They Grow Up So
Our daughter, Polly, was slow to talk. Average on walking, she literally took her first steps on birthday number one. But speech was a real bugaboo; "bugaboo" being a flip summarization of, "My kid is developmentally slow because I drank before knowing I was pregnant and my husband and I don't read to her enough." Our daughter's only regular playmate is almost a year younger... her parents are Iranian. This kid's been speaking Farsi and English since she was one-and-a-half. Polly was barely saying phrases in her native language --'Nickelodeon' -- at the same age. Yet, for some reason, curse words suddenly began to decorate her limited vocabulary.
Ten years ago I cracked up at a friend's toddler who picked up a freshly nuked hotdog, dropped it and immediately fired off a meaningful, "Shit!", followed by a poignant body shrug and Tsk. The adults at the table glared at me the way you might think they'd glare at the child. They admonished me, in perfectly aloud English (as if the kid couldn't understand this), "Don't react! It just encourages!"
The first time my daughter said "shit," she was a little over two and she meant it. I laughed with all the inappropriate lack of horror that a parent who needs a visit from Child Protective Services would.
If I had to give advice, I'd say, don't ever play a game called, "You FARTED!", or "Did you burp??!!" with your kid. They will think that it's okay to challenge anyone and everyone to an impromptu round. Parents who make their kids say, "Ma'am," "Sir" and formally ask everything when addressing adults; parents who damn well make sure their kids are potty-trained, reciting the alphabet, and counting to 20 by their second birthday -- this is the crowd that doesn't laugh at "YOU FARTED!" or "DID YOU BURP??!!"
In his book, Morning, Afternoon, and Night, legendary monologist Spaulding Gray said that he played exactly the same game. His son was accompanying him somewhere public. Gray let out a sneaker fart -- barely but definitely audible. No one said a thing, and he allowed himself to escape embarrassment by pretending that no one could've heard it since they didn't grace his gas with a response. Seconds after relaxing, his three-year-old son said, "YOU FARTED!"
Polly challenged me to a game in the grocery store. We were in the express line. I was awaiting my ATM charge to be approved. For once, Polly wasn't grabbing every rattling tube of M&M's or box of Tic-Tacs. There were no pleadings for chocolate or potato chips -- the vile contraband of the impulse aisle. She didn't even care about the prospect of a free red helium balloon.
Somehow the only thing she could hear was my slight surprise fart. A spiffer-squark. Quiet enough to be missed, but if heard, as distinct as a proverbial duck quacking. Definitely undeniable if your three-year-old starts playing her favorite game, "Mommy, you FARTED!"
Being that everyone hates waiting in line and is full of line-rage, seeing someone humiliated is an instant draw.
Ignoring the cheek-slurp was impossible, my opponent was formidable. Polly enthusiastically repeated, "Mommy! You FARTED!" My skin temperature boiled, I could feel the color red steaming from my face. I smiled and released some healthy and embarrassed laughter. She found my amusement to be a toy. She continued, "You farted! Mommy, you farted, OKAY?!" I was trapped, my food was still being bagged. Surrendering was my only option... I made noises that could appear to be laughter, if the cashier didn't know I'd farted too.
Talk about kiddie karma: she'll always win the "Did you fart!?" game.
Polly favors the "F" and "SHI" words when I've made a day of streaming them like poetry. She returns them later in the day, when she's mad. Maybe it's when she can't make her ballpoint pen-tattooed baby doll sit up. Maybe it's because I say no to ice cream at ten a.m.
Imagine the cursing if she knew that I once used her doll's head to wipe spilled iced tea and never washed it out.
Polly is seriously in love with "butt" and "butt hole." That is totally my fault. There's no law that says I have to react when she strips down, bends over and bears her pucker point at me every day in the summer and every night after bath time. Okay, the offering of her butt hole never loses it's jollity; but I'm supposed to be the grown up, not the finger-pointing, spazzmoid, 5-year-old at the park who teaches her new bad words. Butt is the easiest joke material because there's always four cheeks at any given time in the house for her to point at, poke, pinch, and otherwise editorialize on.... and on.... and on about....
"Mommy, is that your butt?"
Aside from the vulgar, Polly also has a healthy fixation on what Mother Nature gave men versus women. I don't think she gave much thought to my husband's rod until she was about a year old. He knew it was time to not be naked around her when he'd be in the middle of a conversation and feel her gaze, fixed on his nads -- it was Polly, in awe of what must've been as amazing as The Grand Canyon would be to us. Just staring, head crooked, eyes fixed yet wide and mouth agape, singeing his pubic hairs with the power of a laser.
She's always pounding him with crippling blows -- not since third grade has he been kicked in the nuts so much. Given the spectrum of responses he displays to such assaults, I had to ask him what it feels like. He describes it varyingly, but says it always begins with an initial temporary blindness -- literally the world goes black and fuzzy. Just as the tunnel of black slips back into recognizable shapes in the room, the pain begins. He says it feels like you've been punched in the stomach and rammed up the anus simultaneously. It is possible to be thrown into vomiting or fainting. Mostly he just collapses to the floor and goes fetal. Wincing would be too weak a word to describe his countenance. If his glasses don't go flying after initial impact, he removes them himself immediately. I guess he doesn't want to see the world clearly through the light waves radiating from his throbbing balls.
Having developed a motion sensitive survival-radar, he's triggered into finding a third hand to palm over his crotch when Polly's even a yardstick away. A few times I noticed him not reacting at all to a hit from her. He said, "They don't feel anything anymore. They're totally hardened in black and blue casement now." He asked for a protective cup for Christmas.
Then there's my boobies. They're everywhere all day. Naturally, Polly wants to touch, smack, and stroke them. Yes, it ruins it for my husband when he tries to visit them, but what can you do. I've got boobies, so does she, and Daddy... as do guests -- anything short of a car has boobies in Polly's universe.
To be complete though, the most wonderful curse word she uses liberally is "asshole."
She knows when and how . She knows our lard-assed cat, "Girlcat" (who is so shapeless that no colorful or human name ever stuck with her), is an asshole. She likes chasing and scaring Girlcat -- the way that kids who watch too much Scooby-Doo might. I listen to Polly stomping behind me, shortly after the cat tears into the closet to hide.
She's a scary monster... I hear a muffled, "RRRROOOOAARRRR!
My husband is better about not cursing, but he forgets the flawlessly dense weave of F, SHI, and G-Dammits that make up common chat in a modern world. She's constantly exposed to foul words. Somehow, I never hear OTHER kids using them though, which makes me feel like a piece of shit, of course.
Then I began to ask around. Thank God, it appears
to be a normal thing. My friend's kid has used "F!" many times,
"SHI" too. You'd never know it from the brat's perfectly shiny penny
loafers and coordinated Baby Gap outfits. Still another said, "What do you
expect, they pick up ALL of it! They ALL do it. My four-year-old
even called his big brother a "dick." Believe me, once they go to
school, they all become little Pre-K Redd Foxxs." I can't tell you how
calming THAT admission was. I feel so much less fuckin' alone now.