We got the milk, now let’s tackle those cookies

Buster, our three-year-old,  struggles to pronounce certain consonant sounds. The most famous of these is the k or hard c sound. Buster has always compensated for this lack by substituting another sound where the k goes, usually a t. Hence, milk becomes milt and work becomes wort.

We’ve learned to recognize these hybrid words, allowing him to express himself. At the same time, I have been trying to train him how to pull his tongue back into his mouth in order to pronounce the elusive k.

where's that tongue?

Civil Defense workers searching mouths for the elusive k sound. Everyone did their part to help the war effort. (Image: Ann Rosener/U.S. War Information)

Our practice had yielded limited results. Then one day, he requested a bowl of cereal. When I asked if he wanted milk in it, his answer was non-committal. “Yes, milk or no, milk?” I asked again.

“Yes, milk,” he replied, clear as bell, whenever a bell perfectly pronounces the word milk.

I did a double take. “What? What did you just say?”

A smile of recognition stole over his face. “Yes, milk,” he belted out proudly.

I picked him up and hugged him. “You said, milk. What a brilliant boy! You did it!” I gushed as I spun circles with him in my arms. He beamed at me proud and happy at how proud and happy he’d made me.

When Mommy came home, he ran to her to show off the word milk like she’d never heard it before. More hugging and spinning ensued.

In the week since, he’s showed his mastery of milk to the next door neighbor and anyone else who happened by. When it’s eluded you for all your life, milk becomes powerful juice.

Even when I was a child, Mr. K stood in  the shadows of Mr. M and Mr. T.

Even when I was a child, Mr. K stood in the shadows of Mr. M and Mr. T.

The other night, Buster, Mommy, and I were enunciating about milk. I happened to be about to eat a cookie that Buster had his eye on. “I’ll give you my cookie if you do two things,” I told him. “First, say cookie.”

Up until now, cookie has always be tootie. Buster thought hard. “Cootie,” he said, followed by “Tookie.” Getting two hard c sounds into one word is daunting work.

“Okay, that’s close enough. Now say candy.”

Buster focused. “Canny.”

“That’s so close. You got the c right but you left out the d.” D has never been a problem for him, but apparently there was no room for it in a word that already had a c.

“You’re very close. Try one more time.”

Buster looked longingly at my cookie. The pressure was too much. He couldn’t focus on the c and hit the d too.

“I know you can do it. One more try,” I pleaded .

Perhaps he saw the cookie drifting away from him. He looked at me hopefully, then shifted his gaze to the always compassionate Mommy. He took a deep breath and said with clarity and confidence:


Sometimes it’s not the cards in your hand; it’s how you play them. He won two proud smiles and a cookie.


Should I immunize my child against the scourge of adverbs?

One Saturday morning, our kindergartener was watching cartoons when one of the toy commercials that saturate children’s programming came on. I don’t remember what the toy was, but it doesn’t matter; just as he does in response to every other toy commercial, my son told me that he wanted it. He’s like fish in a barrel to toy advertisers. They never miss him.

This commercial must have made the toy look exceptionally fun, because the boy added emphasis to his desire. “Daddy, I want that really badly,” he said.

His statement left me with mixed feelings – not the part about him wanting the next random toy that was advertised. I know how I feel about that; I don’t like it.

My mixed feelings were about his word usage. At first, I was pleased at his understanding of the adverb form. I was happy that he didn’t say, “I want that real bad.”

I could only afford to be impressed for a moment, though, before the word really began raining on my parade. Really is most often a wasted word. We all, including me, use it too much. Nine times out of ten, it adds nothing to the sentiment. “I want that badly,” would have conveyed the depth of his desire just as well. Omitting really doesn’t make me think he wants it the opposite of really badly; I’m not left wondering if he wants it fictitiously badly.

Then, I thought about his choice of the word badly, and the clouds burst above my proud Papa parade. Adverbs take up a lot of space in our sentences without doing much to earn their place. Of the total, questionable population of adverbs, badly is a bad one. I guess it has its place in statements like: “The child expressed his desire badly.” But when you want to use an adverb to add emphasis to a desire, isn’t it better to use one like dearly?

What does it even mean to say you want something badly?


barrier parenting

“You’ve erected a barrier between us with your constant desire for toys and your inefficient use of language.” (Image: Gottscho-Schleisner)


This is what too much writing gets you. Sometimes it brings rain to parades that should be clear skies and sunshine, as this one should have been. “I want that really badly,” is a fantastic use of language for a five-year-old. Moreover, what five-year-old is ever going to say, “I want that dearly.”? What 50-year-old says that? The only person I know who would say something goofy like that is neither five nor 50, but he reads too much Victorian era literature.

In the end, I am proud of the boy’s grammar, although I wish he would go back to his simple, “I want that,” at the end of every toy commercial. It’s concise and it will disappoint him no worse than “I want that really badly,” will when he doesn’t get the toy.

Meanwhile, I am happy that I didn’t vocalize my mixed feelings. They were misguided, and I wouldn’t like to embarrass myself speaking such unnecessary words in front of my son.