“Mommy, what’s that dwow?” My three and a half year-old followed me into the kitchen in her usual pre-breakfast state of high demand. She still struggles with the pronunciation of several letters, and once in a while a particular combination stumps both of us. Sometimes I can figure things out by context, but not in this case. She was insistent about the “dwow”, however, and practically dragged me back out of the kitchen to show it to me. In the middle of the back hallway a brilliant shard of light hit my red robe, making one spot glow. Aha—glow; I was impressed by the word she chose, even though it was hard to pronounce. We followed the path of light and discovered that the early morning sunshine was coming through a window at the end of the hallway and hitting the edge of another window in the door to the stairway, concentrating into a brilliant shaft that flashed onto my robe when I walked past. It was completely worth interrupting breakfast preparations on a hectic morning to see that light. That glow.
I love that she’s at the point where her vocabulary is so far ahead of her pronunciation. In her mind there’s no limit to what she is able to say. The only limit is in what the people around her can understand, and that’s their problem. Sometimes she comes up with hard-to-decipher pronunciations, but other times she finds astonishing ways of expressing herself, combinations of words I wish I’d thought of. Her vocabulary is rich, enhanced by her limitations and her newness with language. She doesn’t know many clichés yet.
I’m convinced children have the hearts of poets. The whole world is new and strange, anything is possible, and nothing they learn really surprises them. They are in a state of awe much of the time if we are able to allow it. They expect magic. Little moments stand out. Small things are loaded with significance: snowflakes, sparkling motes of dust in a sunbeam, the flecks of gold on a monarch’s chrysalis. Why wouldn’t we go through a whole day singing? Why wouldn’t words have rhythm? Why would we walk when we could run, gallop, skip, crawl, or shimmy? They share all of it with me, in astonishing ways, whether I take the time to pay attention or not. I don’t have a lot of time for poetry these days. And yet, I have more poetry in my life right now than I even know what to do with. How rich can you get?