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“Did Your Daughter Just Say Something Weird to Me and I’m Crushed?”
Kid imagines response to stinging barb
Lately, when Kina blurts out some absurd phrase like today’s top headline, I play a little game called “She-Ra or Language Development”, in which I must either identify the episode of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power from which she purloined her statement or admit that her brain is expanding at an alarming rate.
“You know I’m a hugger!” — Scorpia, from She-Ra, “Sword, Part 2 (series finale)”
“Nice catching up with you!” — Kina, to adults on the playground, as her brain expands
“That’s your cue, hot stuff!” — Double Trouble, from She-Ra, “Perils of Peekablue”
“If we all trust each other, we are a team!” — Kina, to her family, as her brain expands
After considerable thought and research, I have determined that today’s top headline—something she imagines her uncle Ken saying in the wake of a devastating zinger—comes very much from her own rapidly-expanding brain. After a few weeks of incredibly clingy and irritable behavior, Kina has begun to speak in weirdly florid sentences, replete with in-jokes and asides. At the same time, her emotions and expressions are becoming more nuanced, which makes our conversations more captivating now than they’ve ever been. It all feels connected to the conversational turn-taking at dinner she introduced the other week, and Laurea and I find it hilarious, fascinating, and slightly anxiety-inducing. She’s not copying these sentences in full, but the phrases and idioms that comprise them in many cases come right from our mouths.
I used to think that the thing I’d be checking myself on as a parent would be cursing, but Laurea and I both realize now that our entire worldview is encoded in the small talk we share at home—we become our parents by overhearing their conversations and letting them incubate in our minds. Kina speaks to each of us in the language of the other, a little hype man for our relationship, an apprentice in conversational intimacy. With so few kids around, it’s not terribly surprising that she gravitates to weird adult patter; that’s the linguistic fire hose she’s drinking from. I suppose I should be happy that she’s not modeling her entire moral universe on She-Ra (even as those of us who have watched the series know it’s not a bad foundation to stand on).
She ran into Ken on our way upstairs this afternoon and had a quick little chat with him. No zingers were exchanged, and he seemed relatively uncrushed by the conversation. In practice, Kina is an incredibly gentle and inquisitive kid, with little propensity for the cutting remark she imagines herself delivering. I don’t mind that she lives in a fantasy world in which she’s a little Dorothy Parker. It’s a good attitude for her to keep in her back pocket—a sharpened barb for a rainy day. Until then, I keep a running notes document with all her wild declarations, basking in the glow of her enormous brain.