Best advice to you? Talk wordy to me

Word nerd. Grammar geek. Vocabulary vigilante. Take your pick. They've all applied to me since, well, forever.

As a toddler, my parents regularly found me cuddling Golden Books instead of stuffed animals when they peeked into my room at night. "Reading Rainbow" was must-see TV and had me begging for a library visit as soon as the credits rolled. I have a particularly vivid recollection of filling a sketchpad with hot neon scribbles (hey, it was the '80s!) and claiming I was writing my memoirs.

As I grew, my love of language followed suit. I'd often jump right out of my cleats and leotards after practice and into a new book or fresh journal. Merriam-Webster was consulted ASAP when I encountered unfamiliar terms, followed by questionable attempts to incorporate said verbiage into my vernacular. I genuinely liked studying for the SAT verbal section. Word-a-day calendars mingled with the legion of PEZ dispensers and Funkos dotting my desktops. I volunteered to write this column in my free time. You get the idea.

Finding my voice - both spoken and printed - helped me become who I am today. I love witnessing how the right turn of phrase can alter a particular situation, and I value thoughtful conversation above anything material. When my husband and I decided to start a family, the aspect of parenthood I was most excited about was communicating with the tiny humans we created. Yes, getting on the same page took time (the raspberries were cute, the 3 a.m. screaming was not) but repartee with my kids is now something I can't live without.

I'm trying to instill the idea that words have weight the best way I know how: constantly. Plowing through 40+ board books before noon is a very real possibility and, not surprisingly, HPL is our happy place. (Our checkout list is ever growing, now that my littles march in and ask for librarian recommendations.) Joining Guess Who? and Connect 4 as a favorite game is word slap, where the boys grab spatulas and wail on the flashcards I call out. I'm fairly certain the appeal is vocabulary not violence, but I've been wrong before.

I'm not claiming the right words come easily; truthfully, the task makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes. But with the occasional frustration, yelling and, admittedly, cursing comes growth - and it's downright magical. Observing my 5-year-old take pause and accurately articulate his feelings? My heart swells. Hearing my 3-year-old declare dinner (his favorite meal, requested repeatedly) as one step above garbage? Guess I still have some work to do. But I admire his flair.

He must get it from his mama.

- Lex Silberberg of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].