This week's prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "puzzled":
The arctic winds kept us trapped again. As the clarifying winter sunlight streamed in from outside, I mused what next activity could take us further through the endless-inside afternoon.
Vibrant purple, blue, red, green, orange and yellow plastic shapes shimmered on the floor. I gathered them in my arms, placed them in a candy-striped hinged box and said, "Let's go spell 'cat' on the refrigerator."
"Cat!" he shouted. "I love cat!"
We trotted into the kitchen and plopped down onto the tiles in front of our huge palette.
"C-A-T," I said, pulling out three magnetized letters and placing each carefully on the ivory door. "That spells cat. Caaaaaaatttt," I said slowly, tracing my finger across the letters.
He grabbed a bunch of the letters and smushed them quickly onto the fridge. Too many consonants, letters upside down and sideways. "What does that spell?" he asked, proudly pointing at his "word."
"Hmmm," I said thoughtfully. I narrowed my eyes and drew in my lips, trying to devise a way to actually speak what he'd created: an upside down U next to a sideways G, placed above an upside-down R and M, layered on top of an upright E, a sideways D, and an A.
"Uggerm-eeduh," I said, smiling as I slowly pronounced it.
Peels of laughter answered me. "Say it again," he implored between the snorts.
"Ha ha ha ha ha! Again!"
"Uggerm-eeduh." Now I was laughing.
Winding down into a sparkling grin, he grabbed another random letter out of the box and placed it next to the A. It was an I.
"What does THAT say?" He tapped the fridge hard, eyes wide and smiling already in expectation of more spoken nonsense.
"Uggerm-eeduh-EYE," I said, placing extra emphasis on the I-sound as I pointed to it. He giggled so much he was almost silent. Then he took a deep breath and reached for another letter.
I puzzled out these evolving words for another fifteen minutes. At laughter intervals, I'd return to ones like "hat" and "hug" to show how letters could form names that were part of his daily life. Because every-day concepts and objects, grounded in reality, should be interesting.
The child mind does not work this way. What's more interesting: hearing your mother say "rug" or "oomeg-erex-quig-idy-thut-ed"?
I let myself fall into the silly magic of sounding out his creations. He made them and laughed and slapped the floor with glee every time I pronounced them. My sounding them out also confirmed that they were real.
Nonsense is relative. Play is crucial. Recognition in parents' eyes means the world. Shared problem-solving creates more understanding not only of the task at hand, but also about each other.