When I was growing up, I was always aware that certain words were off-limits in our house. For a while there, I was so terrified of getting in trouble, I tried to eliminate all four-letter words from my vocabulary. Which probably explains why words like devilish and aquamarine became part of my eight-year-old lexicon (well, that's actually because I was a voracious reader of the Sweet Valley High series).
To this day I'm still very aware of bad language if I happen to be watching TV with my parents. Some actor drops an H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks and instantly I shift, clear my throat or leave the room to get some popcorn (same goes for anything adult in nature....I would rather die than watch anything racier than Forest Gump with my parents....watching onscreen nudity with them is as uncomfortable as a vitamin going sideways down my throat).
Even phrases like Shut-up and You Jerk were pushing it. I often heard words whose definitions mystified or eluded me, usually heard from my older siblings or someone on the bus, and I'd be intrigued. Intrigued enough to these words in mixed company (meaning someone within earshot was older than 10). As you can imagine, this sometimes ended badly for me. I was one of those kids who got in trouble not for what I did, but for what I said. For being cheeky. That, and for stealing Fruit Roll-ups....but that's a story for another time....
Despite the possibility of some soap in the mouth, I still used bad language when out of my parents' earshot. I still pushed the boundaries of acceptable speech. And I remember the first time I stuck up my middle finger. Kindergarten. But it wasn't some well-timed rebuttal to a name-call or a schoolyard tiff. It was during library class, when we were all supposed to be closing our eyes for some goofy imagination exercise. I remember sitting there, knowing that absolutely no one could see me do it, and I stuck my hand up in the air, middle finger protruding skyward, timid and unseen. Perhaps I thought I would be struck down, smited by God's wrath or a florescent ceiling light would come crashing down on my belligerent little head. The teacher didn't even say anything....if she did notice me flipping my trembling bird she was probably like, WTF?
I went through a stage when almost every other word out of my mouth was a bad one. I thought this made me something of a bad-ass...an image I cleaved to, despite my baby fat and pink glasses and tendency to match my socks, scrunchies, stirrup pants and sweaters in the same shades of turquiose and black. This foul-mouthed habit peaked in seventh grade. Get in a conversation with me during the onslaught of puberty and you were likely to think you'd stumbled across a Bob Saget stand-up routine (ever see that guy live? Holy crap is he dirty. And he apparently has a thing for Kimmy Gibbler).
Anyway, what I'm saying is that kids will eventually try out new words, phrases, hoping for a laugh, a reaction, something to let them know how clever they are (or in some cases, that they have a promising career on a cheesy sitcom). I definitely need to keep this in mind, because Rollie is on the threshold of that envelope-pushing stage. And it will only get worse once he starts school.
So far it seems innocent enough. Right now his big thing is calling everyone in the house Big Puffy. When used in context, it sounds like it should be derogatory, like calling someone Stupid or an F-ing Idiot. But when he says it, it just sounds so hilariously strange that I don't scold him for it. I'm not even sure where it came from. Big Puffy. Unless he's been sneaking into the TV room in the dead of night to watch some VH1...are they airing some seven-part Sean Combs biography series that I don't know about?
But then for the past few days instead of calling me Big Puffy, he's started calling me Big Butt. Yeah, that one isn't so cute. I've gotten after him each time he's said it, and he tones it down to Big Bottom, but that one is still pretty obnoxious. Especially when it's sorta true.
I really don't like that he uses to word Butt. I don't want him to be one of those kids other parents whisper about...the Bad Influence. The Potty-Mouth. Jeff and I have both gone to great lengths to shield our children from profanity. Contrary to how it must seem (yes, I know I can get a little swear-happy sometimes), we don't curse in front of our kids. At all. We've been spelling out words like Brat, Sex and Little Shithead for years. I'm pretty sure Rollie will ace spelling bees at school...if they're emceed by Chris Rock.
So I guess we're doing what we can to keep Rollie's tongue pure and unoffensive. But one of these days he's going to pick up a few charming words, just as he'll pick up the stomach flu or head lice. And he'll most certainly teach them to Elsa. And any other kid who he hangs with. Pretty soon I'll be on the receiving end of some embarrassing phone call: Do you know what my son told me your Rollie said at school? Big Puffy. What kind of parent are you, letting him listen to such awful music? Next thing you know, he'll be quoting lines from Full House.
I know it's coming. I guess my best response will be to flip the bird into the phone.