Tiger Booties

I guess the lesson for today is that language acquisition can be a dangerous thing. At this point, anyone who has been around a small child knows exactly what I mean. Why? Because children are lovely little creatures whose brains connect words and ideas that a random person's old brain would never think to connect, hence the steely-eyed glares I received from the old bats passing judgment on my family at the mall.

It all started very innocently. I bought a pair of tiger booties for my grandson, whom we'll call James, because they were adorable and orange, and because I'm sure that he is going to be the next James Herriott (even though James Herriott never ever, to my knowledge, treated a tiger, I'm sure that he would have had the opportunity arisen). My grandson is obsessed with the family dogs and cat, as is his grandma--me--and I'm pretty sure, given the way he clings to the family pets, he is an animal lover like me. Hence the tiger booties.

Well, my other grandson, Max, his brother, loves critters, too. What can I say? The animal lover gene is strong on my side of the family. So Max sees James wearing these booties and is thrilled beyond imagination to the point he hugs the family cat, who is--you guessed it--an orange tabby cat, and chants, "Booties booties booties" because the orange tabby, Phyllis (Phyll for short) somewhat resembles, at least in a three-year-old's mind, a tiger, and at some point he heard us use the word "booties" to describe the tigers on his brother's tootsies.

No problem. They've both got plenty of time to learn the difference between Phyll and an actual tiger and what harm could it do to have a kid chant "booties" when he sees a tiger? Actually,Max is now up to shouting "tiger booties" when he sees anything resembling his brother's footwear or Phyll, so we're feeling excited that his vocabulary has expanded.

His brother James, however, is just now learning the basics. And by basics I mean he's starting to associate the things on his feet with the person who gave them to him--again, that would be me. And, again, no problem. Except that James has a slight difficulty in saying words sometimes and so just defaults to jibberish, which is fine at home but in public draws some unwanted attention.

Why? Because James can't really say "booties" and so when he saw me walking toward him and my son, his father, to meet them at the mall, he immediately reached for me and yelled, "Boobies boobies boobies!" If you're me, you'd find this adorable and loving in a grandparent sort of way. If you're the mean old, shriveled up ladies (who were probably younger than me) sitting next to my son at the food court, you probably thought my tiger-loving grandson was a bit of a perv. They sat up straight and scowled and openly listened to everything Grandma "Boobies" said to her grandson, passing judgment on everything thing we said to each other with their sneers and side-eyes.

Luckily, it didn't ruin our day because we tarried on down to a store that loves children (begins with D and ends with ISNEY), where my grandsons both learned many new words that will come in handy when they procure jobs in the real world, like "bibbity bobbity boo." I've actually used this to great effect when a colleague asked a stupid question to which I had no other answer.

So the moral of the story here is...well, I have no moral to this story except to say that it's important, when a small child is acquiring language, to understand that he or she will probably use words in a way that might not be socially acceptable to certain people, like the two shrews who sat in the food court and sentenced everyone who crossed their paths to some kind of hellish prison they didn't know about, nor did they care. I care, and that's why my grandson wears the footwear I gave him.

Boobies boobies boobies!

Happy Reading!

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