Category Archives: out of the mouths

Out of the Mouths

The other day I decided to test Rose’s new understanding of rhyme, which she’s learning a lot about in preschool. “Lock! Block! That rhymes, Mama!” she’ll say, much the way I imagine Newton sounded when he discovered gravity.

Just for kicks, I figured I’d test her memory skills and her love of Ella Fitzgerald, whom she now knows a little bit about thanks to the lush, swingy new children’s book Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald.

When I heard her humming “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” I jumped in. Our call-and-response went like this:

Mama: “But oh, if we call the whole thing off then we must part/ And oh, if we ever part then – that – might – break – my

Rose: “Skin!”

Mama: “Hmm . . . try again — then we must part/ And oh, if we ever part then – that – might – break – my —

Rose: “Bones!”

Ah, well. Rhyming’s overrated.

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Out of the Mouths

When kids learn a new word or phrase, they try it on. They wait for the right moment, or what they think is the right moment, and then with all the conviction they can muster, they try to make something they don’t yet understand sound like something they figured out years ago. “You can’t read my mind, Rose!” Sky screamed one day after his sister accused him of hurting her intentionally. “You don’t even know how to read yet!”

In a weird way, the same is true of race. You can’t possibly ask a kid who doesn’t understand that reading doesn’t always mean reading to understand that brown-skinned people are actually called blacks (except when they’re Latino) and pink-skinned people are actually called whites (except when they happen to be your extremely light-skinned younger sister). Watching Sky struggle with this, I’m aware that part of me wishes he would never figure it out. That there was nothing to figure out in the first place.

Not too long ago, looking at a black and white photo of Coretta Scott King, Sky tried on race like this.

“Mom, guess what? You and Daddy are just like Martin Luther King and Coretta!”

“We are?”

“Yea. Martin Luther King is dark just like you, and Coretta is light just like Daddy. Look! See?”

Look. See. And he means that, literally.

Out of the Mouths

Kids are freakishly wise. This is a feature I started in the pre-Wordpress version of my blog to document the freakishly wise things that occasionally spill from my kids’ mouths.

Sky can knock me over with his musings sometimes (“Mama, why is Aunt Jemima always smiling?” he asked at age 3). But Rose, now 3 herself, is catching up.

On the staircase Tuesday night, staving off the inevitability of bedtime, a feminist was born:

“Mama? You know that Snow White story-show with the Snow White princess and that bad woman and that apple, and then she eats the apple and she dies on the floor, and then that big guy comes and he undeads her and then she wakes up and they begin to get married?”

“Yes, sweet sweet. What about it?”

“That’s really boring and sad.”

“I think so too, sweetie. I think so, too. Now go to bed.”

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