Big Words. Big Feelings.

Hannah loves to learn new words.  She’ll catch a piece of a conversation I’m having and will grab onto a word and start using it.  Usually wrong.  And since I’m a mean mom, I tend to not correct her because using the word wrong is so damn cute and keeps her young.  I let her call the thing that changes the channel on the TV a “morote” for years.  I think she realized on her own she was saying it wrong because just last week I came to the sad realization that she was all of a sudden saying Remote.  She still says Hermendous though, which is my all time favorite.  But now, as her vocabulary grows, she’s less saying words incorrectly and more using them incorrectly.  This week she’s been describing things as Determined.  I asked her today if she ate her lunch and she said, “well, you know mommy, it wasn’t my favorite lunch, it was determined, so I only ate some of it.”

“It was determined?” I asked her.

“Mmmmm Hmmmm” she said, looking nervous that I had caught her doing something wrong.

I wasn’t sure if she was trying to say that she determined that her lunch wasn’t her favorite, so she only ate part of it, or whether she really had NO IDEA what the word meant but wanted to squeeze it in there somehow and this is where it landed.  So, instead of making a big deal of it, I just said, “oh, you determined that you didn’t really like turkey?  I thought it was one of your favorites.” And I let it go.

She also came home from school today explaining that she had to write a story about a color and she chose purple because it’s the most distinguished color.

“Distinguished?” I repeated.

“Yes, mommy, I used that word to describe purple.” she said as if she knew it was an impressive word and she was patting herself on the back. “I learned it from Curious George on TV.”  My turn to pat myself on the back for letting her watch so much TV.

“I think you’re right, purple is a distinguished color.” I told her and then asked her why she thought it was.

“Well, it’s friendly, polite, doesn’t tease and is pretty.” she explained.

I wondered after her explanation which colors are the mean, teasing, and impolite colors.  I wondered, but I didn’t ask because those are the kinds of questions that I’ve determined frustrate her and cause Hermendous tantrums.

Today’s word was “anxious”.  I taught it to her so I could explain how I was feeling. I came right out and said, “Hannah, mommy is anxious.  Do you know what that word means?”


“It means mommy is excited and nervous all at the same time.”

“Oh.  Why are you excited and nervous all at once?”

“Because Luke is starting school tomorrow and even though I’m excited for him to make new friends and learn new things, I’m nervous he’ll be sad.  I’m nervous that he’ll miss me.”

“Oh. So you’re anxious?’

“Yes.  I am.” I told her.

“But he’ll be ok.  I’ll be there and I can check on him in his classroom.”

“I know, and that makes me feel better Hannah.  But he’s never been anywhere without me or without the other people he loves, so I’m still nervous.” I confessed to my five year old.

I then realized I was probably overwhelming my little girl with all this deep talk about my feelings so I turned the conversation around and asked her if she was anxious about anything.

“Yes.  I’m anxious bout Kindergarten.” she (too) quickly responded.

“You are?  Why?”

Kindergarten isn’t for another 9 months.  I had no idea it was even on her mind.

“Well, I’m excited to take the bus and play on the big playground.  But I’m nervous that the kids that I’ll want to play with, won’t want to play with me.”

I had to turn my head away so she didn’t see the tears well up in my eyes.  Tears for the fact that at such a young age she’s already experienced this sadness of friends turning their back on her.  Tears for the fact that at such a young age she’s already experiencing anxiety.  Tears for the fact that I’m so worried about Luke and this new adventure he and I are embarking on, that I didn’t even take the time to see that Hannah is worrying about a future adventure.  Tears for the fact that I’ve always taken for granted that she’s FINE with all newness.  She jumps right in.  She makes friends easily.  But really, she’s not always fine.  She’s anxious.

But some of the tears that were welling up in my eyes, were happy tears.  Because I gave her a word that she can use to let me know this feeling she has.   A word to say she’s excited and nervous all wrapped up in one.

So tonight, I’ve “determined” I’m anxious.  My baby is spending his first 4 hours away from me and anything that is familiar to him.  He’ll be off on his own without any words to let people know how he’s feeling.  Just him, his blankie and his new Cars lunchbox.

Wish us all luck.



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9 responses to “Big Words. Big Feelings.

  1. crnnoel

    I would be anxious as well… will be thinking of you guys tomorrow!
    I don’t think it’s awful that you don’t correct Hannah… I remember being mortified when I was corrected for a misuse of a big word (and I was homeschooled through 8th grade… so that… totally blame my mother 🙂 To this day I cringe when I type out a word I *think* belongs in a sentence but when I’m not totally sure…

  2. She’s such a smartie!

    My oldest will be starting kindergarten in the fall and he does NOT want to go. He told me that I already made him leave his old school and his “lovely teacher whose so nice I wanted to put her in my pocket or at least put her in the moving truck to take her with us.” And now he likes his new school and doesn’t want to have to leave “yet another” school and “yet another teacher that I want to put in my pocket.”

    Good luck to your little guy tomorrow!

  3. That baby talk and pronounciation is hard to give up. When my daughter was four I had to use her as a subject for a Linguistics paper and the sentences of hers that I wrote and used as examples for that paper remind me more of her in some ways than photographs because of the distinctive way she had with words.

  4. Nicki

    Here’s to a wonderful day today for all of you!!!

  5. Wishing you both luck today!

    I think Hannah is “hermendously” adorable and wise.

  6. I hope that your day was not too “traumatical” (my friend’s three-year-old’s description of how she felt when she found the library closed when she arrived for a visit). I’ll look forward to hearing about Luke’s reaction – and yours – in a future post. xoxo

  7. First of all, I love love love the mispronunciations…

    Second of all, I can’t wait to hear how it went today. For Luke. For You.

    Third? You are a good mom for explaining the big words. The weighted words. Kids need words to let us know how they feel. When the words fall short the frustration sets in.

    Hugs and love. S.

  8. You write so beautifully. I love this post! I feel your anxiety, and I hope everything goes well.

  9. Liz

    Oh my, Becca! How did it go???? I ache (literally) when I read about sending him off with no words and just his blankie and lunchbox. That will be Aidan next year. Starting a year earlier than Ben, with a waaaaaay smaller vocabulary and a waaaaay bigger personality. I am already “anxious” about the whole thing! P.S. I love, love, love how Hannah described purple. Do you realize how creative that is for a kid her age???? Now we are certainly marrying them…Ben seems to be good with numbers, so they will be the perfect pair.

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