Saturday, September 11, 2010


I am constantly defending the English language. I correct my children at every turn. I remind them not to use double negatives, explain when to use the words “seen” and “saw”, and tell them for certain that “ain't” is not a real word. I have a feeling that I will battle with “ain't” until the end of time because something tells me it may actually be in the dictionary. I fear looking it up, though, because then I would have to write poison pen letters to Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster if the definition boldly stared back at me.

My family gets tired of me doing this, continually going undercover for the grammar police, but English is something they need to know and understand. I believe communication is the key to success and think it's crucial, especially in the world today. It doesn't matter to me that my daughter is young. I remind her frequently that she will eventually need a resume and will need to know how to speak properly throughout her career, whatever it may be.

So you can imagine my frustration when I see her intentionally using misspelled words like this:

skool (school)
kewl (cool)
plz (please)
jelly (jealous)

and initialisms like these...

IDK (I don't know)
IKR ( I know, right)
GTG (Got to go)
IDC (I don't care)

Now, I understand that trying to establish her identity among her friends and pleasing her mother at the same time can't be easy, but this is a girl who only missed one spelling word last year, and was disappointed in herself for spelling the word "peddler" without one of the d's. What happened to my overachiever? Is peer pressure to seem less intelligent all the rage? I can understand abbreviating when a person is in a hurry, but she is not in a hurry to go anywhere. She has time to spell the words correctly.

“Why don't you just spell the words correctly?” I ask her.

“Because Mom, it's not what WE do,” she says ("we" meaning the majority of the tween population).

“Okay, but make sure you know how to spell the words because someday you will need to know how to use them,” I tell her.


Enter a blessing in disguise while school shopping a few weeks later, when I agreed to pay more for a pair of jeans than ever before because she loved them, and because they fit her well. After I bought them, I handed her the bag to carry as we went to several different stores before going home. It seemed like a perfect shopping trip, but we couldn't find the new pants at home when we arrived. Somehow they had gotten lost, and I was disappointed. She had been carrying the bag, and I was frustrated by her carelessness. She was probably distracted by poorly-downsized text messages, I thought. I should've asked her to turn her phone off.

I thought about some acronyms of my own.

IDBT (I don't believe this!)
YIBT ( You're in big trouble!)
GAJ (Get a job!!)
ACYR ( And clean your room!)

You get the picture, but I didn't want to confuse her, or explain that one of the letters may or may not represent profanity. So, I rearranged my schedule the next day to track down pants that had gone AWOL. I sent her a text message to let her know I had found them at the mall, and this is the message she sent back:

“Mom, do you still love me? Because I still love you, and I am sorry.”

No abbreviations. Perfectly punctuated.

I stopped dead in my tracks. I think I even heard crickets chirping. I felt like a deer in the headlights frozen by shame.

“Of course I still love you,” I quickly responded. Did she really think a misplaced piece of clothing would make me love her less? Well that's enough Mom guilt to last me awhile, I thought. What kind of car did she say she wanted? But something else surfaced along with that contrition. It was pride, and it made me smile.

She didn't abbreviate. She knew I was upset because she knows I don't like wasting time and money. She didn't use half-words like “luv”, “bcuz”, or “u”. She understood what I have been trying to explain to her.

Now, there aren't a lot of things that can bring me to tears. I've cried enough in my life and my tear ducts are almost in retirement, but I realized something in that moment as I was looking for a tissue in my purse. She does know about timing, and she knows when to be sympathetic. She is still a good speller who is learning to be graceful. She feels remorse, she is insightful, and she absolutely - without a doubt - recognizes the power of words.

I didn't care about the pants after that, because I had found something greater than what I ever could have imagined.

I found her.

And to me, that's pretty kewl.   

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Door Orchestra

There is a door orchestra

that plays only at night

Trying mysteriously

to stay out of sight

They've mastered their timing

One door then the next

I am the conductor

of a percussion quartet

The rythm is a pattern

of high notes and lows

A bedroom door orchestra

and its crescendos

Out of their rooms

the players will peek

A standing ovation

and forte, they seek

Without an encore

a cymbal will clash

The repeat sound

of a metal door latch

It's time for bed

to sleep, no less

I will give you a whole note

if you give me a rest