You never know what sort of things kids are paying attention to.
Yesterday morning, I was having breakfast with Jacob (my four-and-a-half year old) and Emma (one-and-a-half) and all of a sudden, Jacob started beeping. Yes, beeping. LOUDLY.
Jacob: BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.
Jacob usually pretends to be an animal. But what beeps?
Jacob: I’m a SMOKE DETECTOR. You need to change the battery.
Me: OH. Okay. I have a new battery. Let me put it in.
Random motions in the air above my head.
Me: Phew. That should do it.
Jacob (looking annoyed): You forgot to put the cover back on.
More random motions above my head.
Me: All set?
Jacob: BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
Jacob (calmly): You put in the wrong kind of battery.
Jacob: BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
Emma: beep, beep, beep (giggle).
I reach under Emma who is sitting in my lap.
Me: Here’s the right kind. It was under Emma. That’s why I didn’t see it before.
(Please, no lectures on the risks of storing invisible batteries underneath my toddler.)
Lots of frantic motioning above my head.
So, where the heck did THIS come from? Who knew Jacob was even paying attention when we replaced the batteries in our smoke detectors? In fact, our smoke detectors have always had an annoying habit of beeping late at night, when this child is already completely unconscious. I thought he always slept through our frantic search for batteries. (And the simultaneous cursing.)
Which brings me to my next point. Cursing. Kids do pick up on things. All sorts of things. Usually, just the sort of things that you DON’T want them to notice. So, like any parents, Dan and I realized when Jacob was a toddler, that we had to clean up our language. Not that we curse often. But let’s be honest. We all have our moments. And our favorite curses.
Have I mentioned that I was voted “Sweetest” in high school? It’s true. This is because no one in my high school class was ever in a car with me when someone cut me off in traffic. The “F” bomb is dropped. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the rules of the road. If you don’t like it: DON’T CUT ME OFF. And worse yet, don’t cut me off and then DRIVE SLOWLY. (Do you WANT to be rear ended?) It’s like you expended all of your energy barging into my lane and now you’re too exhausted to push down on the gas peddle. GET. OUT. OF. MY. WAY. Did you cut me off just so that I could read your bumper stickers? I DON’T CARE WHAT MOUNTAIN YOUR CAR HAS CLIMBED.
Dan’s favorite is: “FOR F*CK’S SAKE”. I’m not sure what this means. But it has a nice ring to it. I hear it mostly when he’s putting together furniture. Or stubs his toe. Unless the children are around. In which case, he suppresses the cursing and I just hear very exaggerated vowel sounds. LOUDLY. (I kind of miss the cursing.)
Okay, best preschool story ever. Friends of friends here sent their darling three-year-old off to preschool. A few weeks in, they were mortified to learn from one of her teachers that– for no particular reason– she climbed on top of a table and proclaimed at the top of her lungs, “Jesus Christ Mother F***er!!!” This child was not even angry. But apparently Daddy was at some point when he let this one slip. I LOVE this story. Because it reminds me that anything we say at home will, without question, land on the ears of Jacob’s teachers. LOUDLY. And I don’t fool myself into thinking that I can say something to Jacob like, “Don’t repeat this at school”. Puh-lease. When you say, “Don’t repeat this at school”, your child hears, “As SOON as you get to school, hunt down your teacher and DEMAND her attention. Repeat EXACTLY what your parent said. Because the reaction WILL. BE. EPIC.” The child doesn’t have to know what they’re saying. They don’t care. They just want to see shock and awe. Bonus if the teacher spits out a mouthful of coffee. Suh-weet.
So, back to my own, darling Jacob. Somehow, miraculously, he hasn’t figured out any real swear words. (Yet.) He knows we don’t like it when he says “stupid”. And after an unfortunate run of allowing him to watch a “Charlie Brown” TV special several times, he picked up the word “blockhead”. But so far, let’s just say, he doesn’t know anything that would be censored by the major networks. So, ever the innovator, Jacob has simply created his own swear words. They sound a lot like he’s naming Santa’s reindeer. Or the seven dwarves.
“You BRINKER, BLINKER, DRINKER, LINKER”. I’m so hoping he’ll come out with “thinker” but he never does. (A real f***in’ shame.)
So what to do? We know that he’s TRYING to say something mean and hurtful. (He usually directs these ‘insults’ at us when we tell him he can’t do or have something he wants.) So, we tell him that he’s using mean talk. And has to stop. But maybe this is the wrong approach. I mean, if this is the way he gets his frustration out, perhaps we should just let him run with it? These are, after all, just a random collection of pseudo-swear words. Does the actual word matter? Or the intention?