34. Death by Letter

The brothers are learning to read in kindergarten.  God help us all.  For the past five months the entire family has been subjected to relentless inquisition regarding all manner of phonetic procedure.  If you think I’m exaggerating, just pause and consider how many things you pass every day that have words on them.  Heck, just consider how many SIGNS in general you pass.  Yeah.  Now put twin six-year-old spelling geniuses in the far rear seat of the van, shouting queries like a pair of Gatling guns launching Civil War attacks on all of us innocent bystanders in the front seats.  It’s ridiculous.

Nathan: “Hey dad, what does D-E-A-L spell?”

Me: “Deal.  It spells deal.”

Nathan: “Deal!  Hey Nic, you know how to spell deal?  I can spell deal!”

Nicholas: “No you can’t.”

Nathan: “Yes I can.  D-E-A-L.”

Nicholas: “That’s not deal.  DAD, HOW DO YOU SPELL DEAL??”

Me: “D-E-A-L.”

Nicholas: “That doesn’t sound like deal.”

Nathan: “I told you I could spell it.”

Nicholas: “You can’t spell every word.”

Connor: “I can spell every single word in the universe.”

Nathan and Nicholas: “NO YOU CAN’T”

Connor: “YES I CAN!”

Nathan and Nicholas: “NUH-UH!!”

Connor: “UH-HUH!!”


It never ends.  Every sign, every bench, every bus, every building.  And the best part is when a really stupid word rears its head, like the day Nicholas found “ought” and, of course, immediately popped the question.

Me: “Ought.  Like you ought to buy this car.”

Nicholas: “Ought?”

Nathan: “Like DOT?”

Me: “Well sorta.  But dot is easy, D-O-T.  Ought has other letters in it that spell the same sound.”

Nicholas: “Yeah it has a G.  G can make Goldfish.”

Me: “No, this G doesn’t do that.  It’s silent.

– Pause.  Confusion is thick in the air. –

Me: “It’s complicated.  You’ll probably learn about it in like ninth grade.”

Nathan: “What does ought mean, anyway?”

Me: “It means ought.  Like you ought to stop asking about hard words from ninth grade.”

It gets worse as they get smarter, but at least they stop asking incessant spelling questions once they can just read the billboards for themselves.  Of course that leads to 20 questions about personal injury lawyers and surgical weight loss procedures, but that’s a whole other blog…  The other night while helping Connor with second grade spelling words, I was called on to explain why “speech” has two e’s but “speak” does not, and why “flood” sounds like “mud” but “troop” sounds like “poop.”  Because English is absurd, that’s why.  They “ought” to just give all new school students a copy of this page and be like “Here ya go.  Good luck, kid.”  Seriously people, driving parents are in no position to deal with this language crisis.

We were coming home from a family dessert trip the other night (to TCBY, of course.  Why.  WHY???) when the back seat interrogations reached critical mass:

Nicholas: “Mom, what does “abcd” spell.”

Mom: “It spells nothing.  It’s the alphabet.”

Nicholas: “Does it spell “aabdekuh?”

Mom: “No, it spells nothing.  No words.  It’s not a word.”

Nathan: “What does “ssississi” spell?”

Mom: “Nothing.  That’s not a word.  Please stop asking spelling questions.  This is not a spelling bee.”

Nicholas: “Mom, what does “pqrs” spell?”


Somebody help parents of kindergarten boys.  There ought to be a better way than this.


20 thoughts on “34. Death by Letter

  1. I have a friend who is raising a daughter that I adore. Last week he calls and says “Lauren wanted to know why ‘claim’ is spelled with an ‘ai’ when ‘game’ is spelled with a final ‘e’. I don’t know what to tell her.”

    And you think I do?

    • Jeff Hoyt, that is brilliant.

      Of course you know. You know everything.

      You’re the wise one that told us the same darn thing our parents told us . . . yet somehow we listened to you.

      You know it’s true!

  2. Sometimes, and I’m not kidding, I tell the kids, “you’re not allowed to talk for the rest of the day.” It usually only lasts 5 minutes, but it’s the best 5 minutes of the day.

    • We’ve tried that approach at the dinner table recently – 5 minutes of ‘no talking’ at the beginning, which seems to work at school. Not so much at home. But we are still trying.

  3. Wow. Just wow.

    We don’t have kids so we’ll just read and spell and learn silently.

    Alas, I do remember sitting in the back of the station wagon and asking those same questions while the signs at the side of the road went whizzing by.

    Maybe your boys will be authors… or maybe they’ll just be like the guys on Mythbusters who blow stuff up.

    • Or Navy SEALS, as I speculated last month when they were hit for a combined 98 times in laser tag while scoring exactly zero shots on any opponent. ZERO. Yes, there’s no telling what the brothers will be, but authors is probably as good a guess as any. lol

  4. Absolutely hilarious! I have to say, that after learning to speak, read and write the Spanish language, that English is definitely one of the most confusing to spell. That’s why my husband (who couldn’t spell good in English anyway) loves Spanish. There is only one sound for each vowel, and most all of the consonants only make one sound. So what you see, is how you say it. But being a homeschool mom of 4, grades 4, 7,8, and 11, I have to say that there have been times when even the textbook says, “This word does not follow said rule, but is an exception.” No reason, no other explanation, it just is.Accept it, and deal with it. It gives new back-up to that phrase we use as parents…”Because I said so, that’s why!” 🙂

      • They’d probably learn it quicker, for sure! My kids have a better vocab. than I do, and they never took classes! Makes me sick sometimes! 🙂 Miskito is the other one, and it’s too much like English, more confusing!

  5. Unfortunately the English language is full of exceptions to the rule. I think that laws are based on the English language. There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule!

  6. Do you know that they no longer teach “i before e except after c” because they found that it doesn’t occur much more often in English than it does? There are more words that have any letter, then e, then i AND c, then i, then e THAN there are that have i before e except after c.

  7. OK. This is really brilliant. I love reading these blogs. It makes me remember back when mine were a little younger.

  8. As the mom of 2 boys and being a speech therapist, I feel your pain! If it’s any consolation, they also start algebra and geometry in Kindergarten now. Sigh.

  9. Hilarious dialogue!

    I came to your blog from Jon Acuff’s site. He has created a tremendous forum for sharing our blogs and impacting more people with them.

    I hope my blog can be an encouragement to you also.

    I write it for encouragement and motivation daily.


    Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to watching the connections grow!

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