Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Stand Corrected

(...or dear Lord we may have another English Major in the family!)
             Sunday night the boys and I stopped by Wal-mart after dinner. “How long are we going to be here?” asked Owen. At the same time James asked, “Can we look at the toys?”
            “No guys. No stopping to look at toys today. It’s almost James’ bedtime. We’re just going to go in and grab a few things we need for the week. I’ve got to find my list.”
            “You mean you have to find your list,” said James.
            I was hunting around in the dark minivan so what he said didn’t quite register with me. “What did you say, honey?”
            I looked in the rear-view mirror to see a grin that went way beyond mischievous, “You mean you have to find your list, Mommy. You said you’ve got to find your list.”
            “James? Did you just correct my grammar?”  I sat there feeling a mixture of pride and horror. He was right of course. I don’t make a lot of grammatical mistakes in speaking. But I do make that one a lot. Sometimes I catch myself and correct myself in mid-sentence. It’s a weird verbal tic that I can’t seem to shake. Of course when the boys do it I correct them. But I’m their mother. I’m supposed to correct them. I also remind them to use their napkins rather than their sleeves, flush the toilet, wash their hands, zip their flies, cover their coughs… this list could go on for days. I’m the mother of small boys. Correcting behavior is part of my job.
            “No she didn’t,” said Owen. “Mommy didn’t say that.” I love Owen—he’s always got my back. I mean he always has my back. See, some things just don’t sound right when they’re correct.
            “Yes she did!” insisted James.
            “It’s okay Owen.” I conceded. “I probably did say it. It’s a mistake I make sometimes. I’m working on it.”
Now here’s the tricky part. It was kind of funny. Because he corrected me—not his teacher or principal. It won’t be funny then. When do you start teaching that correcting the behavior of others isn’t okay? I guess the time was Sunday night. I was just too stunned to do so.
            I’ll never forget a moment that happened many years ago when I was out for drinks with a couple of friends. We were tossing back margaritas at a steady pace when I remarked that some situation had made me nauseous.
            “Nauseates.” said one of our friends.
            “Excuse me?”  I said.
            “It doesn’t make you nauseous. It nauseates you.”
            I simply looked at him. I couldn’t believe I was out for drinks and someone was correcting my grammar. He must have realized I didn’t appreciate his comment because the next thing he said was, “Sorry. I was practically an English major. I can’t stand it when people make that mistake.” Practically an English Major? Dude, I was an English Major—I have a BA from an accredited college and everything. You can tell by my sparkling writing style and tiny paycheck. If everyone with a degree in English walked around correcting people’s grammar all the time you’d be able to recognize them by their lack of teeth and abundance of bruises.
            So next time my darling little imp notices my grammatical imperfections. I’ll have to remind him that such things are not polite. I wonder how long it will be before he tells me it isn’t polite of me to tell him not to talk with his mouth full.