The Joy of Kid Talk: An Education in Language

As a writer, I can obsess over words; their placement in a sentence, their order, how many of them there are, even where they fall on the page.

Learning to speak, re-teaching Mrs. Bailey all about language

Throughout my career, I have worked to hone the art of speaking carefully, choosing words as precisely as possible. Under the lifelong tutelage of my father, I also learned the most important tool in business communication: stop talking. (As it turns out, not talking can get you further than talking at all.)

Adults who are not writers occasionally obsess over words. He said/she said/they said conversations are rampant on playgrounds, in lunchrooms and boardrooms.

But young children are, for the most part, gloriously free from the traditional constraints of language. Words mix and mingle, if a word is not readily apparent to them, they just sub something else that feels right. Parts of speech are mixed. Pronouns confused. Articles of speech go missing. Despite all of this, children have a beautiful and positively delightful way of getting their point across.

Secondo is at the age of emerging language. It’s one of my favorite stages.

Lately gems of deconstructed and re-imagined language have poured from her lips, their awkward construction pulling dearly at my heartstrings. They are too good to keep all to myself.

The innocence of her speech reminds me to remove the pretension from my words and encourages me to let go of some of the word obsession, and just speak and write from the heart. Thanks, Secondo, for teaching your self-obsessed mother a great lesson about language.

[While helping me pull laundry from the dryer.]

Secondo: I just smelled Daddy’s shirt and it smelled like handsome.

[After visiting someone dear who has just undergone chemo…]

Secondo: How does she take off her hair?


I haven’t figured out how to take mine off yet.

[After hearing that several sun umbrellas were stolen from our Bailey Building & Loan…]

Secondo: What happened to your umbrellas, Daddy?

Daddy: Someone took them who wasn’t allowed to. They were stolen.

Secondo: What did you do?

Daddy: I called the police.

Secondo: (Exasperated) But Daddy, did you call the cops?

[Coming down from a bouncy-house-two-cupcake-juice-box-birthday-party meltdown…]

Mommy: Sometimes it is very busy at a birthday party. Everyone has lots of sugar and there are presents and screaming and playing. It can be hard to come home and relax and get back into the normal at-home routine again.

Secondo: Yes! (Her eyes light up, sniffing, tears rolling down her cheeks.) There were so many people there, (angry now) and it was loud and everyone was SCREAM-ing. It’s ex-HAUST-ing!