“Douchebag,” I laughed while pushing my husband playfully. I don’t even remember what he said; I know it was something that a cocky gym bro would say in seriousness, but he was saying it as a joke.
His comment didn’t stick with me, but ya know what’s seared into my brain?
The lispy, squeaky, sweet voice of my beautiful baby girl, not quite three years old, giggling, “Daddy, you a douchebag!” very loudly across the parking lot of our local Sam’s Club on a chilly-but-sunny December morning.
“Sh*t. Oh God wait, don’t say that either. Umm … juice box! Yeah! Daddy is a juice box! Silly Daddy is a Juice box HEAD!” I frantically — nay, hysterically — croaked, desperately willing my toddler to forget the rude-as-hell vocabulary word I inadvertently taught her while wheeling our rotisserie chickens and industrial-sized bottle of laundry detergent to my sensible family vehicle.
She’s been calling us “juice boxes” for a month now. I can’t get it to un-stick.
Suffice it to say, I’m not winning any momming awards for Most Child-Friendly Mouth, nor am I earning many bonus points with the other parents in the parking lot who were just trying to buy a 500-pound bag of dog kibble on a Monday morning without having to explain what a douchebag is to their offspring.
Look. The fact is, my kids are going to hear curse words. I don’t curse AT them, of course, but I swear in their general vicinity, and they hear it. Once in a while, they’re even going to repeat them, and, well, I realize that’s what I get for looking like a soccer mom and swearing like a drunken frat boy.
But I have to draw some lines, and cursing in public before kindergarten? That’s gotta be one of them, I think. I mean, I generally wouldn’t recommend relying on my (clearly stellar) judgment, but I feel like I’m hitting the mark with this one: Baby mouths probably shouldn’t say douchebag.
(Or the F word, which, as it turns out, she would try out just a week after the douchebag/ juice box debacle. Who let me have three actual human children?)
When you’re a parent with a penchant for … adding a little linguistic spice to your daily convos, this toddler repeating phase is ROUGH. I mean, sure, the curse words are embarrassing, but that’s not even all of it.
Toddlers just have no filter or sense of decorum. I mean, I think the guy at the deli counter probably vaguely assumed I have a vagina, but my kid still felt the need to tell him that I have one. The poor dude just wanted to slice a pound of roasted turkey and get on with his day. Why did genitals have to enter the chat?
MY genitals specifically. But don’t worry; it wasn’t all genitals. My kid also made sure the guy knew that I have boobies. Two boobies, if you’re keeping count. I’m still debating whether I can ever take my vagina and two boobies back to that particular deli.
My daughter is number three of my three children, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now. I do have experience, but I don’t think you ever get used to it. Yeah, my daughter had managed to mortify me like 1,000 times, but this isn’t new.
I was mortified when my language-delayed middle child managed to get in trouble for mumbling, “What the hell?” under his breath at preschool. (I did go ahead and take the full-sentence win, though. Silver lining.)
It was jarring when I was pregnant with Princess Juice Box, and my oldest son, then age six, stood up in front of his entire class on the first day of school and told them his baby sister would not be coming out of Mommy’s “vagina tunnel.” Little Sis would be exiting the womb via a big cut in Mom’s belly. “But don’t worry,” he assured them. “Her doctor will sew that cut back up so her guts don’t fall out!”
Jesus, take the wheel. Why didn’t I just tell him about the stork? And why have 66 percent of my children inappropriately discussed my vagina in public? Nobody told me about this before I got knocked up on purpose three entire times.
It turns out they’ll all betray you. Every single one of them. Whether you have a potty mouth or not, they will find some way to mortify you in front of as many people as possible during toddlerhood, exposing the things you’d, well, rather keep private. Cuss words. Body parts. Bodily functions. Rude things that escaped your mouth in the car when you thought they were napping. Nothing they hear is sacred — and they only need to hear it once. They are waiting on tenterhooks to sell you the hell out. They’re tattletales.
And listen, Linda, I know this is on me. YES. I could be an adult and do better. I could watch my mouth and act like a lady or whatever.
But these kids want to live here every single day for a minimum of 18 years. That’s a long-ass time to be on my best behavior. Plus, what am I supposed to do? Raise them like I’m June Cleaver, then just spring my true self on them one at a time after high school graduation?
“Surprise, Mommy says the f-word! Don’t tell your younger siblings for 3 and 6 more years, respectively!”
That just feels like a lie. And not the fun kind like Santa or the Tooth Fairy or saying, “maybe” to their requests when you mean, “hell no.”
Just a regular old boring lie. No payoff. No presents. Just me saying, “Gee willikers, that smarts!” when I really want to say, “Damnit! That hurts like a b*tch!”
I gotta be me.
But I can commit to being a bit more careful, at least until my kids have the sense to understand “at-home language” vs. “in-public language” and “grown-up words” vs. “kid-friendly words.”
And maybe, “times to say vagina” vs. “times to choose silence and not humiliate your mother.”
That’s a lesson they could all stand to learn.
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