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Mine, all mine

My efforts to raise a child free of selfishness are being met with catastrophic failure.

Although I’ve always doubted the authenticity of the anthropology, I remain charmed by the legends of Native American tribes that have something like 30 words for snow and none for words like mine.

I have about 15 distinct words for snow and after December 25 they all involve profanity.
Once Christmas has passed every snowman becomes abominable.

But it’s the lack of the word “mine,” legend or not, that appeals to me. I believe the more people use the word mine and its possessive derivatives, the greater their tendency to start troubles that lead to shooting wars.

“This oil is mine!”

“This water source is mine!”

“This gold mine is mine!”

So I’m trying to steer our 2 year old away from the world of greed and grab and into a world where sharing  is instinctual and the use of the word “mine” only leads to confusion. I want her to be like those proud Native American tribesmen and women who shared their harvest, their talents and all the rich glories of Mother Earth, at least until my caucasian ancestors came here and said, “America is mine!”

I knew going in that this would be difficult for reasons that have nothing to do with our materialistic society.

It’s because of the contentious makeup of Lucinda. Not only is she a classic example of a child who does the exact opposite of everything you tell her to do, she’s already mastered the good cop/bad cop routine for even the most innocuous conversation.

I’ve looked lovingly into her capuchino-colored eyes and gushed, “You are so beautiful!” She instantly turned python and hissed, “No, YOU’RE beautiful!” Clearly, to her it was the most stinging insult she could conjure.

I was playfully singing the great Pete Townshend/Who rock anthem, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and the sober little contrarian deflated all the assertive vigor from the lyric by replying, “We WILL get fooled again.”

So my efforts to impart any residual wisdom are already facing an uphill battle. I try to tell her about sharing and she just looks at me the way cows look at passing trains. The concept doesn’t take.

It doesn’t help that her older sister’s room is a virtual fortress defended by armies of Barbies and war-worthy Webkinz. Josie’s gone as far as putting up signs on her door with instructions about who and under what circumstances anyone is allowed to enter her room. It’s a document precisely designed to restrict her sibling from entering.

It’s court-worthy writ and, I’m sure, will be held up as legally binding the instant Lucinda learns to read.

Worse, all my instructions about sharing crumble whenever the poor kid reaches for any of her sister’s toys and is invariably met with, “No! That’s mine!”

The Barbies? “Mine!”

The Webkinz? “Mine!”

The crayons? “Mine!”

So it’s no surprise that Lucinda’s starting to ape her sister whenever I reach for things like an apple, my car keys or domestic beer from the family frig.

“Mine! Mine! Mine!”

And, honestly, I’m not one to talk. Try as I might, I’m still a possessive failure who frets when one of the girls starts monkeying around with my computer, my iPod, any of snazzy shirts, my watch, my golf clubs, my DVDs, my HDTV or any of the other shiny things no self-respecting Indian brave would have had inside his humble prairie teepee.

They’re just learning by the sad example set by their father.

The girls are mine.

All mine.

7 Comment count
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Good news and bad news

The bad news is that you've been duped. All that words-for-snow business is hooey (see excerpt and link below). The good news is, this means you can give the poor little one a break.   : )

from http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000405.html 

The story about Inuit (or Inuktitut, or Yup'ik, or more generally, Eskimo) words for snow is completely wrong. People say that speakers of these languages have 23, or 42, or 50, or 100 words for snow --- the numbers often seem to have been picked at random. The spread of the myth was tracked in a paper by Laura Martin (American Anthropologist 88 (1986), 418-423), and publicized more widely by a later humorous embroidering of the theme by G. K. Pullum (reprinted as chapter 19 of his 1991 book of essays The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax).

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In my haste ...

... to find that "words-for-snow" info, I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed your blog post.

Well crafted!

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Thought so!

Ah, so I was correct to be skeptical. Thanks for the proof! Just this weekend I was watching a John Wayne movie, "Hondo," and his character said the Apache had no word for lie.

I thought, "I bet that's a lie!"

Still, I'm charmed by the frauds.

Thanks for reading. I admire your posts and am flattered to have an astute wordsmith who cares on the case.


Chris R.

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Brave Lucinda

I just have one thing to say, Chris. “We WILL get fooled again?” My twin boys knew one word at the age of two. And it wasn't even a word. They made it up. And they SHARED it no less. That word? "Ya ya." And I don't mean "yeah, yeah." I mean "ya ya." So count your blessings, my friend. With her brains, Lucinda would be a worthy member of any tribe, native or not. 

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Ya! Ya!

In twin language, perhaps "Ya ya" carries much more profound meaning than you or I can comprehend. I mean E=MC2 doesn't sound like much to me, either.

Please share if they ever reveal that "ya ya" is some sophisticated recipe for peace in the Middle East or something.

And my money's still on you for the Literary Death Match. I'll be keeping tabs!

Good luck (and thanks for reading)!

Chris R.

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It's funny! That "mine!

It's funny! That "mine! mine! mine!" reminds me of the seagulls in the movie "Finding Nemo".

My three year old grandson objected to his 8 month old brother 'touching' his train set and tracks.  Last month when we were at the toy section of a store, he found a solution to the problem. He saw a small wooden four car train set and told me, "Gramma! Let's get THAT train for Josh. Then Josh has a train and I have a train and Josh won't touch MY train."

I bought the train. 

What do I know? I raised an only child.

According to Bill Cosby I was never a 'real' parent.


~ JoElle


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Nemo rules!

Hi JoElle,

I love Nemo! I What a great movie. And don't sell yourself short. We had an only child for six years before making a secondary procreation leap and it presents just as many minefields as raising two, in my book.

And I wish you'd have been my mom. My brother Eric got the train and still has it. It's been 30 years since he let me touch it.

Happy New Year!

Chris R.