Toddler (Sem)antics

I am continually amazed at how quickly we human beings grasp language. In 2 short years the girl has gone from cries and squeals to being able to form sentences and carry on simple conversations. Our capacity as a species to communicate fascinates me to no end.

While I am amazed at the girl’s ability to understand and comprehend language, I am occasionally brought back to reality by the fact that a common, yet abstract turn of a phrase can throw the girl for a loop.

Case in point. Last weekend her Mom and I had a particularly productive day around the house.  While I was busy unpacking and organizing the basement, Mom blasted through a dozen household tasks upstairs. When I came up to see how things were going, Mom and the girl were sitting in the living room folding laundry.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Great,” replied Mom. “I did the dishes, vacuumed, did three loads of laundry, repotted 2 plants, and made us lunch.”

“Wow,” I said to the girl. “Your Mom is on fire.”

It took a few seconds for the words to sink in.  I didn’t even realize what I said until I saw a little brow furrow in curious confusion.

“Mom okay?” she asked, anxiously looking at Mom. “Mom on fire?”

Uh-oh. Cue frantic backpedaling. “No, Mom isn’t really on fire. It’s an expression. It means that she got a lot done in a short amount of time.” Great. Here I am with an upset 2 year old on my hands, trying to explain not only the the concept of expressions and figures of speeches to her, but also time. I’m not expecting much.

Fortunately, she didn’t get too upset, and she quickly brushed it off with a “Mom’s on fire? That’s crazy.” But it did teach me a lesson in toddler semantics and to pay a bit more attention to what I say.

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