The other night at dinner, Logan and his buddy were laughing at some TV show they’d seen where certain words were beeped out. They were both aware that the beeps were hiding “bad words.” They didn’t try to guess what words were being masked (duh, parents were present) but pretended that everyday conversation included beeps. At the wise old age of 8, Logan is becoming more aware that some words are off limits. Recently I overheard him telling a friend “Yeah, in this house we can say butt, stupid, and crap.” I simply hollered “Logan?” in my best stern mom voice and heard him quickly say “Oh, nevermind. I was just kidding.”
Jack’s language is still developing. Jack has two loves: balls and Elmo and most of his words relate to these two subjects. He plays with his train table and farm for a few minutes each day but then he grabs a ball, screams “Get that ball!” and takes off running. He isn’t 2 yet but can say “soccer” (although he pronounces it with a hard “K” so it’s a Russian pronunciation), basketball (another hard “K”), and baseball. We are working on him saying football. He currently says “butt-ball.” This seems cute initially but I’d like to remind you that we live in the south. Even during off season, football is everywhere; on billboards, restaurant televisions, sweatshirts, commercials, etc. Everywhere we go, Jack is suddenly inspired to shout “BUTT BALL! GET THAT BALL! GO BEARS!”
Jack’s butt ball is not my first experience with my kids embarrassing me with their language. When Logan was in kindergarten we got a call from the Assistant Principal about Logan’s language. You see, Logan had called a teacher “man boob.” I was mortified! While Trey and I neither one can deny the presence of any foul language in our home, we can report that “man boob” is not used regularly by either one of us. When we sat down to lecture Logan about the incident, he argued “but it’s funny?!” Maybe that’s where I went wrong? As I stated in a previous blog, I prayed specifically for a funny child. A kindergartener saying “man boob” wasn’t exactly what I meant in those prayers but that’s what I get for being too general.
Last year, as I tucked Logan into bed one night, he hugged my neck, kissed my cheek, and said sweetly “goodnight, b*t*h.” Apparently a kid at school told him “the b word” meant “your favorite girl.” I reeducated him but Trey LOVES teasing me with this new definition. I’m left wondering how many “favorite girls” Logan talked to before trying out this word on me!?
I, too, embarrassed my parents with my language from an early age. I loved ducks as a toddler. I know where you think this is going but surprisingly, I could say “duck.’ It was “quack” that gave me trouble. “Lauren, what does a duck say?” “f**k, f**k, f**k.” When my parents’ friends and family learned about my new baby trick, they would ask me about ducks all the time. I imagine my mom was quickly trying to introduce other animal sounds into my repertoire.
I was a rule follower as a kid. I was afraid that McGruff the Crime Dog would come arrest me if I so much as whispered a bad word. That dude was scary and who knows what was underneath that trench coat? (ASIDE: When I was a school based therapist, one of the rooms I used for counseling had two large McGruff puppets. One day between clients, one of the puppets fell off the shelf and onto the table I where I was sitting. I screamed…Creepy Crime Dog!) Once at dinner my younger brother, who was probably in kindergarten at the time, reported that there was a bad word written on the boys bathroom stall at school. My dad asked him what the word was and David proceeded to try and spell “S…H…(pause)” Clearly he didn’t know so I finished, “I…T…It was SH*T.” David gave me a shocked look and said “You’ve been in the boy’s bathroom!?” He assumed I’d learned the word in there because I never would have said that word otherwise. Rules! I wanted to shed my fear of breaking rules so badly when I was little. This desire is probably why I admired my cousin Brian so much. He was a rebel. He would say or do anything that came into his mind. (Often to his parents’ dismay.) At one family gathering the cousins were out playing ball in my Grandma’s yard and Brian let the cuss words fly. I was both shocked and inspired at the same time. He didn’t care that a grown up might here. He had no fears. My older cousin Sarah lectured him and suggested he use alternate phrases like “Oh my cow.” I don’t remember what happened next but I choose to believe that Brian walked off muttering a sailor’s poem. I admired that he felt free to express his thoughts and feelings without anxiety about the reaction.
I want my boys to be assertive with confidence and empathy. I hope that they can express themselves with a vocabulary that includes words with more than 4 letters but without fear of McGruff if something slips when they stub their toe. I also want Jack to stop screaming “BUTTBALL!” Is this too much to *#$@^%@#% ask?