Laughing about the clumsy attempts of a five-year-old to understand and use the weird English language is a long-established American pastime. Art Linkletter (in the Sixties?), and later Bill Cosby (early Nineties?), did a popular weekly television show called Kids Say the Darndest Things, based solely on this premise. Cosby has also done many a successful standup routine about the tendency of naive but inherently spiritual children to ask challenging questions. An early favorite that I once had on an LP was called Why Is There Air?
Like many parents, I’ve noticed — and on occasion written down — some of the misunderstandings and invented words that Graham comes up with. The above-mentioned forevergreen is just the latest example, taken from our ride back from Wisconsin yesterday. A prior occasion of amusement was when he discussed his “flam-o” pajamas as his favorites. (That would be flannel, dear.) In both of these cases, I found it so cute that I didn’t have the heart to correct him.
If anything, his word is better than the one we normally use. Even though trees don’t live forever, there’s something really deep about Graham’s version. His implied belief, that some things really can last forever, is a reminder of why the hope and innocence of children should be highly valued (for their ability to give us all a bit more hope and joy each day). The discussion we then had about evergreens, where I tried to explain somewhat scientifically why evergreens don’t lose what he called their “leaves” in the fall (I did re-introduce the word “needles” to him here), was a highlight of my day.
Soon after that, we saw some deer along the side of the road, and had a lengthy discussion about the two words, “dear” and “deer”, and which spelling to use for various situations. He was very intent on getting this right. Learning a concept in school is one thing. Figuring out real life is sometimes another.
If you have kids, or when you do have a chance to talk to them, always put your best ears on, to hear what they’re really saying. “Out of the mouths of babes…” as they say. Or “Of such as these is the kingdom of heaven made…” If you listen closely, sometimes they’ll end up teaching you, instead of the other way around.