In the maelstrom that is two children asking questions at the same time, the washing machine running, the dinner cooking (but still needing some attention), sometimes words emerge that go WAY back.

Sometimes they come out at bedtime, when the noise level has gone down, and there’s a slight chance that you can hear your own thoughts.

Sometimes¬†there’s a phrase that resonated many years ago, has almost been forgotten – then saw its chance and jumped out of your mouth again.


Mini has a particular bedtime routine just now, which includes a song I make up as I go along. Sometimes I need a few rhymes to help it along.

The other night I was singing it and needed a rhyme for ‘legs’. Lo and behold, what should come to mind but ‘toothypegs’ – the kind of thing that no doubt my mother said to me when I was at a much more tender age.

Toothypegs brought on some giggles, and now it has become part of the bag of words and phrases that get repeated over and over – while playing, while walking along, while waiting for the bus.

Some time back, it was ‘in the wars’ – and you can read more about being in the wars in a previous post. (I still rather like ‘in the wars’. It makes a random bump and cry afterwards feel much more heroic.)


It seems to me that it is very difficult to parent afresh. You can try fancy new routines – or new books – or new ways of conveying suspicious ingredients into your little charges’ mouths.

Every now and then, though, the ghost of parental sayings past comes floating by.

At those¬†points, you are generally beyond stringing a sentence together, let alone summoning enough patience for the latest ‘is – is not – IS – IS NOT’ contest.

And so a word makes its way from your childhood vocabulary into theirs. It’s quite sweet really, but a bit disconcerting when you had done perfectly well without saying it, or thinking about it, for over twenty years.

Maybe it’s the verbal equivalent of ‘phone a friend’ from TV quiz shows.

You’ve used up logic, you’ve uttered several of those ‘remove that toy crocodile from your brother’s armpit before I do X’ phrases that you never realised existed before.

Just as you scrape the bottom of the linguistic barrel, and think you might as well go back to grunts – the kids do, don’t they? – you get the little bit of help you need.

And it sums up all that it needs to – because it was part of forming your world when you grew up.

And now it becomes part of theirs too.

Toothypegs. There, you’re welcome. Just don’t forget to brush yours tonight.