Jenna von Oy’s Blog: Mom’s the Word

07/26/2013 at 11:00 AM ET

Celebrity blogger Jenna von Oy is a new mama!

Best known for her roles as Six on Blossom and Stevie on The Parkers, von Oy is also a musician who has released two albums and is set to publish a book, The Betweeners.

von Oy, 36, wed Brad Bratcher on Oct. 10, 2010, and resides in Nashville with her husband and five dogs.

They welcomed their first child, daughter Gray Audrey, in May 2012. She is now 14 months old.

You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @JennavonOy, as well as posting on her weekly blog, The Cradle Chronicles.

In her latest blog, von Oy explores the various ways words affect us (and our parenting).

Jenna von Oy Blog Gray Already 14 monthsThe Cradle Chronicles

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Words. We eat, sleep, and breathe them. According to a few random statistics I found online, the average person says approximately 16,000 of them a day. Some folks, like a certain former speed-talking best friend I played in the 90′s, are probably spitting out significantly more than that. No surprise here, I’ve been known to verbalize my share of them on a personal level too!

At times, I’ve certainly been guilty of saying too much, and every now and again (though exceedingly rare), I’ve also been guilty of not saying enough. There are instances in my life when the words “I’m sorry” didn’t come as soon as they should have, or the slamming of a door has spoken more loudly than the argument that preceded it.

I grew up working in a career based on words that, when communicated in just the right manner or context, inspire laughter. In the absence of words, this blog you’re reading wouldn’t exist, critics would be out of a job, and you wouldn’t spend hours obsessively playing Words With Friends on your iPhone.

In fact, if we get down to brass tacks, all of our relationships, work, play, and family lives are predicated on words, aren’t they? Without them, our daily routines would be as unstructured as streets without stop signs or Kindergarten classrooms without teachers (I shudder at the thought!).

Words can incite a meeting of the minds or they can be the burden we carry. But whether we are creatures of few words or of many, our lives revolve around letters that have been strung together and assigned meaning. And sometimes that’s a bizarre concept to consider.

You’re Speaking My Language:

Curiously, nothing has made me contemplate words and their significance more than parenting a one-year-old. Because, let’s be honest, a one-year-old can comprehend far more than he or she can actually articulate.

At 14 months, Gray has arrived at a (permanent?) phase where her mouth takes off running as soon as her eyes open in the morning. She is fluent in Toddler-ese now, a combination of babbling, wild gesticulation, and concrete word fragments. It is a language I may never completely conquer.

Of course, Miss Gray is confident all of her observations should be understood and indulged, and she holds entire conversations as such. She demonstrates visible frustration when I’m slow to follow her train of thought, or — God Forbid — when I ask her to repeat herself.

I sympathize. No one is fond of being misunderstood, myself included! I’m doing my absolute best to provide her with an open forum for expression, whether I can interpret it or not, though sometimes it’s tough to strike a balance. I want to help her learn the proper pronunciation and name for objects, while simultaneously encouraging and celebrating her communication.

The latter is crucial to me, even when her attempt is garbled and indecipherable. I had a lisp when I was in elementary school, so I’m keenly aware of the ways in which speaking can injure a child’s pride. But my girl is full-speed ahead with her dialogue mastery, which is phenomenal to hear.

I savor the sound of her cadence, and revel in the ebb and flow of her speech patterns. They move melodically, even when the content is unintelligible. I watch as she tests each syllable on her tongue and weighs its meaning.

I’ve noticed that she chooses her words carefully, and each time a new one is voiced, I beam with devoted parental pride and joy … Yes, even when the word is as glamorous as “Elmo” or “potty.”

Jenna von Oy Blog Gray OuchThe Cradle Chronicles

Actions Speak Louder Than Words:

I’m discovering there are some scary words in my every day vocabulary now, which I’d taken for granted before. Little adjectives like “hot” and “sharp” have taken on new connotations. They represent concepts that require hands-on experience before truly resonating with children, abstract ideas that cannot always be appreciated until it’s too late. How can a child fully recognize the danger of a word they don’t yet grasp?

When I was a bit older than my daughter, I got severely burned. My mom had invited a friend over for coffee and dessert, and the woman was sitting at our dining room table while my mother prepared everything in the kitchen. I was familiar with the fact that the terms “hot” and “coffee” were inextricably linked, as my parents had drilled that notion into me until they sounded like broken records. But I was being a nosy little social butterfly, and wanted to see what was on top of the table above me.

As my mom set a saucer full of scalding liquid down in front of her companion, I decided to grab the tablecloth and use it to pull myself into a standing position. Her friend was not anticipating the sudden movement, and her cup of coffee came tumbling down on top of me. Needless to say, I finally understood what “hot” really meant.

To this day, when I have any sort of suntan on my arms, I can still see the scars that resulted from that incident. Now, to be clear, neither my mom nor her friend did anything wrong in that scenario. No one was neglecting to watch me, nor were they engaged in some kind of hazardous activity with a baby in the room. The reality is, I pulled the coffee down on top of myself before either of them could stop me. Accidents happen.

As a parent, one of my biggest fears is that something similar will occur, that my reaction time won’t always match my desire to keep my daughter out of harm’s way … And therein lies the trouble. But since I can’t do much beyond trying my best to preemptively teach Gray all of those small words with mammoth meaning, I resort to instructional colloquialisms that have become persistent fixtures in my parenting vocabulary, such as “Be careful” and “Don’t touch that.”

I’d put those slogans on a neon sign, which I’d happily mount on my forehead, if it could save my daughter from learning the hard way.

Oops… She Said It Again

“Uh-Oh.” I’ve heard those words uttered so many times this month, I’ve lost count. That exclamation seems to be Gray’s latest phrase craze, and she enjoys using it whether it fits the situation or not. Who needs “please” and “thank you,” for example, when you have something as eloquent as “Uh oh?”

My little girl shrugs her shoulders, raises her eyebrows in disbelief, and throws her palms up in a questioning motion as if she has no clue what has just transpired. I’ve dropped my Curious George book on the floor and trampled it? “Uh Oh.” I’ve purposely hurled my pacifier across the room? “Uh Oh.” The dog ate my Cheerios because I politely handed them over? I’ve stolen Mommy’s iPhone and somehow managed to dial a random contact in Europe, via the voice control that even Mommy doesn’t know how to initiate?

You get the idea.

Word To Your Mother (Or From Your Mother, As The Case May Be):

A year into parenting, I’m already starting to sound like my mother. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing, but I’m slightly befuddled that it has happened so early on in my mommy adventures. I thought I could reserve that sort of commentary for some future road trip, when I’d suddenly find myself blurting out, “Don’t forget to go to the bathroom before we leave!” or “Stop kicking my seat!”

But it turns out there are other classics that have begun to make an appearance as of late. I’ve even come dangerously close to asking, “Do you need a time out?” once or twice already. Heaven help me. In the past few weeks, I have heard the following commands escape my lips:

“Please don’t run in the house” — Emphatically stated as my daughter careens around corners, pushing her newly-discovered mobility skills to the limit. I cringe as she beelines for the kitchen, knowing what comes next … splashing in the doggie water bowl. You think a Six Flags water park is wild? Try being in our kitchen when she wades in that thing.

“Food is not for throwing” — Typically used in conjunction with “Please don’t feed the dogs.” This is probably self-explanatory. Let’s just say my Jackson Pollock protégé also enjoys painting the floor with her strawberries from time to time, much to the satisfaction of our five, salivating, vacuum-impersonating pups.

There’s clearly no need for the “Five-second Rule” in our house. You know how most parents have to remind their children to share more with others? Well, sometimes we have to remind ours to share a bit less.

“No jumping on the bed” — Typically said at an hour I try to reserve for sleeping, and in a tone that signifies I’m rapidly approaching my proverbial last straw. This statement is often interchangeable with “Please sit down” and “It’s definitely bedtime for Gray.”

“Ouch!” … And Other Four-letter Words:

I do my best to curb my cussing enthusiasm. I swear I do. But it is becoming more and more apparent that there’s no room for error on my part. Gray has begun repeating things, and it’s going to get me into trouble at some point soon; the writing is on the wall.

I have nightmares of my sweet baby going to school and saying something that sends ME to the principal’s office. It will be one of those epic motherhood fails that I’ll laugh about when Gray is 20, but which will turn me a thousand shades of embarrassed in that moment.

I’ve never been terribly good at biting my tongue, so knowing there are young ears around that hang on my every word is a serious lesson in exercising restraint. That said, my daughter seems to think “ouch” is the most blasphemous word in the dictionary at this point in her fledgling life.

I stubbed my toe the other day, caught myself before casting out a flurry of profanity, and managed to mutter “ouch” instead of something worse. My daughter immediately began crying. Thinking I’d hurt her in the process, I asked where Mommy should “kiss it and make it better.” She shook her head like I’d lost my mind.

A few days later, I bumped my hip into our dining room table (are you getting the feeling I’m uncoordinated?). Once again, I grunted the word “ouch” through gritted teeth; Gray promptly wailed.

I was beginning to sense a theme. Sure enough, Gray cries whenever she thinks I’ve been hurt, which is incredibly endearing. Nonetheless, it isn’t fair to upset her every time I do something clumsy… Which is, apparently, quite often.

Consequently, “ouch” has been filed away into the dirty word category, to be retrieved someday when my daughter’s empathetic spirit isn’t quite so sensitive.

Jenna von Oy Blog Gray LoveThe Cradle Chronicles

Love Makes The Word Go ‘Round:

Of all the words in the English language, I endeavor to say these three to my daughter more than any other: “I love you.” I know some folks feel that offering that phrase “too frequently” renders it less poignant, but I just don’t think it can be said enough… especially to a child.

I’m a big believer in professing it as often as possible, as long as you mean it every single time it leaves your lips. I treasure the fact that my parents have always used those words with me unconditionally and unapologetically, so I brought that way of thinking into my marriage and my parenting.

I know that, one day soon, I will hear my daughter echo my “I love you.” For now, however, I’m content knowing it’s a phrase that doesn’t need to be spoken aloud, in order for my heart to hear it.

I guess my point in all of this (I promise I have one!) is that words can be your poison or your antidote, especially where parenting is concerned. I try to use them wisely, but I’m not perfect. When all else fails, I strive to remember what Philip Larkin once said, “Silence, too, is eloquent.”

In honor of my lengthy ode to words this month, and since I love hearing from all of you, I thought I’d pose the following question: What is the funniest word or statement that has ever come out of your child’s mouth? (Let’s try to remain as PC as possible here, so the good folks at PEOPLE.com don’t have to audit our responses!)

Until next time…

– Jenna von Oy

P.S. Please don’t forget to subscribe to my weekly blog at www.cradlechronicles.com!

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Showing 23 comments

kids are funny on

my youngest daughter on her first plane ride was sitting in her seat coloring as we prepared for take off. As the plane puts the pedal to the metal for take off my daughter starts screaming “im gonna fall out, im gonna fall out” we still laugh about that and she is 16 years old!! Love your blogs Jenna!!

Heidi F on

When my daughter, Alyssa, was a precocious 4 year-old. I was watching Oprah one day when the word “sex” was mentioned before I could turn the channel. She, of course, asked me what that meant, and I quickly (cowardly?) responded that the word “sex” meant kissing. So later that week we are in the theater watching what would turn into her obsession movie, “Beauty and the Beast,” and the Beast starting planting one on the beautiful Belle. Of course, my little Ally Bree yells out very loudly, “Are they having sex?”

I think maybe I crawled under the sticky theater seats when several enraged mothers turned to stare me down…lol!

My precocious girl is now a lovely recent bride of 25, and mom LOVES to remind her (& others!) of this funny story…

Mandy on

I love your blog. Our daughter’s are the same age, so I am going through everything with you. You & your baby are both beautiful & it sounds like you are an amazing mom.

tara on

My niece was about 2.5 years old, and very loudly at the beach one day asked “What is that man doing wearing his underwear at the beach?!?” the man was wearing a speedo, lol

Mommyof2 on

You absolutely can teach your daughter abstract concepts. Our oven is low to the ground (as opposed to on the wall) and I was constantly afraid that my son would somehow hurt himself while I was cooking. So, I took his hand one day, told him the oven was hot, and held it just far enough in that he could feel the heat without hurting himself. Then I closed it and put his hand on the outside, where it was just warm to the tough. He totally gets it. Same thing with sharp. Just use a butter knife, for instance, and show her how a knife can cut a banana. Let her touch the edge and test it out. Tell her that some are even sharper and can cut skin. She’ll get it.

Sara on

We were camping with my 3 year old son earlier this year in a friend’s trailer. We had laid him down for a nap in his bed & were playing cards in the next room with our friends. DS was doing everything he could to get some attention & make us come back in to him. Finally at one point he calls out warningly “I’m making bad decisions!”. We all were dying of laughter at that one.

Karen on

Since your daughter clearly associates the word Ouch with something very bad, that’s also the best way to teach her the concept of Hot or Sharp. “Don’t touch that – it’s hot. Ouch!”

I wouldn’t worry about not saying Ouch. It’s good that she’s empathetic. Just explain, “ooo – that hurt. But it’s better now. Mommy’s OK.” After all, she needs to learn calming down skills too.

As for learning bad words, you have much worse in store. Although I have stories of my own kids (now 11 and 7) my brother’s 2 year old just took the top spot. He was at a monkey sanctuary in Holland, and got a little bite from one of them. (Don’t ask.) My brother was so annoyed that he muttered angrily, “F*cking monkey!” Fast forward a few days, they are looking at an animal book. He names each animal he sees. “Elephant. Dog. Lion. F*cking monkey.” A couple days later, Raiders of the Lost Ark is on TV in the background. Along comes the little monkey when they are visiting Salah. “Oooo – f*cking monkey!” Heh heh.

shana on

The Spring of my son’s kindergarten year I had breast augmentation. I had it done on a Friday and was out of commission until work the following Monday telling our son I was sick with the flu. On Wednesday that week I was called to the school. My son told everyone to be germ free or mommy will get new boobies. This was thanks to my baby brother being humorous. My son was terrified of the flu and germs for years. Little ears have big picture…no words spoken are more true. Your family has many wonderful laughs ahead.

Laura on

When my oldest son was about three, he threatened to “harvest [me] like corn and grind [me] into flour!”

-Laura
letterstoauntkay.blogspot.com

Chrystal on

One day when my oldest was 3 years old, my ex came in after a bad day and just started going off about it. After a while he calmed down and apologized for yelling. As he finished, she looked up at him with her hands on her hips and said,”You know if you’d be nice you wouldn’t have to be sorry”. She then just turned and left him standing there with his mouth hanging open and very little to say.

Jenn on

I love reading your blogs – they are so articulate and relateable and you sound like an awesone Mom !! My funniest statement from my kids is below.

My kids babysitter was nursing and told them that the milk was “booby juice” well my son was 6 at the time and we were at a restaurant and got talking to a man sitting by himself and the man asked him what drinks he liked and my son said chocolate milk” and then proceeded to ask the man if he liked “booby juice”. I thought the man was going to die he was so embarrassed, I just about spit my dinner across the table !! An explanation was definately in order after that question !!

Sandra on

These stories are cracking me up—Boobie Juice, LOL

Terra M on

When my son was 6 we were in the car one day when a talk radio show was discussing the Bunny Ranch. He was apparently paying closer attention than I was as it was discussed for a few minutes before I realized what was being said. I turned the station and thought that ended the matter.

Fast forward a few hours later till we are in line at the home improvement store and my son starts asking for a bunny rabbit. I tell him no but he keeps asking; getting louder with each request. Finally he screams “I want to go to the bunny ranch!” All the guys in earshot bust out laughing. I was horrified.

Lesson learned!

Tyler's Mom on

Jenna, I love reading your blogs. They articulate everything I feel about motherhood. My son just turned two and I too say I love you to him all of the time. My husband used to laugh at it a little, saying how many times can you tell him that? But now it has paid off because my husband melts when my son now repeats it back to everyone but it sounds more like “iiioooooouuuuu” because he hasn’t quite mastered breaking up the three words.

The funnies thing my son has said so far is a new thing- We were on vacation and I’m a girl who loves her sleep so as I tried to sleep in my son would pull back the sheets and say “Fack up, momma, fack up” For some reason he can’t pronounce w’s yet. It sounds so cute to hear my little baby boy sound like he has a potty mouth but he has no idea what my husband and I are laughing at!!

Tammy on

My son was about 2 1/2 years old and I was getting the baby ready to go out, and I told him to get his shoes so Mommy could help him put them on. He came up to me and with the PROUDEST smile on his face said “Mommy, I did by myself.” I looked at him, looked at his feet, smiled and said, “Good job honey, but you have them on the wrong feet.” He looked down at his feet, then back up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “But dey the onwee feet I have.” I started laughing so hard…kinda hard to explain to a 2 1/2 year old what you meant, but he got it, eventually.

SMiaVS on

Have you considered trying some sign language while she’s learning to communicate more fluently? (Real ASL, please. There’s no sense in teaching a kid baby signs that they can’t use later.) When I was a teenager, I babysat for a neighbor’s kids. She worked as an interpreter for the deaf, and taught her kids sign language (in addition to her native Spanish) from the beginning. At around six months her son could tell me he was hungry, thirsty, etc. It saved him SO much frustration. I never saw the kid have a temper tantrum. You could easily look up a couple dozen basic signs on the internet and use them when speaking to her. It might cut down on frustration. (Oh, and statistically, kids who sign learn to talk FASTER than kids who don’t, so you don’t have to worry about speech delays.) My neighbor suggested ‘hungry,’ ‘thirsty,’ ‘wet,’ ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ ‘hurt’ and the names for basic body parts to start with….

Good luck with toddlerhood. Gray’s adorable.

Amanda on

That little girl is really cute. She’s got very fair skin just like her mom.

Superren85 on

My family will never forget my 3 year old nephew mutter at the dinner table on Easter Sunday the “F bomb” when he dropped a piece of food on the floor. It is hard to keep a straight face and continue eating. I was told to promptly leave the table if I couldn’t control myself. Needless to say, I left the table as I howled with laughter in the other room!

Monica on

Miss Gray is adorable…My baby boy was also born May 2012…You made me laugh, and while he sleeps, I am trying not to be too loud otherwise the conversation starts. We use sign language, created by myself and some from the ASL however the only one I’ve seen him use the most is the “yum yum” food time while drawing his fingers to his mouth. Apple has been a toughy but I’ve heard him practice saying it. I have noticed my baby likes my eyes, since I taught him his parts he points at my eyes and say “eye” so I go along with it and take the opportunity to continue on all other parts of his face and body.

Good Luck with this amazing phase. I don’t know where you find the time for blogging everyday…Great job!

Charli on

That is one cute baby.

Mary Ann on

When my daughter was three and my newborn son was first brought home from the hospital, she was a dutiful big sister and helped me throughout the day, asking countless questions about the baby.

Inevitably, while I was changing his diaper, she was right at my side and pointed to him and asked, “What’s THAT??” I wanted her to learn all the correct terms, so I matter of fact told her it was his penis. All men and boys have a penis. It is how they go to the bathroom. Women don’t need a penis, but all men have one. She then asked, does Daddy have a penis?” “yes,” I said. “Does Grandpa have a penis?”…”yes”.

I then changed the subject and the topic of a penis was well forgotten. I THOUGHT.

A week later, I was pushing a grocery cart with my daughter in the basket, through the check out aisle in the grocery store. As I finished loading my goods unto the conveyor belt, she loudly leaned over to the high school boy bagging my groceries, pointed at him, and loudly asked, “Do YOU have a penis??”

The moral of the story is that no matter how old, or young, your child WILL remember just about everything you say :)

Carolynn Varner on

I think her baby is so adorable.

Mechelle on

My grandfather was known for calling people a bastard while driving, he pronounced it bastid…when my daughter was three years old, we were walking through the airport and her little backpack kept falling off of her shoulder. She announced in a very loud and angry voice, “THIS BASTID OF A BAG WON’T STAY ON MY SHOULDER!! I know it was wrong to laugh, but it slipped out before I could help it…seems like it slipped out of a lot of people before thinking. It was hilarious.

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