Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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Smart Mama: On Language


Smart Mama

“If you were a dog, Daddy, what dog would you be?” Emma asked recently at dinner.

Random questions are popular among the 6-and-under crowd.

“Hot,” my ever-witty husband replied.

It took a moment for Emma to realize the hot dog joke, but she wouldn’t be deterred.

“No, not a dog that you eat, an alive dog.”

I pointed out that the hot dog she had for dinner the night before wasn’t an actual dog.

“I know,” she said. “Hot dogs are made from dogs that aren’t alive anymore.”

All this time she thought she was eating dog meat and was perfectly OK with that little circle of life. We all glanced at poor puppy Jasper lying so innocently under the table.

It’s not the first time Emma’s taken things at their word, literal to a fault. Overhearing me on the phone hoping to score a coveted and unlikely next-day appointment with the pediatrician, she began to cry. “What do you mean ‘it’s a long shot’?” She stretched her hands apart, envisioning a really long needle.

When I told her we couldn’t miss ballet practice or she’d be cut from the team, she paled. “I’m going to get cut?”

Similar result when I told her that wearing her eyeglasses would make everything sharper.

Benny’s language skills are great for a 2-year-old, but he’s still learning. And because, humor-wise, my husband and I are 12 years old, this is an endless source of amusement.

When he offers us a taste from his plate at dinner, he generously points to the largest piece. “The big one,” he says. “Bite the big one.”

But it’s all fun and games until someone gets loud at Target.

Such as a few years ago when then 3-year-old Emma worked through a half-dozen versions of “Ellen” to name her stuffed dog.

She settled on “Effen.”

Poor Effen fell from our cart somewhere in the dollar section, never to be seen again.

Inconsolable Emma wailed, “Effen dog! Effen dddooggg!” Old ladies glared and other mothers looked smug while I prayed for the ground to open and swallow me whole.

Soon these misunderstandings and misuse of language will be a thing of the past. Emma now says festival instead of festibals. Except instead of becept. Yesterday Benny said Percy the Train instead of … well, let’s not go there.

But for now, Effen Dog aside, conversations at our house are always entertaining.

Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her children, Emma, 6, and Benny, 2. Read more Smart Mama columns here.

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