The kids are now six and (almost) eight. School age. Both of them. It’s a whole new world. One in which I can shower without worrying that someone is maybe setting the house on fire (or wandering around outside, sobbing, asking neighbors if they’ve seen Mommy? BECAUSE I CAN’T FIND HER ANYWHERE!) (True story.) A world where getting my hair cut, or going to the Dr, or – hell – getting a manicure/having lunch with friends/going to see a movie that is neither animated nor a story about talking animals in the middle of the day is something easily accomplished. No babysitters or elaborate planning needed.
It’s also a world where for seven hours out of the day, the kids are not under my direct supervision. They come home and tell me that today for snack? They had Cheetos. That this boy and this girl have been boyfriend/girlfriend since kindergarten, and they kiss in the hallway every day. That everyone else in the school has seen all the Twilight movies, so my argument that they are “for grown-ups only” is invalid. That there was a discussion in class about rules, and it came out that our bedtime is a good two hours earlier than anyone else’s bedtime on the planet, and that doesn’t seem very fair, or reasonable, and I was talking to Alex and SHE said….
They also come home with fun new words. Instead of tushie, it’s now bahonkus. (Yes. Seriously.) V shouts out STINK! and POOP! when she’s frustrated. (Learned from A) the boy she’s in love with and B) her teacher, respectively. Yes – her teacher is using POOP! as a curse word in class. I guess DARN! just wasn’t cutting it.) I feel like it would be really naive of me to assume that that is the worst they have heard, that they are still protected and innocent of all the truly bleep-worthy words. That said? I recently heard Violet whispering to her brother that she knows what “the S word is…. it’s stupid!” If that is not super freaking adorable, I do not know what is.
Over Christmas break, I had a true Parenting Win – I introduced Violet to A Christmas Story and she loooved it. (Really – it’s stuff like this “Mommy? Can we watch that movie again? With the shooting the eye out?” that make all those diapers worth it.) She was delighted by the ridiculous little brother not wanting to eat his dinner (“Just like Jonas! We should try letting him eat it like that – like a pig!” Um, no. But thanks for the suggestion.) She was horrified by the tongue stuck to the flagpole (“Let me know when this part is over! I’m just gonna be hiding here, around the corner from the tv until that kid is unstuck!”) She totally called the Major Award scene without ever having seen it before (“I don’t know what’s in that box, but I doubt it’s any good. It’s certainly not a bowling alley.”)
The part she was most interested in, however, is when Ralphie says The Word. The Queen Mother Of All Swears. The Big One. “So – what IS the queen mother of all swears? Is it really fudge? No? No. I didn’t think it was. Because he says right there ‘But I didn’t say fudge. I said IT.’ Hmmm. So – does it sound like fudge or something? Why did they change it to fudge? What IS it? C’mon! It’s not like I’m going to say it! I just want to know!” and on and on and on. I told her that there were some things in life that I felt it was important that you learn from your parents, and some things that it was cool learning on the streets, and no way was I going to be the one to teach her the Queen Mother Of All Swears. Then I left the room. But before I could get out of earshot, I hear her brother share this with her –
“Violet! I know a curse word! A real one! A REALLY BAD ONE! Because! When Daddy took me to that baseball game? And you and Mommy stayed home? And we got to sit right next to the real baseball players? And one of them gave me a ball to keep? And it’s my REAL baseball? Not one of the plastic ones? You know that real one? That I got from the game? (I can almost imagine V’s impatience here, while he rambles on about baseball. GET TO THE GOOD PART, KID!) Well, one part of the game? Something was happening? That made the man sitting next to us really mad? And he had to go out and talk to the pitcher? And then a few minutes later something happened? And he SHOUTED OUT A CURSE WORD! A real one! One that Daddy didn’t want me to hear! But I HEARD IT! Because he was RIGHT THERE! Next to us! SHOUTING it! So I heard! And now I know a real grown-up curse word!!!!”
Now. The interesting part of all this? Is that it’s an absolutely true story. It happened quite some time ago, and I heard it from Joe that night. They were sitting right next to the dugout, and it was one of the coaches? Maybe? But he was quite upset, and shouting, and in the end he felt bad and that’s why Jonas ended up with the game ball. I had heard it from Joe many, many months before… but never from Jonas. But now that I had left the room – here he was, ready to educate his sister on how REAL BASEBALL PLAYERS talk when they’re mad. Oh boy.
Violet: So – what was it? What was the real, grown-up curse word that he shouted?
Jonas: Where’s Mommy?
V: She left. What was it? Tell me!
J: Ok… it was… (whispers) catinthehat
J: (louder) catinthehat
Me: (around the corner, trying not to burst a blood vessel holding in the laugher)
V: Did you say… cat in the hat?
J: SHHHHH! Yes! He yelled out CATINTHEHAT!!! and then everyone looked at me like “Uh oh.”
V: I’m pretty sure cat in the hat isn’t a bad word.
J: Well, that’s what he said. And Daddy told me not to repeat it.
There you go, people. If you ever wondered how *Real Baseball Players* curse? Now you know.
New parent tip – if every time you accidentally curse in front of your kids, you immediately scream out some nonsense word (Ours is TACO BELL!), the kids will not learn the curse. They will instead pick up the TACO BELL. So you have a toddler in the backseat yelling for cheap mexican food, instead of advertising your potty mouth. If you do this, consistently, for many years, you will eventually have a six year old who hears Goddammit as CatInTheHat. (A very serious personal triumph for me, as that is my #1 go-to swear. Yay me! And Taco Bell!)
Will this innocence last? Not even a teeny chance of that. One day soon I’ll hear something being whispered that isn’t stupid or catinthehat, and I’ll have to step in and tell them not to say it again. But it’s ok. They’re big kids now. Not old enough for Twilight (what is wrong with people? Seriously?) or staying up till 10pm (despite the general consensus in the 2nd grade), but old enough to hear grown ups curse, and understand that just because they heard it doesn’t mean they can say it. They can also watch me drink espresso (or wine. Let’s be honest, here.), but not drink it themselves. It’s an interesting new phase we’re in. The “I can’t protect you from everything anymore, so now I have to actually teach you what is and is not acceptable.” phase, as opposed to my previous “Keep them in a bubble where no junk food, no junk tv, no foul language, no adult content, nothing inappropriate ever reaches them. As far as they know – there’s no such thing as HFCS or the F word.” Hmm. It seems like this will actually be a lot more work.