With every milestone a child reaches, there are joys to look forward to as well as fears to dread. When a child begins walking, a mother will look forward to a whole new world of activities they can do together. She will also dread skinned knees and searching for her child who has wandered off in Target. When a child loses her first tooth, a mother will look forward to spinning tales of the Tooth Fairy and seeing the excitement when her child wakes up to a dollar under her pillow and “fairy dust” on the floor. She will also dread the future payments to the orthodontist when her child’s permanent teeth come in crooked right off the bat (this one is hitting close to home at the moment). When a child begins to drive, a mother will look forward to a little freedom from carpool duty and pick up from practice. But she will also dread speeding tickets, fender-benders, or something worse. And when a child begins talking, a mother will look forward to finally hearing the words I love you, along with all the other wonderfully charming things kids say. She will also dread all the not-so-charming things that will inevitably accompany them. Like “damn it.”
Michael is a few weeks into being three years old. I think by now it has been well documented that three is the new two…in terms of being preceded by the adjective “terrible.” A few months ago, Michael went through a tremendous language explosion, and almost overnight, he started sounding more like a “kid” than a “toddler” when he talked. And as it must surely go, he now also has the humor of a kid, and we all know what that means: potty humor. Oh , the number of times a day the child inserts the word “poop” into a sentence is staggering, and it is always followed with hysterical laughter. My new catch phrase has been, “Excuse me, but poop is for the bathroom.” Of course that has not stopped him in his potty talk. Now, every time he says the word “poop” in a random fashion, he just adds, “poop is for da baffroom.” Apparently he sees it as more of a disclaimer than a deterrent.
But I can handle the poop talk. It’s part of being a kid. I get it. And I can also handle his driving need to make people laugh (namely his sister) by saying, “Shakin’ my boooooty.” What I can not handle is that he has started saying, “damn it” when he is angry. I would like to blame the indiscretion on “kids at school,” but let’s face it. Preschool has been out for two months now. I hate to admit it, but I know he has heard it come out of my mouth…never at him or his sister, but there have been times it has freely fallen from my lips. And now I’ve created a problem for myself to fix.
Grace also went through a small “damn it” phase around the age of four. Overall, I’ve been lucky with her. She’s never been much of a potty mouth. So I thought back to what I did when she suddenly found a fondness for this “bad” word. I did not want to make a big deal about it and give it more power than it had, but I also wanted to make sure she knew it was not an appropriate thing to say. So I figured I would give her a funny alternative that would surely be more enticing. Very casually I said to her, “You know, how about instead of saying ‘damn it,’ we say ‘oh pickles.’” Well she seemed to like that, but it was not always so easy to remember. I recall one time I could hear her in the kitchen. She had spilled some water, and she whispered, “Oh damn it…I mean, pickles.” A minute later, she came up to me to confess: “Mom, I said ‘oh pickles,’ but I was thinking ‘damn it’“. Before I knew it, “damn it” just kind of disappeared from her vocabulary.
I am hoping the same will happen with Michael. In some ways, he seems a bit more stubborn than Grace, which I did not think was possible. But I know it is just another small battle a mother must fight, and hopefully if I teach my kids what is right enough times, they will eventually choose wisely. All in all, I guess a little “damn it” is not so bad, especially considering most of what comes out of Michael’s mouth is worth smiling over.