What is a Wookah?

(Celebrating a Child with "Voice")

M., when you were two and a half, we bought two identical goldfish which we placed in a small plastic fishbowl that sat in the middle of the kitchen table. One fish you named Mommy and the other, Daddy. Of course, as soon as they began to swim around, it was impossible to know which was which. One day (a few months later) we came home from the grocery store only to find one fish floating belly up at the top of the tank.

"Soooo...," I said, dipping my hand into the tank to scoop up the dead fish, "Who's left?"

"Mommy," you said with certainty.

"What?" I said. I looked at the fish again to see if it had any any identifying marks. "How do you know it's not Daddy?"

"I know," you said. "It's Mommy."

It was around this time that I first noticed you were a Wookah. What is a Wookah? You have asked me many times, but my answers have always been incomplete.

First let me tell you what a Wookah is not, just so there is no confusion. A Wookah is not a Wookie, which we all remember to be a large, but friendly beast from the Star War movies. While sometimes you make the same noise as a Wookie, particularly when doing your homework, you are nothing at all like a Wookie.

What then is a Wookah? First of all, a Wookah is a child whose knowledge of the world belies their age. Take this example:

When you were one and a half years old you were walking down a street in Northhampton. We were visiting your sister, C., at college. It was nighttime. You looked across the street at a storefront sign, and you said "ice cream." "What?" I said, shocked. I looked for a picture of an ice cream cone on the store front. I looked for a person carrying an ice-cream cone on the street. Something that might have given you a clue. I could find neither. Only the pink and blue fluorescent letters spelling "ice cream."

Typical of Wookah behavior, the sign on the store next door said "Dry Cleaning," but you didn't read that.

Or how about this example:

One day, we were discussing the concept of heaven, and you said:

"Heaven is the attic of the world."


"Heaven is the attic of the world." Hmmm. Let's think about that. It's above the world, and old things are stored there, things that evoke memory. One can imagine boxes, rafters and dust--hardly the romantic image of movies. Good metaphor. How old were you when you made this observation? Not quite three. Obviously a Wookah.

Wookahs tend toward skepticism. Some, of course, will see this as a fault. Wookahs are bored by Mr. Rogers, Barbie and Ken dolls, and trite discussions of family values. Ms. Y., your first grade teacher, once took me aside to tell me what you had said when the class, on a field trip, happened upon preparations for a Christmas festival. "They care more about decorating than they do about people's needs," you told her. As you can see, a Wookah will scramble up Kohlberg's Moral Development Scale as if it were a jungle gym.

Outspokenness and self confidence are certainly some of a Wookah's most notable traits. All of my previous examples suggest this, so I need not offer more proof. Suffice it to say, one always know where a Wookah stands.

Finally, the sine qua non of a Wookah is that they have an irreverent relationship with their father. Mr. J., your second grade teacher, asked me a few weeks ago whether I remembered what you used to call me. "The idiot," he said, laughing. You still call me that. Wookahs push the hair on the top of their father's head around and casually say: "Hmm, the bald spot looks a little bigger today than it looked yesterday." And of course, fathers of Wookahs say, when they kiss their Wookah good night: "I hate you, pup." And Wookahs reply: "I hate you, Dad." For Wookahs know all about subtext and irony.

But what happens to Wookahs when they get older, when they become teenagers? Nothing! Nothing changes! They're still Wookahs. Why would they change? If they rebelled they'd start watching Mr. Rogers. And how does one bless a Wookah? This stumps me since blessing a Wookah is much like waxing a car that's still sitting on the showroom floor. There's simply a limit to how much something or someone can shine. But I can say this: every day I ask myself, how'd I ever get so lucky as to have a genuine Wookah. For most fathers can only hope to be as fortunate as that.

About the author: Dr. Grossman is a clinical psychologist and author of the Voicelessness and Emotional Survival web site.

next: Voicelessness: The Depressed Teenager

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 11). What is a Wookah?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 29, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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