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Archive for February, 2013

This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post, on Feb. 16.

This morning, I placed my two-year-old son, Eddie, in his high chair and put a plate of bananas covered in peanut butter on his tray. He looked up at me with his little pinkies extended, and clearly, as one might say, “Hi,” or “Bye,” he said, “Fuk.”

Yes, I said, "Fuk."

Yes, I said, “Fuk.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Fuk,” he said. And once again with more emphasis, in case I didn’t hear him the first time. “Fuk!”

It was the third time he’d used that word this week, and every time he did, I thought, “Dammit. The fact that I have a foul mouth has finally come home to roost.”

Friends had warned me if I didn’t clean up my language, it was going to rub off on my son. Until now, Eddie wasn’t old enough to understand what I was saying. It appears that’s now changing.

I was never one to care about cursing in front of children. Before I had my son, I even resented having to curb my language. I hated the way when we’d visit friends with children, I couldn’t get a story out without constantly being interrupted with “Shuh!” or “Achem!” every time I said a four letter word. These same friends usually had prohibitions on anyone watching shows like “Law and Order” or “Family Guy,” in their homes because they deemed the language or subject matter to be inappropriate for children.

“So we all have to suffer?” I would think.

My husband has even gotten on my case about word choice.

“You know he said ‘Fuk,’ the other day,” my husband said.

“Yeah, I’ve heard him say that, too. I think he was talking about his ‘truck.’ I don’t know why he calls it that, but he meant ‘truck,’ “ I said.

“Yeah?” my husband said.

“Yeah,” I said.

While using profanity may not be genetic, the idea that it shouldn’t be verboten apparently is. My father thought the prohibition on cursing was ridiculous. But more than that, he thought such a prohibition actually encouraged it. To prove his point, he conducted a scientific experiment in our home when I was young. He told me and my brother that under no circumstance could we ever use the word, “Gherkin.” It was simply forbidden. And don’t you know, whenever I felt angry, the first word I would utter was, “Gherkin!” When I felt defiant? “Gherkin!” Frustrated? “Gherkin!” In our house, this miniature pickle was something to be avoided, not because it tasted bad, but because if you said it, you could get your mouth washed out with soap. When the experiment was over, and I could use the word “Gherkin” as freely as anyone else, I no longer said it, proving his point.

Years later, I replaced “Gherkin” with any number of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The words weren’t just alluring because they were prohibited. When I used them, I seemed to exude toughness, something I didn’t feel as a shy youth who was afraid to express her opinions. People seemed to think a girl who uses foul language eats nails for breakfast and can kick your butt, if not physically then verbally. Nothing says “strength” like a string of sewer-mouthed invectives.

Of course nothing says “disrespect” like a string of sewer-mouthed invectives, and that’s what I’ve finally come to realize. People have strong opinions about cursing. In a crowded room full of chatter, profanity is jarring. It sounds menacing, like shattering glass. When you use it, people form opinions about you that aren’t always good, just as they might form an opinion about someone who has a tattoo or a nose ring. And some of the people forming those opinions will be my son’s teachers or prospective friends. I figure Eddie’s got plenty of time to disenfranchise himself from the people around him. I should at least let him get to second grade before that starts happening.

A wild cussing animal

A wild cussing animal

But I know Eddie doesn’t have a chance in hell of keeping his mouth clean unless I clean up my own mouth, and I need to do it fast. He’s already begun mimicking the things me and my husband do. He’s started calling me, “Scay-bee,” the pet name my husband and I call each other. He takes tissues out of the tissue box and pretends to blow his nose, because he’s seen me do it. He sits briefly on his little training potty, grunts once and then says, “All done,” because he watches us. After seeing me put strips of first-aid tape on my chest so that when I go running, my bra doesn’t give me an abrasion, Eddie now asks for tape and then places it on his own chest, in the same spots I place mine.

My son’s daycare is in a church, and when I attended a Zumba class there the other day, I found myself standing next to the daycare’s director. I turned to her, after a particularly strenuous dance routine, and said, “Oh my god, my f—ing ankle is killing me!” As she looked up at me incredulously, I could feel the words float out of my mouth in slow motion the way people describe that moment in a car accident when their vehicle turns 180 degrees before crashing into the guardrail. It seems I need to curb my cursing not just in front of Eddie but in front of his teachers, lest they think I throw curse words around our home with impunity. Much in life is viewed like the “Broken Window Theory:” People will think if a parent allows cursing at home, what other dirty, filthy habits will they tolerate?

I watched Eddie in his high-chair, and he didn’t seem to be eating his bananas. He just sat there staring at them.

“Fuk,” he said again. He then pointed to a drawer of our kitchen cabinet.

“This?” I said and opened the drawer. “Fork!”

I took a fork out of the utensil tray and handed it to my son.

“Fuk,” he said, holding up the fork. He then speared one of the bananas and stuck it in his mouth and smiled.

There's a fucking WHAT behind me?

There’s a fucking WHAT behind me?

I was given a reprieve, but I knew it was only temporary. With Eddie now two, I was going to have to begin training my potty mouth now. Because I hear it only gets more challenging as time goes on.

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My 23-month old son, Eddie, goes to day care at a local church, where they are taught to share, to greet their fellow students every morning as each one arrives, and I assume to say grace before lunch because sometimes at dinner now, Eddie takes mine and my husband’s hands and has a moment before we can begin eating. So I was surprised this afternoon when I went to pick up my son, and I was told another child had bitten him.

“Tom had an apple, and they were all sitting at the table, and Eddie went to take a piece,” said Miss Jane, one of Eddie’s teachers.

It now made sense to me why the moment he saw me today, he said, “Mommy!” and wrapped his arms around my legs. Usually when I pick him up, he’s engrossed with the doll house and all the little people that can be placed in the different rooms, or the farm and all its little animals.

You eat my apple, I eat your finger.

You eat my apple, I eat your finger.

Eddie must have known what Miss Jane was telling me because as she spoke, he looked up at me and his lower lip began to quiver.

“Oh, buddy,” I said and hugged him.

“He’s okay,” Miss Jane said. “We put a little ice on it, and he was fine. We gave him a little butterfly bandage and he started smiling, saying, ‘Butterfly.’”

“Who did it?” I said. I felt like a mafia don, who hears a family member has been wronged and doesn’t listen to the rest of the story. They care only about the name of the person on which they will seek their revenge.

“We’re not allowed to give the name of the student who bit him,” she said.

Well, I already knew. She inadvertently gave it away when she told me the name of the child who brought in the apple my son had grabbed. It’s hard to imagine one child would bring in a piece of food, Eddie would grab it, and a third child would intervene and bite my son for taking it.

It was unfortunate because Eddie’s second birthday is Sunday, and I’d invited his entire class, and all but one child either did not respond or said they could not make it. The only child who could come was the biter. He probably wants a second taste.

“I’ll just have to sharpen Eddie’s fangs tonight,” I joked. I was only half kidding.

The teacher then gave me a form to sign. It was an “Incident Report.” It said, “Was bitten on the finger by another student.” It didn’t even have a subject, like, “Eddie,” or “Your child.” It seemed like they were trying to distance themselves from the incident, like politicians who say, “Mistakes were made.”

The form went on to say that TLC and ice had been applied. It should also have said, “And Tom was put in shackles for the rest of snack time.”

Eddie and I left and drove to the home of the woman from whom we pick up our bi-weekly ration of organic produce. She has a large yard with a bunny rabbit. I told Eddie we would be seeing the rabbit, and he seemed in good spirits.

As we drove there, I looked at him in the rear view mirror and said, “You know that kid who bit you, he shouldn’t have done that. Biting’s a real chump move, pal. People shouldn’t bite.” And with that, I had issued my first life lesson.

While Eddie already seemed to be over it, I wasn’t. Just thinking about it made me want to drive over to the child’s house and bite him back. He could have taken my son’s finger off. It made me think about all the things that could happen to Eddie when I’m not around. Just this week, I had bumped into the director of the school in the lady’s room, and she was visibly upset. She said her son’s best friend had just gotten his driver’s license, and still unsteady at the wheel, he drifted too far over the middle line, drove into oncoming traffic and then went flying into a tree and died. His parents were on vacation in Florida at the time. She had to wait for them in the emergency room, where the boy had been medi-vaced before he was pronounced dead.

After Eddie and I picked up the organic produce, I was sitting at a traffic light and decided to pull out the incident report the teacher had given me. I noticed that under that report was another incident report, a blank one that had not yet been filled out, as if we’re just waiting for the next incident to happen. It’s not a matter of if but when. I also noticed the time of the biting was 11:45 a.m., just 15 minutes before the end of my son’s school day. It almost didn’t have to have happened. If 15 more minutes had gone by, the boy wouldn’t have been able to bite my son’s finger because I would have arrived by then and been standing between him and my son. I’m sure the parents of the boy who died in the car accident feel that way: if only their son hadn’t gotten his driver’s license yet, if only they hadn’t gotten him a car, if only they’d been home to drive him where he’d been going, if only they’d just kept him in the house, locked up, so that no harm could ever come to him.

The vastness of the water and sky

The vastness of the water and sky

As Eddie and I arrived back in our town, I decided that instead of going home, we should take a drive down to the beach, which is about seven blocks from my house. When we got out of the car, the wind was blowing so hard, I zipped Eddie up in my down vest. He looked so small in the vest, like an insect that had not fully crawled out of its shell. We walked onto the sand and as we got closer to the water, Eddie saw a tennis ball sitting out on the tidal flat and ran after it. I stood on the sand and as Eddie headed toward the water, I watched his figure get smaller and smaller against the vastness of the ocean and sky, until he almost seemed to disappear.

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