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Mar 15, 201309:03 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

Saying It Right: When You Miss Your Kid's Mispronunciations

There were some phases I was not sorry to see go. The wailing, puking baby reflux stage. The shoving-everything-in-her-mouth phase. The pulling-everything-off-of-the-coffee-table phase. Definitely the diapers phase, and absolutely the Elmo-infatuation phase. The “why?” phase and the “no!” phase are still pretty much here, but now they’re more purposeful and less instinctive: Ruby asks “why?” incessantly because she’s curious, not just because she wants something to say; she says “no!” after considering a scenario and rejecting it, not just because she wants to see what happens.

 

There were other phases I really mourned. I was sad when she stopped nursing. I was sad when she got too big to carry in a sling. I was even a little sad when she stopped needing me to brush her teeth for her because we had a silly little game we’d play in which she would insist that Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz was in her mouth, and then I would be the tornado and brush Dorothy out while singing the tornado music. (I am sure every parent out there has done something equally ridiculous, so I’m not even embarrassed to admit this.) The first night she brushed her teeth, put on her pajamas and got into bed all by herself, calling out, “Mommy, I’m ready for my stories now!” I felt bewildered and completely replaced, a telephone operator after the advent of direct dial, just standing there forlornly holding the phone (or in this case, the Hello Kitty toothbrush).

 

But of all the developmental leaps, the one I lamented the most has got to be when Ruby finally started saying “sandwich” correctly. There were plenty of cute things she said: “Hoy-yo” meant “hold me” – she didn’t quite understand pronouns yet and was trying to say “hold you”– and “i-seem” was of course “ice cream.” She said “yem” instead of “yes.” Her own name, as far as she was concerned, was “Wubu.” She called the ABC’s “H-I,” for some reason, and she sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as “Tink-tink stahhhhh!” As adorable as all of that was, though, nothing charmed me nearly as much as the way she said “sandwich”: “smamish.” I contrived different ways to get her to say it: “Hey, Ruby, do you want some peanut butter on bread? What’s that called again?” and “Ruby, what would I have if I put some cheese between two pieces of bread?” Whenever we played Restaurant, I would only agree to play if “smamishes” were on the menu. And then one day, quite suddenly, she asked me if I would make her a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and I almost cried.

 

Generally, Ruby’s growing up hasn’t really bothered me. I might miss one phase, but I delight to see what comes next. Right now, I am having too much fun watching her learn to read, have sleepovers, make best friends and wiggle loose teeth to grieve the loss of toddling and chubby fingers. But still, saying goodbye to “smamish” made me depressed for days.

 

Now, though, I have so much to look forward to with Georgia. She already communicates by waving and smiling, but her language is pretty limited to “dada” and various inflections of “goo.” I am really excited to see what linguistic idiosyncrasies she develops. I try not to compare my two girls, but I have to admit that if Georgia doesn’t say “smamish,” I will definitely be a little disappointed.

 

What mispronunciations were you sorry to see go with your kids?

 

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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