What My Daughter Hears Me Say

My little girl was sitting at the table eating her lunch, when she looked at me and said, “Dad, do you know what you say all the time?” I was curious and nervous. In the mind of the three year-old, what it is that I say that sticks in her mind?

Best case would be something adorable like “I love you.” What better to know that I say it enough to her that she knows it. If that is so engrained in her little mind that Daddy says “I love you” that it has become my cliche catch phrase, surely I am at least doing one thing right as a parent. And as far as catch phrases go, it’s no “How you doin’,” but it’s certainly better than “Did I do that?”

Or would it be a term of endearment? Most of the time I call my daughter Peanut, so would she say that? Every kid needs a good nickname, and the best ones carry into adulthood. She may outgrow it at some point. Will I call her Peanut when she’s in her 30’s or has kids of her own? Maybe not. But will I can her Peanut when she’s a teenager and calling her that in front of her friends will embarrass the crap out of her? You bet your ass.

A few worst case scenario words flashed across my mind as well. I really try not to swear in front of my kinds, but they’ve been around me while I’m trying fix things around the house or assemble their toys so I can’t make any promises as to what they’ve heard.

Or would it be some word that I say all the time without even realizing it? Some nervous tick of a word that works its way into my speech. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to not say “um” or “like”, but has something else taken their place? Like, uh, some kind of word like “you see” or “anywho?”

Perhaps it would be some reflection of my habits, either good or bad. Would it be something like “baseball” or “exercise”? There is honestly a higher probability it would be “beer” or “cake”.

“What do I say?” I asked her as she chewed.

I was glad she wasn’t talking with her mouth full, but her delay in response left me hanging. I need to know what lasting impressions I am making on my kids. How have my words shaped their growing minds? Who am I in their eyes? Chew tiny lady, chew!

I hoped for the best yet braced for the worst, fairly certain that either way it would be adorable.

She finished chewing her bite, looked up at me and said –


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