Past Tense, Big Concepts, and Course Corrections

Al and I noticed last week that The Beaner has started using the past tense properly. I'm never sure whether we notice it the first time he does it, or whether he's been doing it for a while and it finally sinks in with us, but in any case, he's now saying things like "I already ate," or "I saw grandma yesterday."

It occurs to me that we noticed his correct use of the past tense after we'd spent a week trying to explain the concept of time to him, and that maybe the two things are related. Well, I should probably clarify that we didn't give him a Stephen Hawking book and point to the sky; rather, we tried to give him some sense of when he'd be seeing Grandma and Grandpa. We'd say, for example, "on Saturday we're going to see Grandma and Grandpa. Today is Tuesday; Aura is coming today. Tomorrow—Wednesday—you'll see M and Jess; on Thursday you'll see Aura again, and also on Friday; and then on Saturday we're going to drive to Grandma and Grandpa's house."

Actually, that's all future stuff. Where'd he get the past from?

Time isn't the only big concept we've been working on. Along with his future in underpants, we've been talking about:

  • how he's going to get a real bed soon (like maybe this weekend)
  • death (my grandmother died on New Year's Day, so we explained that Grandma and Grandpa were down in Florida saying goodbye to Great-Grandma)
  • where we live relative to everyone else we know

That last one came about because of the second item; I tried to explain that Grandma and Grandpa were driving down to Florida, and The Beaner kept saying, "no, FORD." He thought I was mis-pronouncing Ford. He even said, "I SAID Ford" in a rude and exasperated tone over and over, to our annoyance. We talked to him about that, too, but to help break the logic logjam, I grabbed my laptop and Googled for a simple map of the United States.

When I found one, I pointed to Pennsylvania and said, "we live here, in Pennsylvania." I then pointed out where Grandma and Grandpa Cho live (Virginia), where Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ken live (Maryland), and where Grandma and Grandpa live (also Maryland). I then pointed to Florida and said, "this is Florida. Grandma and Grandpa are driving the white Saab down to Florida." Al drove The Beaner's 1:43 scale 9-3 down the screen to demonstrate.


Believe it or not, I did not lose my cool. I merely opened TextEdit (and ok, I almost lost my cool trying to figure out how to increase the font to a readable size), typed the word "Florida", hit return a couple times, and then typed "Ford". "FLOR-I-DA," I said, pointing. "This top word says 'Florida'. Down here is FORD. Flor-i-da, Ford. See how they're different? Can you see and hear how Florida is longer than Ford?" I then pointed to the map and repeated "Flor-i-da." He repeated after me and then said, "ahhhh."

When I mentioned Florida again the next day, he tried to correct me again, but I said, "no honey, I'm talking about the state, Florida. You know, where Grandma and Grandpa are right now." He smiled and said, "Grandma and Grandpa drove the white Saab to Florida. Grandma's white Saab. Grandpa drive a GMC." How we finally convinced him that the white Saab is Grandma's car, not Grandpa's, is another story—but at least he's got it straight now. Nice to know the big issues are taken care of.

Posted by Lori in parenthood at 10:06 PM on January 5, 2007

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