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Protector of the Alphabet

Maddie’s been enamored with the
alphabet for a few months now, and while I want to encourage this
fascination and so forth, her distraction when faced with what she
realizes are Letters and not just A Jumble of Lines is beginning to
wear a bit thin.

We have a motley collection of napkins in
my house – I save up all the fast-food napkins that come in
(not that we ever eat fast food . . .) and use them up first. So
the other day I was wiping Maddie’s mouth with a
Dunkin’ Donuts (honestly, no idea how that got through my
door) napkin when she screamed, “You!”

“Mommy what?!??” I said, honestly bewildered. Had I
stabbed her? Scrubbed her mouth too hard?

“U!” she said again, happily pointing to the
“u” on the napkin. We had to discuss every letter on
the napkin before she’d let me continue. And as if that
weren’t enough, she now has to check every napkin that
comes near her to make sure it’s not got Precious Letters on

This is simply a typical example of my strange child and her
happiness with the alphabet. In one of the more frustrating,
time-halting examples of such obsession, Maddie’s recently
become reunited with her old friend Cheerios. Just yesterday she
was sitting at her table happily eating them one by one when


Yes, my daughter realized that the cereal in her hand was an
“o”. Much too precious to eat. So Maddie brought it to
me to see and exclaim over and “set aside” for a
“special saving place”. Can you see where this is

I wish I’d had the video camera on when my daughter realized
that all Cheerios are “o”-shaped. Her poor
little crestfallen face as she surveyed her now-uneatable snack was
truly priceless. I spent ten minutes convincing her she could eat
the “o”s, which resulted in her new Cheerio eating

“O!” she cries as she holds up a Cheerio. She gazes at
it half adoringly, half critically. “Eat O!”
she’ll announce, then ceremoniously dump it in her mouth.
Yes, it’s a long snack time. And yes, it’s extended to
other foods as well; she spent all of last night’s dinner
declaring that her diced baby carrots looked like “P”s
or “D”s or even “C”s.

My favorite incident so far, though, has been the prime example of
her Alphabet love and innate bossiness colliding.

We’ve got alphabet foam blocks acting as the floor of our
kitchen; it was one of my babyproofing steps and she loves it so
much it’s simply stayed. When she first became interested in
letters, she’d point at a letter with a foot and say,
“Dis?” and I’d tell her the letter’s name.
As she got better at it, I’d say, “Maddie,
where’s the ‘C’?” and she’d look
ponderously at the floor, find the “C”, head over to it
and point triumphantly with her foot. So to say that she likes the
alphabet floor would not be wrong.

Last night as I was making dinner, Maddie came over and said,
“L!” while pointing where I was standing. Sure enough,
the “L” was right under my feet. “Yes,
that’s the ‘L’”, I said.

“No. Mama. Mama no stand L” Maddie clarified.
“Mama can’t stand on the ‘L’?” I
asked? “Nope.”

Trying to get dinner finished, I moved rather than argued. To the

“No. Mama. Mama no stand ‘N’” Maddie said.

I moved all around the stupid stove area, trying to find a safe
letter. Apparently, “P”, “D”, and
“Q” were also off limits. Maddie straddled her charges
protectively, trying to keep Mama at bay, while I tried to keep the
chili from burning.

We eventually reached a compromise – I could stand on the
letter block, as long as I didn’t stand on the letter itself.
Tomorrow on my to-do list: change out the letters around the stove
for numbers.

And then make sure I don’t teach her numbers.


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