I’m not an English grammar genius, and I don’t remember a lot about literary terms from the classes I took in school. I do know what onomatopoeia is though. And now my six-year-old daughter does as well, since we covered that term in our Homeschool Cooperative Class last week. Onomatopoeia, noun: the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.In class we discussed words like pow, smack, and ruff. The children in my class wore blank looks on their faces when I tried to teach them this massively syllabic word that represents such a simple concept. ”Let’s try it again, all together now…ON-A-MOT-A-PEEE-UH.”
Since this lesson, my four year old has begun calling me “Momma-pee-ah.” Depending on the situation it could be sweet and quick…”Mama-pee-uh!” or very long and drawn out…. “MOOOOOOOOMMMMMAAAAA-PEEEEEEEEEE-UUUUUHHHH,” and it either flits through the room like a butterfly or soars through the rafters like a heat-seeking missile targeting my eardrums. When he first started calling me that, I thought it was a little weird. It has the word “pee” in it after all. And then I realized that, in a way, it turned my Mommy name into something of a literary term
I’ve always said that the word “mom” should be a considered not a noun but a verb…an action verb. When the word is muttered around our home, it’s hardly ever attached to a statement like “I love my Mom.” It’s usually used more as a call to action: ”Moooooom, I need toilet paper!” (this is not just a statement, it is plea that I bring them toilet paper) or “MOOooom…I don’t feel good” (this is a request for a solution…medicine, a snuggle, whatever is needed for the ailment) or sometimes “MOOOOOooooOOOm…my brother won’t leave me alone!” (translation: “please do something about this annoyance..STAT!”)
I’m wondering what would happen if I ever started to think of these things as simple statements and responded as such. “That’s nice that you’re out of toilet paper, son. I hope you can find something else to use in your current situation.”
“Thank you for letting me know that you are not feeling well. Let me know what you are able to come up with to help you feel better.”
“The Bible says that brothers were made for adversity. Looks like you’re seeing the Word come to life before your very eyes. Fascinating and good luck!!”
As my children age and I am forced to allow them to handle more of their lives on their own, I can see how the word might morph into less of a verb and more of a noun. It suggests I will become more of a listener and supporter and less of a doer and a fixer. Sometimes I think the idea of “mom” as a noun sounds wonderful, especially as the verbal requests seem to pour in the minute I get a moment in the bathroom myself, or try to form a coherent sentence when conversing with my closest girlfriend. I have five children—a few moment’s peace sounds divine.
I am reminded of my own mother and how she sometimes confuses her grammar role where I am concerned. When I’m on the other end of the line saying through the tears, “Mom, I have a fever and the baby has a cough. I’m so tired and the children are sick of being cooped up inside.”
She could say, “I’m sorry that is happening to you, I just read about a homeopathic remedy for coughing that infants can take, and it was very interesting.” But, instead, she morphs back into verb mode. “I’ll be over in one hour with a pot of chicken soup as big as your kitchen sink and will take the kids to the park to play for two hours so you can shower and take a nap,” she says. And at that point, I’m extremely grateful that the switch between verb and noun can be so fluid.
Like I said, I’m no grammar expert. Say “past participle” to me and I may think you’re giving me directions somewhere. I’m learning along with my kids as we journey through all the English rules together. There are musical jingles to memorize that teach us about the items that comprise a great piece of writing, whether it be a poem, an essay, or a short story. Yesterday we wrote cinquain poems together…five lines…one word, two words, three words, four words, then one word again. We laughed our heads off when my eight-year-old son composed a riveting cinquain poem about vomiting. We’ll get through learning Language Arts together as long as one special word is allowed to float between knowing when to sit still and be someone and knowing when to stand and take action.
Kimberly Braunschneider is a homeschooling mom of five children ages 4-14 who loves to cook, read, write, craft, and enjoy the sunshine in as much spare time as she can muster up.