Toddlers and Varying Vernacular

The “F” Bomb

It all started as we sat in late night standstill traffic in Houston, TX; and as an infant there was nothing more terrible than a car that did not move to B’s 3 month old sister.  He sat silently beside her, hands pressed to each ear, I truly felt for him.  The frustration he must have felt coming from a home where he is the ‘baby’ and now here having to be stuck in a car with an actual baby.  His eyes squinted tight, and it shot out of his mouth like a pistol, like a common saying, not like something he was trying on because he had heard it once, but something that was just obviously stated, “my sister is so fucking annoying!”  Yes, you read that correctly, the three year old called his sister ‘fucking annoying’.  True or not, we of course did the initial retort out of shock, “B!  We don’t say that, that’s a bad word!  Where on Earth did you hear that?!”  The question didn’t really have to be asked, you picture a house full of teenagers with a three year old and you get the picture clear as day.  After that he never repeated it again in our house.  I did email his mother to inform her that maybe she should remind the teenagers of the household that he is only 3, and language should be watched around him.  Though we had heard in the background of a couple of phone calls after that a carful of giggly teenage girl dropping the words “fucking this” and “fucking that”.

“Like a Little Bitch”

On the next visit we received from B that summer, we were both in his room painting a birdhouse for Father’s day.  It was coming out so incredibly unique, like the swirling bubbles of a lava lamp in blended colors of greens, blues, and reds.    In the background we could hear a now 6 month old Aislyn crying again in her crib, unwilling to take her usually scheduled nap.  I had been in there three times already, offered her a bottle, checked her diapers, and her extremities for any points of blood cut off.  She was fine and it was time to let her just cry it out.  “My sister cries like a little bitch,” the four year old again states with a teenage flare, as if it is just part of normal conversation.  I thought to myself, perhaps he is not really saying that word, perhaps I’m just hearing that.

“Your sister cries like a…witch?…itch?…out of pitch?”

“NO!” he exclaimed in frustration, “a B-itch”.

I played it cool this time, “oh!  A bitch…where did you hear that?”

“My mommy’s.”  Once again I envision a four year old B crying over a tumble down the stairs, an unfair toddler declared injustice, or perhaps a rightful punishment and crying his eyes out, like toddlers tend to do.  I picture a room full of teenagers rolling their eyes, covering their ears, becoming understandably frustrated as they turn up the volume of their favorite show, after all this isn’t even their sibling, this is the kid of the lady who was living in their house unpaid to be their nanny “God B, you cry like a little bitch, shut up, you’re so fucking annoying.”

“I see, well let’s not say that at Mama Jess’s house, it’s not very nice at all.”  He nodded in understanding, and it was never spoken again.  Again I emailed his mother, and again stating that I understood, that teenagers have a mind of their own, I taught them, but to remind them to use gentler words around little B.

“Oh Shit”

Our most recent visit with B was the battle of the word Shit.  A word that at first I felt I was alone in the guilt of spreading this virus.  It’s my weakness, it’s my fall back, it goes back for four generations of Davis women.  In frustration we mutter a “shit”, quick, finite under our breath.  I can still picture growing up with an almost daily ritual with  mom and her keys would have fallen to the bottom of her purse, she would frantically dig through, “shit shit shit”, she would dump it and dig through the remains, “shit shit shit shit”, and then she would find it and all would be back to normal.  It slips naturally, much like the word “uhm”, I don’t even hear it.  I would hear B say it each time he fell, each time he broke something, each time he messed up.  I would pursue a gentle reminder, but again, I felt responsible.  At least until I noticed his daddy slipping, and then I heard B tell me his mommy was a frequent user of it as well, this made me feel a little less guilty but no where near better.

I made it my mission this summer to break him of the horrid word, a four year old with a dirty habit.  It finally happened, my moment during a riveting game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O’s with his father, and his uncle, and me.  B spun the card and the pointer landed on the fallen apples, meaning he had to empty his bucket and fall behind on the leader board (B is quite the competitor), “Shit,” he said as he replaced his apples.  I stated my usual “don’t say that” as I casually headed into the bathroom and opened a brand new bar of soap.  I walked back into the breakfast room where the boys were all still circled around the board and stated, “open your mouth B”.  He promptly did as I asked and I stuck the bar of soap just so it touched the tip of his tongue.  He bit down…I guess a natural reaction and then began to cry out as he ran to the kitchen sink to spit.  I kindly offered him water as his uncle was lecturing me in front of B on how unfair that was to him, even Josh chimed in a bit.  “You didn’t even offer a warning,” was their defense, but all I could think is I’ve been offering him two months of warning, every day we have this talk, and everyday he goes back to saying it.  I was upset not because they were upset but because they were downgrading my mothering in front of my stepson, which really doesn’t help when I am his disciplinarian 80% of the time.  B continued to cry as I explained, “your mouth was getting so dirty using those dirty words, we just needed to clean it out, now perhaps we won’t say those words anymore so we can avoid the cleaning.”  He nodded as his uncle continued to downplay my mothering (a habit I have learned to grow accustomed to), but I have yet to hear B say it again.

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