Jul 11, 2010

Brung It On


My otherwise perfect eight year old daughter can make me lose my mind with one word.
"I brung my shinguards."

"Sophie brung me this necklace from Africa."

"I wish I brung my money."

Can you guess what that one word is?

I should be clear. She's not getting perfect grammar from either of her parents. I don't make many written mistakes, but can be pretty lazy verbally--realizing, only after the fact, that I said 'and me' when I should have said 'and I' and vice versa, but I do know the difference, which should count for something. Something like having grown kids who speak without glaring mistakes. Brung? She's not hearing this word from us. Brung??

It probably used to be cute. Like how the fact that she didn't have the 'r' sound was adorable in kindergarten, and then less adorable in second grade. 'Brung' isn't cute anymore.
I have friends who correct every mis-speak that comes out of their children's mouths in real-time, and usually I think this is a bit over-the-top. First of all, it seems rude to correct them constantly--they have so much to figure out, and it would seem that eventually they'll just develop an ear for what is right and what isn't. And secondly, like with the writing-philosophy taught in their schools, I would hate for their little freedoms of expressions to be squelched by the fear of more so many virtual red-marks all over their stories. We've all watched bright little faces fall when faced with a barrage of nit-picky adult adjustments. It's heartbreaking.

Of course, I've found the right times to explain certain tricky language things ('a' vs. 'an,' and 'twenty-eleventeen isn't a real number'). And about a year ago I started to let her know, gently, that 'brung' isn't a word. Her response has been to get really put off by being corrected. Which is out of character for this girl who, for as long as I can remember, craved knowing all of the real rules--in part, I'm sure, so that she could correct her older, less-curious, less-exacting, brother.

But she's 'brunging' all the time. Sometimes I swear she's saying it to get a rise out of me.

I've tried to ignore it, I've tried to mention it minutes later, in private, just as an 'oh by the way' aside. Last weekend we were at a college graduation--eating eclairs on the lawn of the college President, surrounded by twenty-one year olds and their proud families, and she 'brung' it up again.

"I wish I brung my frisbee."

Something about the academicness of the whole event brought out the worst in me. A word that sounds like fingernails on chalkboard on a Brooklyn playground felt like fingernails in my brain on this campus green.

"'Brung' isn't a word and you know it! I don't EVER want to hear that word come out of your mouth again! Do you hear me?"

Instantly, I was left with the bad taste of having over-reacted. I'd pulled out a tone reserved for major sibling-bashing infractions. If you'd asked me, when I was a twenty-one year old in a graduation gown, if I'd have ever imagined using that tone in response to a minor grammatical error from an otherwise perfect eight year old daughter, I'd have said no way, I'm not going to be that kind of mom.

We stood facing each other, stunned, and then she glared at me with this glare that I'm one hundred percent sure will be a part of my daily life in three or four years. And I realized that I was powerless in the face of her 'brung.'

I comfort myself the way parents of late-potty trainers do. They tell themselves that their kids won't go off to college in diapers. I doubt she'll pull out a 'brung' in a college interview, or a job interview, or when she's being interviewed after leading her soccer team to victory in the World Cup. But for now, it's making me NUTS, and she knows it and that's the problem. It's too much power for her. And after my crazy outburst, I'm not sure I can trust my own response. It might get uglier. But what can I say? She done brung it on herself.

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