Made up word becomes real source of frustration, joy

Our oldest daughter made up a word, and it may in fact be the word she uses more often than any other word.

I may be partly to blame. I have frequently enjoyed making up words just to see if I’ll get a response from these two knuckleheads we call our daughters. For example:

Girls in unison: Daddy we want ice cream! Can we have ice cream? Pleeeease, daddy, pleeease can we have ice cream?

Me: Well, we’re all out of ice cream, BUT … who wants sclompers?

Girls in unison: I WANT SCLOMPERS! Yea, sclompers! We’re gonna have sclompers!

Is this wrong of me? Possibly.

Sure enough, our oldest daughter followed my lead and made up her own word: coo-kah. I spell it like that intentionally because there is another way to spell it which, it turns out, has terrible connotations in a language other than English. I assure you this word was borne of innocence, however, the mere sound of it does seem to straddle the line. It would probably be ideal for us to just have her, ya’ know, stop saying it. But … you pick your battles as a parent, and we’re pretty confident treating it indifferently will help it pass more quickly.

But for the time being, everything is coo-kah.

“How was your day at school?”

“My day was coo-kah.”

“Tell mum mum and pop where we went this weekend.”

“We went to coo-kah.”

It can be frustrating. Of course, now our youngest daughter is following her sister’s lead and saying it all the time, too. And she can’t even use it in context.

“Put your shirt on like we told you.”

“We went to coo-kah.”

She’s a genius.

Meanwhile, our oldest has suddenly developed a great interest in heavy topics like death (!) and religion and the afterlife. She just turned 4, by the way. Again, this is probably my fault. I have always thought it important to be honest with her on certain things rather than tiptoe around the issue, and not long ago she was grilling me about what happened to Annie’s parents and why they didn’t come to get Annie at the orphanage. I tried to skirt around it but eventually just told her the truth—they died.

My wife was horrified, but what was I going to do? Now our daughter will tell anyone who will listen that Annie’s parents are dead, emphasis on dead. I am just waiting for the call from school.

From a healthier standpoint, she’s always displayed a fascination with Jesus—like where He lives and why she can’t see Him—and heaven. It’s produced some heartwarming moments, like when we were leaving church that time and she yelled for Jesus to “have a good weekend!”

Well, it was bound to happen that this girl would manage to combine the divine with the ridiculous. On the way to church last weekend, from the back seat, she produced this gem:

“Mom, dad … can I say ‘coo-kah’ in heaven?”

It was asked with such profound sincerity that our response was only joy and laughter. Our laughter made her start laughing, which made our youngest start laughing, which prevented us from having to give an actual answer, which was good because I needed to go back and check what the Bible says.

Note: This column appears in the 8/29 issue of The Glendale Star and the 8/30 issue of the Peoria Times.