the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Two brief anecdotes

Jon, Leta, and I are spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon shopping at a nearby outdoor mall and hop into a furniture store just to browse what’s new. We test out a few couches, inspect a few coffee tables, and Leta admires several large pillows. She sees a gigantic floor pillow covered in a soft zebra pattern and declares that she would like one of those right now, please. I check its price tag, gag on the idea of handing over a mortgage payment for a pillow that would no doubt be covered in Capri Sun stains within ten minutes of being in our house, and declare that it will not be coming home with us. But she said please. Yeah, and I said no. But she said the whole thing nicely. Yeah, and your point is? Mama would very much like a bigger set of tits right now, please. See how that didn’t work?

Jon and I head toward the exit and can feel the temperature in the room rising with Leta’s anger, and suddenly she throws her body face first onto the floor. We step over her body and pretend that we don’t know whose kid that is, remarking to each other that some people really need to learn to get control over their rotten offspring, and when she sees that it’s fourth down and twenty yards to go she turns over on her back and yells up from the floor, “OH MY GOD THE HELL.”

Both Jon and I whip around and give her The Menacing Stare, the So Help Me God I Will Risk Going To Prison If That’s What This Is Going To Take kind of glare, and when she makes eye contact with us she yells it again, only this time lingering on the last syllable as if she were singing the national anthem: “OH MY GOD THE HELLLLLLLLLLLLL!”

I march over to her horizontal body, pick her up and throw her over my shoulder like one might do a friend who has passed out from too much tequila and needs to be moved so that you don’t run her over when you back out of the driveway, and quickly transport her outside. There I set her down, and then I squat so that my face is about a centimeter from hers and inform her that what she just did was totally unacceptable. And I think the speed with which that whole maneuver takes place has scared the living HELLLLLLLLLLLLL out of her because her lower lip starts to tremble and she says, “Okay, Mama.” I ask her if she knows what she did wrong, but she is too terrified to answer me. If my dad had been standing there he would have given me a high five as this is the patented Hamilton Method of parenting.

“Leta, we told you never to use those words outside of the house, remember?”

“Yes, Mama,” she says, a tear forming in her right eye.

“And if you ever do this again you’re not going to be allowed to use those words inside the house either. You understand?”


Jon and Leta have gone upstairs to have breakfast, and I stumble in about thirty minutes later half awake, half dead. I head straight for Jon to give him a hug and thank him for getting up with the kid, and as we’re lingering in a sleepy embrace Leta shouts, “Let’s do a family hug!”

She hops down from the table where she is eating a bowl of Fruit Loops, runs over to us, and we pick her up and nuzzle her neck while squeezing each other to the point of discomfort. I give her a final kiss on the forehead before setting her down, and as I go to give Jon a kiss she proudly stares up at both of us as if we’re her children and have just graduated with honors. “That right there…” she says, “…that was a damn good family hug.”

  • Mrs. B. Roth

    2008/09/22 at 3:14 pm

    Good post. It’s tricky, here in Utah – with all the rules of acceptable language, to help kids know that some words in some contexts (like just mom and dad and at home) are fine, but in front of gramma, grandpa, Primary teacher, etc. we probably should not say, “Dammit!” and not “Bammit” either. And while “what the …” is okay, we mustn’t go on to “what the hell?!”

    Best of luck.

  • Robin

    2008/09/22 at 3:14 pm

    Why wait to teach your kids the proper use of such words? Plus it’s so awesome when they use the words correctly (in the privacy of one’s own home, of course).


  • stephanie

    2008/09/22 at 3:14 pm

    Z Gallery.

    That was Leta?

    I want that pillow too.

  • Karen

    2008/09/22 at 3:17 pm

    My fiance thinks it’s funny to yell “EAT MY PUSSY!” when I’m on important phone calls.

    I’m dreading that this is the one thing my toddler will pick up on when he starts repeating things we say.

  • The Independent Mom!

    2008/09/22 at 3:17 pm

    Oh thank the Gods my kids aren’t the only ones who talk like adults!

  • kirida

    2008/09/22 at 3:19 pm

    That was good. Damn good.

  • gingela5

    2008/09/22 at 3:20 pm

    Interesting post…I don’t necessarily agree with that but you are allowed to do what you want with your own children. And I am on pins and needles about the dog name!

  • Teresa

    2008/09/22 at 3:20 pm

    Can we set up a long-distance play-date relationship between Leta and my just-turned-6-year-old daughter? She has been diligently studying her two older brothers verbage recently and yesterday called my husband “you funking asprin idiot!” Not sure if the translation is fuckin’ asswipe idiot or what! Ya, so I’m a Southern Baptist Preacher’s Kid. What can I say? She’s MINE and I’m proud.

  • Pretty Lush

    2008/09/22 at 3:21 pm

    That kid is infinite shades of adorable.

  • tracy

    2008/09/22 at 3:22 pm

    those are some damn good stories! thanks for giving me a giggle today 🙂

  • Bad Parent

    2008/09/22 at 3:22 pm

    You have a budding actress in the making.

    Leta really knows how to push your buttons and you’re learning how to teach her to keep her shit together in public over nonsense.

    My kid still pulls this crap over wanting “stuff”, but she is 22 yrs old. Curb it while you have the ability to teach her to how to not be a spilled brat.

    I missed that parenting lesson!

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/22 at 3:22 pm

    She’s obviously very precocious…I’m looking forward to the teen years…maybe she’ll start to blog like her mom:)

  • Sarah

    2008/09/22 at 3:22 pm

    Heather, she’s so awesome.

    My now-15-year-old cousin’s first phrase was “fuck it.” It was hysterical to 9-year-old me.

  • Margie

    2008/09/22 at 3:23 pm

    That is about as good as when my daughter (who is now 28) at the age of 3 called me a “dumb mother fucker” when I wouldn’t her wander the store alone (she had picked that up at the CHURCH preschool she attended) . . needless to say, I got down eyeball to eyeball with her too and put the fear of god into her . . sort of . . three days later she called her grandmother the same thing . . as far as I know she has never said it again, at least to our faces.

  • Kris

    2008/09/22 at 3:23 pm


  • nikki

    2008/09/22 at 3:24 pm

    The hubby, the kid (4 at the time) and I had a cozy night in watching Shrek a few years ago. Next day, driving through a snowstorm to go sledding, a little voice pipes up from the back seat and says, “Daddy, this is the best damn snow ever.”

    Daddy damn near drove off the road.

  • leesavee

    2008/09/22 at 3:24 pm

    LOVE to see a child using profanity in such an appropriate way.

    Many years ago, I nannied for a child in NYC. Her parents had taught her all about the correct anatomical names for body parts. She was three. We were walking through a crowded Fairway grocery store, and she kept pulling on her underwear. I asked what the problem was, repeatedly, and finally, in exasperation, she yelled, “Lisa, MY VAGINA ITCHES!!!”

    Everyone around us was quite amused. As, I’m sure, were the people in the store with the zebra pillow.

  • Kathi

    2008/09/22 at 3:24 pm

    Same thing happened when our son was 4. We were in a grocery store, except when my husband picked him up and carried him out to our car, he was surrounded by police cars within a couple minutes. Seems a helpful passerby called to report a kidnapping… Now the Meting Out of Justice is handled by Mommy when we’re in public. We have the same damn hell ass rule in our house – go to town with your vocabulary as long as we’re inside, and you don’t have friends over!

  • P

    2008/09/22 at 3:25 pm

    Damn smart kid that one.

  • Jennifer

    2008/09/22 at 3:26 pm

    That right there, was a damn good anecdote.

    Thank you for, once again, shedding some light as to the embarrassments I have the esteemed pleasure of understanding, once we have children. Oh Squee!!

    My sister used to pitch temper tantrums in the middle of stores, I however, am the good child and was the one asleep in my stroller while Denise would make loud remarks about people such as:

    “Mommy, that lady is REALLY pregnant!” (Overweight)

    “Mommy, what’s wrong with that mans eyes?” (Chinese)

    “Mommy, that ladys REALLY tan!” (African American)

    Oh joy…

  • Raychelle

    2008/09/22 at 3:26 pm

    That’s adorable! I mean the way kids can exactly mimic their parents is hilarious. I wish there was a video because I’m sure the words were too cute coming out 🙂

  • Faithstwin

    2008/09/22 at 3:27 pm

    Way to scare the crap out of Leta. She will remember that for a LOOONNNGGG time.

    You crack me up and as Leta gets older, she will be cracking us up more and more.

  • Toren

    2008/09/22 at 3:28 pm

    Holy crap, you and your family own. Brave lady, I pray for your temperance in the hate mail department. Someone will definitely get their nuts twisted up over this. I remember when I was little asking my mom when I would be allowed to cuss, you know, just around the house and such. She said never, I promptly replied, “well, shit.”

  • kimca

    2008/09/22 at 3:29 pm

    I was just attempting to wedge a futon sized slice of spelt/flax toast in my mouth, smothered in almond butter and sugar free peach jam (deelish), when I almost choked with the laughter. I’ll definitely be using the line “OH MY GOD THE HELL” sometime soon (most likely at work tomorrow…).

    I finally recovered from my choking fit just as I read #15. Maybe it has something to do with being Canadian (see #39) but I also found that comment hilariously funny.

    This is a great site. I got introduced to it recently and the archives are addictive. I’ve stumbled on many, many gems.

    Merci beaucoup

  • Terri

    2008/09/22 at 3:29 pm

    We have giant frog which the two year old is now referring to as a “giant fuck.” The older kids delight in making Nicky say things like ‘mother frog’ (mother fuck) etc.

    I have to admit, while I usually try to act mature, as if this is not funny, it’s hysterical and often I can’t help but to make him say a few “froggy” words myself when I think no one is listening.

  • faq

    2008/09/22 at 3:30 pm

    fruit loops??? what the hellllll happened to the pancakes?

  • Lisa

    2008/09/22 at 3:31 pm


  • Anna

    2008/09/22 at 3:32 pm

    Awww. She makes a mama proud!

  • merlotmom

    2008/09/22 at 3:33 pm

    The world is going to H-E-double hockey sticks out there in Mormon country and Leta Armstrong is leading the revolt. HIDE!

  • Natalie

    2008/09/22 at 3:34 pm

    Ha! I hope that when I have kids they’re as funny as your Leta. Not to mention, both my boyfriend and I curse like sailors, something I doubt we’ll change as we get older.

    You’d be surprised (or maybe not) by how many younger children love to misbehave through saying something inappropriate. The best is when you’re volunteering by teaching children a second or third language and a four-year-old asks you how you say “shit-cock” in Serbian.


  • Heidi Renée

    2008/09/22 at 3:36 pm

    If we ever have kids, they are going to be incomprehensibly foul-mouthed… I blame the Navy.

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/22 at 3:37 pm

    I think this world needs more “damn good family hugs” … it would be a better place.

  • Katrina

    2008/09/22 at 3:38 pm

    Family legend has it that my mother spent a lot of energy telling my vulgar father to watch his language around me as a toddler.

    That stopped when they found me digging through my toybox at age 2, saying “oh shit, oh shit, oh SHIT!” in a perfect imitation of my dear mother when she can’t find something.

    We like to remind her of this to this day, that she was the one who taught me how to swear properly.

  • Sandra

    2008/09/22 at 3:38 pm

    I swear I don’t know where it comes from, because I don’t really ever swear, but my six-year-old has no problem throwing out the occasional accidental f-bomb while at the same time is completely terrified of accidently saying shut up…

    Also, my CAPTCHA text just happens to be, and I am so not kidding, Mullet Rock!

  • Nicole

    2008/09/22 at 3:39 pm

    Just last week my 1st grader told me he was supposed to make a word with pieces of paper in class. He made the word “crap”. I told him he couldn’t use words like that in school. His response was, “Well, I learned it from you.” My answer was, “That’s not right, because if you learned it from me it would have been ‘shit’.” He about fell out of his chair.

  • Kimmy

    2008/09/22 at 3:39 pm

    Did Leta make up her tantrum phrase herself? I’ve never heard anyone say OH MY GOD THE HELL! before, but it’s very innovative and creative.

    My niece just turned 4 years old, and after a long afternoon of games, a pinata, cake, and presents, we are at my mom’s house relaxing. She is tired and cranky and starts repeating PISS PISS PISS PISS PISS PISS PISS over and over again! Her parents and my brother and I just looked at eachother like, what the heck do we do?

    When one of my cousins was about 5, we all went to the water park – I was about 17 at the time. My brother and I took her to swim through the lazy river and she was wearing one of those kiddie life vests that have a strap that goes right under their crotch. Well, I guess the strap was too tight and was causing her bathing suit to ride up. As she is picking her wedgie, she declares, “My bathing suit is going up my VAGINA!!”
    My brother and I could not stop laughing.

  • Jodie

    2008/09/22 at 3:40 pm

    Leta is the most precocious kid! I would have had the spanking of my life if I had said anything like that around my parents. Or alternately the mouth washed out with soap routine. My Mom’s worst cuss word was “dammit”. Ah, growing up in the 60s!

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/22 at 3:40 pm

    Hilarious!! When my god daughter was still learning to talk, a friend of her mom’s gave her a Funky Girl doll, which she pronounced as “fucky girl.” Of course, we would encourage her to say that as much as possible strictly for our amusement.
    I love cussing! The F word is my favorite and I truly have to watch it in front of my 4 year old and 22 month old.
    Leta is hilarious!

  • Emma

    2008/09/22 at 3:41 pm

    Ha, I feel for Leta. I also have a hard time with the ‘house only’ language as well. Sometimes I find myself almost swearing and/or talking in ‘dog language’ out in public.

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/22 at 3:42 pm

    My son, in response to not getting something at the store he wanted, would yell at the top of his lungs, “mommy, don’t hit me again.” Needless to say he was never hit, but got the response he wanted from those around us.

  • Jessica

    2008/09/22 at 3:42 pm

    OMG I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard.

    My daughter started saying ‘son-of-a-bitch’ in context(dropped a toy, stubbed a toe) at 18 months. And who taught her?? Grandma! The same one that was all over ME for MY language! Oh the justice in that! Still makes me smile and it was 6 years ago!

  • Jennifer

    2008/09/22 at 3:44 pm

    That’s nothing. My daughter dropped the f-bomb in front of my in-laws when she was two. Needless to say, I did not win mother of the year that year.

  • Heather B.

    2008/09/22 at 3:44 pm

    That was great. How did you know that I was in dire need of those particular anecdotes?

  • kate

    2008/09/22 at 3:45 pm

    Hillarious. I love that she deploys those words in their proper context! And anyone thinking about sending hate mail about this is an asshat.

  • Missy

    2008/09/22 at 3:46 pm

    When I was two I watched National Lampoon’s Vacation with my older brother (he was supposed to be watching me), and later that night at the dinner table, right after the prayers, I promptly looked at my dad and said, “Fuck your momma.” Thank you National Lampoon’s and the classic scene from East St. Louis.

  • Natasha

    2008/09/22 at 3:49 pm

    #88 “I love cussing! The F word is my favorite…” Doesn’t that sound like something a 7-year old would say? Holy articulate, Batman. Maybe that’s why that person likes the F word so much. It replaces BIG words like “incredible”, distaste”, and “antidisestablismentarianism”. Okay, not really but you get my point.

  • Haley

    2008/09/22 at 3:49 pm

    No cussing but I love this one from my 7 yr old twin nieces, their mom was irritated with the mess in their playroom and told them if they didn’t help clean up the mess she was going to throw their toys away, their response was:

    “That’s ok Mom, Christmas and our birthdays are coming soon and we’ll get more toys.”

    Leta is only 4, oh what fun you are gonna have!!!

  • Elementary Dear

    2008/09/22 at 3:51 pm

    Har! Feel blessed, Ms. Armstrong. At least you didn’t get a “f@ck!n'”

    I love it.

  • Sally in Florida

    2008/09/22 at 3:51 pm

    Me personally? I loved it when my little princesses let one of those words fly at home. I was raised somewhat like you and it just makes me laugh because if I had said “crap” my dad would’ve smacked said crap out of me. High five Leta, that sounded like a damn fine family hug to me too!

  • fanny

    2008/09/22 at 3:51 pm

    Leta is my new heroe (but don’t tell her I told you).
    xx fanny

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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