I've had a potty mouth from a young age myself, and yes, I do place some of the blame on my parents. I can recall telling my mother that she had an R-rated mouth when I was in elementary school. Not that I blame her, of course. If I swear this much with one child, what on earth would I have done with triplets? Every other word out of my mouth would be a profanity. But the fact of the matter is, when you're frustrated (and let's be honest, when are you NOT frustrated as a parent?), an appropriately dropped F-bomb is just so satisfying.
A few weeks back, I was trying (as usual) to do way too many things at once. Generally I'm attempting to speak on the phone (and God forbid I have my headphones handy) whilst performing various other tasks - feeding Jack, changing a diaper, applying body lotion, etc. In this instance, Jack was in his crib playing while I was getting dressed, and when I tried to answer my ringing phone, it slipped right out of my hands (cursed lotion). You can hardly blame me for muttering a frustrated "dammit" while I retrieved the phone.
Now let me just say that "dammit" was a toned down version of my usual expletive choice - a compromise, if you will. Same goes for "crap" and "mother effer." I thought that by avoiding the truly heinous four-letter words, I was doing pretty well for myself. But what you have to understand is that the word "crap," while fairly benign coming from your own mouth, is not nearly as innocuous on the lips of your 22-month-old.
A few minutes later, I went to get Jack from his crib. He stood up on his tiptoes, reached out to me with his pudgy little arms, and said, rather firmly, "Dammins, dammins. Shit."
|Out of the mouths of babes...|
I was horrified. I don't even remember saying shit, but I'm afraid there was no one else around at the moment to blame. So I did the only thing I could do - I ignored it. I picked Jack up and took him downstairs, praying to all that is holy that Jack would simply forget.
But despite the fact that Jack can't seem to remember simple things, like not sticking his fingers in electric sockets, for example, he has clung to that choice phrase like a well-loved blankie. This morning, probably close to a month since the incident, Jack smiled his gap-toothed smile and said, "Dammins, dammins. Shit."
For a while I'd tried to tell myself he wasn't really saying those bad words. "Diamonds," I would correct him. "Shirt." But I've heard Jack say both of those words in their appropriate context (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star uses the word "diamond," in case you were wondering; I haven't been quizzing Jack on his knowledge of precious gems just yet), and no one had said a thing about stars or clothing this morning. It's just a fun little expression to him now, like "ABCD," or "Minky, come." I'm bracing myself for the day when his preschool calls to tell me what little JackJack said on the playground.
And it's not just swear words you have to be careful with as a parent. Oh no, you have to worry about words like "mucus" and "nipple," too. Because toddlers are like parrots. They will repeat anything you say, wherever and whenever they feel like it, polite company be damned. One must be constantly on guard. It's easy to slip, I know. Someone cuts you off on the freeway and you want nothing more than to raise your fist in the air and tell him where he can shove it, but there are no freebies in this game, my friend. One strike and you're out.
I've accumulated a couple of somewhat satisfying phrases I can use in place of my beloved swear words, including "son of a duck," "son of a mother" (pretty much putting "son of a" in front of anything works; you can even use it on its own), "schmidt," and "jack-hole." But let's be honest, nothing comes close to the real deal, and the next time I stub my toe or run into the coffee table, I can't guarantee what's going to come out of my mouth.
So from now on, if anyone asks, we've been learning about beavers and mules around here. No bullpucky.