Here’s a tip: Don’t play Hangman with a child who is learning to spell.
My 5-year-old has finally reached the age where she no longer causes outbursts during sacrament meeting (one hour of the Mormon church’s Sunday worship service). She is a good reader, and keeps herself busy with books and drawing. She even sings along to the hymns from time to time.
I’ve waited for this moment for a long time. In contrast to our 2-year-old who stands on the pew promptly at the halfway mark of the meeting and points angrily at the exit, our 5-year-old is a delight to sit next to. We’ve been basking in the relative ease of this particular child during this particular hour of the week.
Then I taught her how to play Hangman a few weeks ago.
I went first, and used easy words like “cat” and “dog.” She loved it, and now understanding the game, drew her own noose (what a morbid society we are to teach such games to our children), followed by four lines that represented letters I was supposed to guess.
It wasn’t long before my man was hanging, no life left in his poor stick-figure body any longer. “What’s the word?” I whispered, my pride wounded at not being able to guess a word with only four letters.
“Kitty,” she responded and proceeded to fill in the blanks with C E D Y.
“Right,” I said and promptly sent her to play another frustrating round with her dad.
Last week, I agreed to play again. The noose was drawn, four lines were carefully inked onto the paper. “A?” I asked. No dice. “E?” E filled in the last two blanks. I guessed the remaining letters to the words “free,” “flee,” and “tree” before I gave up and sent her again to her dad.
“H?” he asked. It went in the first spot. So this is what we had.
H blank E E
Suddenly, she realized she had made a mistake. “Oh!” she shout/whispered. “There’s another letter there.” And she added a line between the blank and the E, so we had:
H blank blank E E
Now intrigued, both my husband and I took turns guessing letters, our Hangwoman (this time) getting closer and closer to her death, when Lydia realized another mistake.
“Oh! The first E isn’t an E. It’s an S.”
After some messy adjusting, her word now read:
H blank S S E
Our poor stick-figure was dead in her grave by the time we asked, “Well, what is the word then?
“House!” Lydia responded and filled in the missing O.
H O S S E
She looked eagerly at me to play another round. My spelling sensibilities couldn’t take another second of the massacre of the English language — even if the killer of spelling was simply an innocent little 5-year-old who I love more than life itself.
Resolving to purchase a spelling book the next day, I pointed my eager 5-year-old toward her dad. I then traded one frustration for another and picked up the 2-year-old, waiting patiently for the halfway mark of the meeting when her toddler demands would inevitably force me to leave the room — happily leaving misspelled words in my wake.
(I did, indeed, use spell check on this post. Let’s hope it didn’t miss anything!)