I am going to take a lot of blame here, because I know, I know I color my sentences too much of the time with profanity. But words are Mommy’s crayons and I like colorful ones. I have made a concerted effort to say f’ing and fudgebuckets where appropriate. Obviously, I have had transgressions and the Commander has added a new word to his language arsenal. Actually, two new words, but I am not really sure where the word “Assassinated” has come from, but truthfully, I am a little afraid that he knows and uses that word. I can only take partial responsibility because my husband also likes to throw the word around a lot, but I digress. The Commander can work the blame game out with his shrink when he’s older.
So we are driving in the car a few months ago and the Commander is buckled into his booster seat in the back and arguing with us. “I want to go to the drive thru and get a Minion.” For a few weeks McDonalds had been giving Despicable Me Minions with the kid’s meals because the geniuses who work in their marketing department know that it’s kiddy crack and want to hook ‘em young. My son became utterly obsessed with these toys; to the point I would go alone to random McDonald’s and asks for a kid’s meal with no food, only water, to collect the collectibles and not the calories. It had gotten so bad that I was bidding on the hard to find ones on EBay. Screw that bitch who tried to outbid me for $6, that minion is all mine, motherfucker! So I was the shmuck to pay $15 for Stuart, the elusive and hard to get one-eyed minion from McDonalds. I was not alone though, there were at least 8 others bidding. He was shipped from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and arrived a week later at my door. To my son, I was a hero who had saved a basketful of puppies when I handed him the BNIB Stuart. “Mommy, I love you so much. You are the best. Oh, Stuart I love you,” he says as he proceeds to unwrap and make out with the Cyclops minion. And just as fast as they came to the Golden Arches, the minions left, replaced unceremoniously with a book since McDonald’s got PC and sold out to national literacy month.
“They don’t have the minions any more. It was a promotion and that one is over. They now have books.” Trying to explain to a 4 year old how corporate marketing works is about as futile as explaining quantum physics to me. “But I want it. Go get it. Go! Go! Go!” We go back and forth with this demand/explanation/demand/explanation for the next 10 blocks.
“You are fucking. You are fucking. You are fucking,” the Commander bellows from the backseat. Matt and I give each other eyes as if to say, “What the fuck do we do about this?” The good parents would try, calmly and maturely, to reason with the child and explain bad words aren’t what good little boys say. But we aren’t those parents.
Instead, I grab my iPhone and start videoing trying to bait the Commander to say it again. The Commander, though, has wised up to our tricks and hates to perform on command. And as soon as he sees that my iPhone is pointed his way he clamps his loud mouth closed. “What were you saying?” I ask him sweetly as I try to disguise the iPhone under my jacket. “Mommy didn’t hear you.” I outsmart my 4 year old and he’s at it again: “You’re fucking. You’re fucking!” He continues shouting from the backseat as he scans the horizon for the yellow arches. His use of the word makes it sound like Matt and I driving around screwing in the front seat and I am bit taken aback by this. “He needs to use it correctly as an adverb not a verb,” I say to Matt, thinking correcting his grammatical use of the word may not be the best parenting idea here. “That’s a bad word. We don’t say things like that,” I say trying not to laugh.
He doesn’t utter the word for another month or so and I think I have escaped unscathed and won’t have to address this foul mouth issue until I can blame it on some troublemaker kid in his first grade class and deflect the real cause. But a few weeks ago, the Commander had honed his language skills and started using the F word with regularity and perfection. “Fucking toy. This thing is fucking broken,” he says as he hands me one of the million battery powered superheroes who needs a battery change. “What did you just say?” I ask him, honestly wondering if I heard correctly. And with pitch-perfect swagger he answers, “It’s fucking junk.”
Now let’s be honest, we all use the word. Some of us more than others and certainly I fall into that camp. Legitimately, once the Commander started grasping the English language I started spelling things and trying other faux profanity like “Shut the front door” without the same satisfaction. It was like switching from real coffee to decaf, I got no pleasure from it and it just felt wrong. I do not want to be the mother of the five - year old at the Quaker school whose kid is dropping the F bomb when he falls off the swing at recess or asking for help getting the fucking straw in the fucking juice box at lunch. No, I am not going to be THAT mom with THAT kid. So I need to address this now.
I consult parenting blogs online and ask the leader of my Mommy and Me playgroup. And it seems that ignoring it rather than addressing it is the best defense. The thought behind that being that if the kid realizes it’s a bad word naturally they will want to continue using it to test the boundaries. So I give that a whirl for about a week. And the Commander takes that week to really get a handle on the word and its variety uses and tenses. Fucker, fucking, fucked. Each time he busts out with it, I pretend nothing of it and just power on as I internally chuckle because let’s be real, it’s hysterical to hear a four year-old curse.
It culminates one afternoon after I picked him up from school and come home to discover we were out of the Trader Joe’s Onion chips. “Fuck! Fuck. I want the circle chips. Go get them. Go get the fucking circle chips.” Whoa there buddy. First off, let’s cool it and secondly, WTF? “Max do not talk to your mommy like that,” I say raising my voice.
As I say the sentence I cannot actually believe these words are coming out of my mouth. This is soooo not me, so unnatural, but we needed to nip this in the bud before he’s telling his friends to fuck off. “Little boys who say dirty words need to have their dirty mouths washed out with soap,” I say, sounding a little too Mary Poppins and giving myself the creeps. I proceed to pump the hand soap onto a paper towel and swipe it across my son’s mouth. Granted the soap was Lemon Meringue flavored foaming soap from Bath and Body and probably tastes better than many of the things I have cooked. The Commander looks shocked: shocked that I followed through with the threat, and slightly perplexed at the zesty taste of the soap. And I am hoping that my well-thought out, old school punishment doesn’t backfire on me and my kid starts pumping fistfuls of hand soap in his mouth as an alternative to dessert. He licks his lips and scrunches his nose while he formulates his response. “Hey! I didn’t like that. Did you do that because I said FUCK?” I steel myself so that I can be the adult here and use this moment to teach a vital life lesson about respect and proper language. “That is a very bad word and it’s not ok to say,” I offer a succinct and poignant answer. To my shock, the Commander concurs. “I won’t say it again.”
And that was that. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. For the next few days the word is vacated from his vocabulary and I am thinking I may just win the prize for mother of the year until we are standing at a crosswalk in New York. It’s frigid and it’s like 8 below zero and Matt thought it would be a super fun idea to walk 30 blocks to take our kids to the Manhattan Children’s Museum. TIT and the Commander are in the doublewide stroller punching each other and fighting over who was going to throw the blanket out of the stroller next. It was so cold that the snot had frozen to their faces and formed a crusty green and orange river. TIT was provoking the Commander but how can you really reprimand a 15 month old? So we kept trudging on up Columbus Avenue. “We should have taken a cab,” I needle Matt. “I told you it was going to be horrible. What part of walking with two toddlers in this polar plunge sounded like a good idea? This was possibly the worst idea you have ever had. EVER!!” I am annoyed, my hands are turning blue because I couldn’t find gloves and I am in a foul mood knowing the best outcome of the day is that we make it to this museum which is like just making your flight to Cleveland, the destination is no prize. Now TIT was trying to steal the cookie from the Commander and both of them are crying hysterically and the fucking cookie is on the ground being mauled by a pigeon. “Why do you feel the need to always be right? Matt asked. “Seriously, you have to say I told you so? That’s so fucking annoying that you just NEED to be right.”
Now my kid is 100% deaf when I ask him to put his shoes on or hurry up and get in the car, but this, this shit my kid heard perfectly. The Commander peeks up over the top of the stroller. “Did Daddy just say Fuck?” he asks. I turn towards Matt and shrug. “Yes, yes Daddy did. Daddy said a very very bad word. And Daddy knows better.” I eye Matt and nudge him so that he acts really remorseful. “He needs his mouth washed out with soap,” the Commander sternly says. Now I had to follow through. I had to continue to make my point that dirty mouths get washed out. So I take a baby wipe from my bag and shove it in my husband’s mouth, which at the moment, felt good on so many levels. The Commander giggles gleefully like this was the coolest thing he had ever seen. “It’s still dirty. Do it again.” Who was I to argue, so I pull out another Huggies wipe from my case and shove it in his mouth again. Tempted, I kinda want to tell the Commander that it was soooo dirty mommy needed to add a dash of Purell to it, but I restrain myself.
In the ensuing weeks since the mouth baths, my son has yet to use the word FUCK in any other context than to occasionally ask me, “Mommy, is Fuck a bad word? Is Fuck a word I shouldn’t say? Fuck isn’t nice. Remember when Daddy said Fuck in New York. That was really, really bad. It’s mean and it hurts people’s feelings.” And I shoot him that look and he responds with, “I am not saying it for real.” My husband on the other hand learned nothing from a mouth full of Huggie’s ultra sensitive wipes.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he says when he walks into the apartment the other night and the entire living room is littered from floor to ceiling with toys, Pirate’s Booty detritus and the like. “Are you fucking serious? What the fuck happened in here?” And with that, I handed him a paper towel with Lemon Meringue soap and told him, “Enjoy your dinner. I have been with them all day!”