The Texture Of Things

When Words Fail, in a Funny Way

October 25th, 2006

Whenever the tot has a cold virus or some other monstrosity that is vexing her little, teeny-weeny, button-schmutton nose, I apply “nose medicine” at bedtime and various other points throughout the day. Nose Medicine is Vick’s Baby Rub, and I do it because the smell reassures me that I’m at least doing something besides waiting out a virus, but I tell her it will keep her nose from getting chapped and that will help her get better faster. Maybe it does, maybe it’s a big line I feed her. Whatever.

She loves it, unlike any other form of medicine. She’ll point to the little pink-capped jar and say, “Get nose medicine? Want nose medicine? Want it on?” and she tips her face up to me with her eyes closed like this is her favorite part of the spa treatment. As soon as I start to schmear some on and around her nostrils, she smiles. I don’t really know why.

She does not have a cold right now, nor has she for some time. That is just background for the conversation she and I had yesterday.

She declined to nap, and by “declined,” I mean “stood in her crib, jumping up and down and shouting to whoever would listen that it was ‘time to get out now.'” I knew she wanted to play outside and I knew she needed to, so I got her up, dressed her, and plunked her butt outside with her Little Black Car (Jeep Power Wheels) and a bucket of sidewalk chalk. I stood just inside the open garage with a thermal cup of coffee and a desire to be inside, in jammie pants.

She played and played and played. And then I noticed her looking at her mitten-free hands.

She said, “My hands. They need medicine. We get the medicine, Mommy?”

“Why do they need medicine?” I asked. I could see they weren’t injured in any way, though I was intrigued.

“Hands cold, Mommy. Get the medicine, get the nose medicine for my hands?”

“You want the nose medicine for your hands?”

“Yes. Hands have a cold. We gotta get the medicine.”

Of course, I told her that when our hands “are cold” (but do not “have a cold”), we need mittens not medicine, but this language mishap was so delicious that I was momentarily tempted to let her go on thinking it her way.

And then I remembered I have a blog now, which means I have a place to keep these stories, so modeling the correct usage then was probably the right thing to do before the teachable moment passed.

For whatever else it’s worth, this language moment was a forward step for a child who doesn’t have much self-help language. She doesn’t reliably tell me when she’s hungry or thirsty, cold or warm, so it really is music to my ears.

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