Driving my son to day care, I was cut off by an oversize pickup truck. I slammed on the brakes and screamed, “Whoa!”
My 21-month-old screamed, “Truck!”
Only he didn’t say truck. He said a four-letter word that rhymes with truck.
“What did you just say?” I asked my son.
Only he didn’t say truck.
“Do you mean ‘honk’?” I asked, hoping, begging, pleading to the universe that my son had simply twisted a few consonants and vowels. “The cars go honk. Right, baby?”
“No!” my sweet angel yelled back defiantly. “Truck! Truck, truck, truck, truck. TRUCK!”
Only he wasn’t saying truck.
Clearly, my son had been in the car enough times when I slammed on the brakes to know that “whoa” wasn’t the proper reaction.
I didn’t know what to do. Unwilling to reinforce the behavior by reacting to the word, I did the only logical thing I could think of: I belted “The Wheels on the Bus” at the top of my lungs.
My child just stared at me, completely confused.
It’s a special moment in a parent’s life when your darling babe utters his first curse word. I think of it as one of those stereotypical milestones you hope your kid will never cross, such as trying his first cigarette or getting pregnant on her prom night.
Not to say I didn’t know this day would come eventually. I had just hoped he would have at least turned 2. And I’d hoped, perhaps foolishly, that his first curse word would be “ship” or “crab” or “dam.” Only not really ship or crab or dam. I had hoped his first offense would be a little less offensive. But not my child. He went straight for the gold.
My friends kindly invoked their finest acting chops and asked snark-free, “Where did he learn that word?” But they knew the answer. My son had learned it from listening to me.
I work in an industry of words, and for some ironic reason, we people who have the entire dictionary at our disposal are most loyal to the sinful seven. It is embraced in my world. Accepted. Rewarded, even.
For months now, my husband and I have been saying we need to start being mindful of our potty mouths.
We knew, at some point, our beautiful boy would want to copy the fun words Mommy and Daddy say when they are speaking most animatedly. We told ourselves to watch what we say, but we didn’t watch what we said. And now here I was, screaming “The Wheels on the Bus” at my foulmouthed baby.
There have been very few times in my life when I have felt truly ashamed of my chosen vocabulary. There was a time or two when I threw my hand over my mouth, mortified, after cursing in front of a child old enough to understand what I was saying. And the time at the Vatican when I was so moved by seeing Pope John Paul II that I exclaimed, “That was trucking awesome!” Which wouldn’t have been so horrible if I had actually said the word truck — which I hadn’t — or if the exclamation hadn’t been caught by a local news crew, which it had.
However, I have never been more ashamed than I was when I walked up to my son’s Lutheran day care, took the teachers aside, including the pastor’s wife, and told them my son drops F-bombs.
In the split second between my confession and my waiting for their reaction, I thought of an article I had read about a preschooler expelled for cursing because of the school’s zero-tolerance policy. Would my son’s day care react similarly? Could this go on his permanent record? What if no other day care facilities would admit my potty-mouthed mini-me? I’d have to quit my job and stay home with him. My lack of teaching skills would be exposed. He would be the only kid starting kindergarten who couldn’t count to 10 or recognize colors. His entire education would be a stressful game of catch-up, ending in his dropping out of high school to start a rap career. His debut album would be titled “F Is for Truck.” Literally, truck. But it wouldn’t be an ironic title; my son would actually mean the word “truck” because he never learned to spell.
Luckily, the teachers simply laughed. “Don’t worry. Just try to be more careful at home.”
I promised. Abso-trucking-lutely.
Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook at www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. Check out her column at http://didionsbible.com. To find out more about Katiedid Langrock and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.