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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This Is a Recipe For Disaster

Apparently, I say that. A lot, because the X-Man has started using it pretty often, usually while holding a rock in his hand, facing a window and laughing maniacally. Maybe it'll be Baby J's first full sentence, kind of like my sister M's first sentence, "Muhna muhnat." Poor thing, she was the third child and was always being told, "Wait a minute!"

Those are mild in comparison to some of things my children have heard and unfortunately repeated. My husband thinks it's wonderful that children can't talk for a while, because it gives parents a chance to stop cussing like sailors. We have to be careful, though, because they remember things they heard before they could speak. When O, our oldest son, was less than a year old, we took him to the Blue Cactus, our favorite Korean Tex/Mex restaurant. Lloyd, the proprietor, gave O his very first full serving of ice cream. O had had bites here and there, but never a whole entire cup to himself. He couldn't talk intelligibly at the time, but his face said it all; he was living his wildest dreams. Nearly a year later, when he was speaking more clearly, we walked by the Cactus and he pointed and yelled, "Ah-neem! Ah-neem!" It had been months since the ice cream and he had been thinking about it ever since. Of course, getting an entire cup of ice cream was probably the biggest thing that had ever happened to him, but still.

I had cleaned up my language by the time he was two years old. In the middle of the hot, hot summer, our car's air conditioning died. The morning we decided to take it in to be fixed, I woke up to find that one of the tires had gone flat. And we were almost out of gas, which could have been avoided if I paid attention at all to stuff like that, but that's neither here nor there. We drove very slowly (because of the flat) to the closest mechanic, with the windows rolled down so we wouldn't suffocate. Sweet little O was such a trouper, strapped into his carseat and sweating buckets. We pulled in to the mechanic's and I asked if they could fix the air and fill the tire. Alas, they could not fix the tire. As I mentioned before, we were almost out of gas. There was no gas station between the mechanic and the tire place; I had visions of being stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, no gas and a sweaty toddler. As we pulled away, O said in a resigned and world weary voice, "Dammit."

"Yes," I replied, "That's right."

I was actually impressed at his mature understanding of the word, and he wasn't in school yet, so it wasn't a big deal. After all, if a child says a cuss word and no authority figure hears it, did the kid really say it? I think not.

If you find yourself unable to clean up your potty mouth, there are ways to deal with it other than praising them for their proper usage of the word. You can blame it on speech problems. When O was first talking, he called "football", "sh*tball." And some kids drop "r's" in the middle of words, so they might be trying to say shirt.

"Hahaha," you laugh nervously, " You want your shirt, sweetheart?"

"SH*T!," your little darling will correct you.

"Yes, sweetheart! Mommy will get your shirt, right now!"

You won't be fooling anyone, by the way, but at least it'll look like you're trying.

Ideally, you can put your spin on the word as soon as they hear it. My friend M used to babysit a sweet little boy who, as far as I know, turned out fine. Sometimes, he would hang out with us, which was good practice for when we had children of our own. Why his parents were okay with this, I will never know. That's not true. I do know. I am usually so desperate for a break that, as long as I feel that my kids will be safe from real harm, I'll leave them with anyone that seems nice. If they come home with a couple of tattoos, so be it. Anyhow, M and our friend T were in the car one day with her young charge, who was probably two or three years old. Out of habit, T yelled, "STUPID F**K!" when someone pulled in front of her. Immediately, M and T realized the mistake. Well, maybe not immediately, but once the toddler started singing, "Stupid f**k! Stupid f**k!," they knew they had a problem.

"That's right! Stupid TRUCK!!! Hahaha!"

"Whoo-wee, those silly, silly TRUCKS!"

As far as I know, it worked, because his parents never mentioned the incident. It may have been that they were afraid he had gotten it from them. They probably blamed it on my friend anyway. That's another technique: Blame it on someone else. A sitter isn't the perfect choice, because the fact that you leave your kids with people who cuss makes you look like a slack parent. Blaming it on an aunt or uncle makes your family seem cheap. Ideally, you have a pistol of a great grandma to blame. Nobody gets mad at spunky old ladies and you'll be praised for bringing joy to their lives by letting them spend time with your children. If you live in a big city, blame it on the homeless guy outside of your building.

This one is kind of hard to pull off, but you can always claim to be so liberal that you encourage your children to swear. I don't recommend it though, because you can't do the whole Santa thing if you claim to be that intellectual. And you have to let your kid start smoking a pipe when he (or she!) is twelve. And you have to let your kids come to all your parties, where they'll annoy the adults by wanting to talk to them as equals. Do you really want to hear, "Mom, my English teacher is so f**king puerile!" from your seventh grader? You do? Well, okay then.

You can always homeschool. Then you won't have to worry about the kids getting in trouble at school for cussing. The downside is that, when they turn into potty mouths, people will blame it all on you. I know it's not fair, but that's the way it is. The other downside is, you have to homeschool. Is it really worth it, just to keep them from getting in trouble for cussing? And most homeschoolers are around other people a lot, so you might get busted anyway, unless you limit yourself to contact with other really liberal homeschoolers.

Ultimately, all you can do is laugh about it, although not in front of them. Now that you are an adult, you have to pretend to be offended. At the very least, you have to explain to them that other people might be offended. You can also do what I do: Beg my kids to be nice so I don't look like a horrible mother. Sometimes it even works.

Namasté, y'all!

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