids likely never learn? Your family lexicon represents your time, your place, your lifestyle, your culture, your choices.

Even though the strange and hilarious pronunciations are quickly lost to our children's developing language, our family will never lose it's quirky and delightful lexicon, and that's today's reason to love being a mama.