Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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.”

  • Lisa

    My husband called me when I was in the middle of a very serious family meeting concerning one of my hospice patients. He’s all, “you won’t believe this. The (Baptist) daycare center has asked me to come get Amanda (then 3 years old) and take her home. She called Aunty Edna a ‘fat fucking bitch’.” I’m all, “omg.” And my hospice family is staring at me waiting for me to get off the phone. It was so effing embarrassing to have Amanda use those words. We couldn’t figure out where on earth she’d heard them…big bro? big sis? Who knows. All I know is that when I run into Aunty Edna (15 years later) I still blush and feel horribly badly for her!

  • Kids!

  • Lauren Strange

    That is a DAMN good idea.
    I see no point in telling my child no to something like that when I do the same fucking thing myself.
    Granted, my daughter is only 19 months old, but with me and her father’s and well just about the rest of our family’s potty mouth it’s going to happen pretty soon.
    That’s a great idea, inside words, outside words.

    Not to mention it made for a great story.
    It had me laughing to the point of tears.

  • Sarah Reed

    My daughter’s favorite is “Booger Ass.”

  • Brenda

    Hilarious! My 7 year old son did something similar just before the beginning of September. It was the end of August and we were hunkered down inside due to another Noah-esque rain. I was watching the news and checking the weather while he played with his Legos. All of a sudden he mumbles “Go figure. This is crappy and unfair.” I thought I heard wrong and asked “What did you say?” He said “Look. Next week school starts and it is to be beautiful and sunny. Not fair. It has been crappy rain all summer. It sucks.” I said to him “Now you understand what Mondays are like for us, kid!”

  • Anonymous

    Years ago we were all gathered around the table for a nice family dinner when my then 4 year old brother stands on his chair and says “pass the butta mothafucka”.
    This phrase still comes up whenever the family gets together, and it still makes us laugh.

  • Ok, i CANNOT resist, and I apologize aforethought (don’t you love that word?) if this starts a flame war.

    But I had to laugh when I read one of your commenters above – yes, her tantrums DO tend to follow the same pattern, how odd! It’s almost as though…Almost as though she throws them whenever she doesn’t get what she wants! Why, it’s amazing – do you think that maybe she’s – I don’t know – maybe she’s acting like a small child and throwing a tantrum because she small children don’t know how to control their emotions when they get what they want? Hell, I know grown people who throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want.

    Not that I’m knocking those techniques – shit, I’m a social worker and have been trained in all kinds of this crap. But the thing is, most kids, when they don’t get what they want, and if it’s something they really want, are going to throw a fit once in a while. It’s not like she’s doing it every day, and likely she’s more prone to them when she’s tired/cranky/hungry/whatever.

    Anyway, I loved it – I thought for a second you were going to threaten that she couldn’t use ANY words, EVER. The look on her face when she processed THAT would have been priceless.

  • Ellen

    GOOD STUFF! If I’d been there I would’ve been hiding behind a couch laughing until I cried.

    I was raised that those words were NEVER appropriate – and soap in mouth was the treatment. Well, recently I was being sarcastic to my mom (keeps her young) and she started to call me a bitch but caught herself and tried to change it. I squealed, “Did you call me a bitch???”

    She couldn’t deny it. I laughed until my sides hurt. Parents get funnier with age.

  • That kid is a pistol! You are in sooooo much trouble later on. 🙂

  • Meredith

    F-in hilarious.

  • It IS awesome that she can swear effectively. That kid is going to be awwwwright!

  • Sarah

    No assvice, people. Only funny stories about children cursing.

  • Susanne

    We have the same cuss rule for our four-year-old daughter.

    And that’s how my mother raised me, thank Gods.

    Love it here, Dooce. So glad I found your blog.

  • kaerynne

    We have the same rule – except it goes:
    “whatever’s said in the Volvo, stays in the Volvo”
    I can’t drive without swearing so it’s fair game that the kids get to try out the lingo IN THE CAR only.

    of course, we’ve all taken to putting our hands up over our head like a roof when outside the car to make swearing pretty much okay anywhere.

  • Yeah.
    Tonight my 8yr old son got naked in the hall way instead of in the bathroom before his shower, and when I told him his penis was too grown up to be flashing in the house he said “I’m going to touch you with it” with this cheezy assed grin…. to which I responded, “no, don’t bother, it has been a very long time since a penis worried me”.
    Jeez.
    On another note, my new fave phraze iz gonna be…”Oh! the Helllll!”

  • Anonymous

    would that book be click clack moo???

  • Anonymous

    My eyes are watering…

    so f*cking funny! I love Leta!

  • Anecdote 1: Been there, done that, except the highlight remains my daughter screaming “I WANT” repeatedly (20-30 times) at the mall, and an elderly lady tut-tutting us (like She had been the perfect mother with the perfect child)

    Anecdote 2: I don’t know how this happened, but my children pride themselves on Not swearing, and I pride myself on using borderline swear words (like crap ) and watching them squirm. What went wrong? Or what went right?

  • Dodi

    AWESOME!

  • Rosie

    As a child I was a bit of a perfectionist and would throw a tantrum (screaming and yelling) whenever I made a mistake while practicing the violin. My mom got so sick of the noise she TOLD me to swear instead of making those horrible noises whenever I got upset.

  • momoftwo

    Your parenting rules intrigue me! I curse like a sailor and have always known that my girls will grow up to do the same. I’ve never considered having a “curse in the house” rule. Interesting. My 4 yr old has said a few choice phrases, but nothing in public yet. The best was on Halloween…she was 2. The poor kid couldn’t say “pumpkin”…it came out f’in :o) I kept asking her to tell daddy he was pumpkin nuts! Good times.

  • Tee

    I consider myself extremely liberal; however, I just can’t co-sign a child using profanity. In fact, I make a concerted effort to never use it in a kid’s presence….family or not. However, isn’t that the beauty of free will? It works all ways. Good luck for what I’m sure will be a mountain of hate mail!

  • AColleen

    adorable

  • Just when I thought Dooce had already made my day, you go and post this. Classic!

    Thanks, Heather. 🙂

  • Oh my god, I am still cracking up! Kids can be too funny, huh? Especially their interpretation of how to cuss. My kids make me laugh when they try to say, “That’s what she said” (they have seen The Office waaay too many times) and it really doesn’t work. Like, I’ll say, “That’s a really cool toaster!” and they’ll say, “That’s what she said!” giggle, giggle.

  • Damn good indeed. Thanks for this, really beautiful.

  • this post was so incredibly awesome that i made my husband read it.

  • H

    When my little brother was 2, he always had his binkie in his mouth. I used to enjoy pulling it out because he got so mad. One time I pulled it out and he yelled “Biiiiiitch”

    I died laughing. I’m 17 years older than him so I thought it was too funny! My mom coudln’t even hide the laughter!

  • Erik

    Maybe Tara (long first “a”)?

    My Tara was sweet, loving, faithful, and beautiful; and like Puppy, was a stealer of hearts.

  • Rich

    This has to be one of my favorite posts.
    I also had to wipe away a tear, OutfuckingStanding Parenting.
    We call them Daddy words in my house though.

  • LOVE it, lol! You must be very proud.

  • Andrea

    When I was three – and sitting at a formal dinner table with my very religious grandparents and great-grandparents – I decided to recite the new poem my father had taught me. (I think this poem, or some variation of it, was actually your first blog post.)

    Carnation milk is the very best brand
    The very best brand in all the land
    No tits to pull, no hay to pitch
    Just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

    Apparently I sat there smiling, waiting for applause while my father tried to figure out how to crawl under the table without being noticed and my mother shot daggers at him with her eyes.

  • Priceless!

  • I really don’t see how this is funny at all. You expect a 4 year-old to be able to have the impulse control over using appropriate language outside the home?

    I mean, I am guilty of swearing in front of my kids, but I’m the ADULT. There are a lot of things that I can do that they can’t. That’s part of being a grown-up, all those adult perks that come with age.

  • Sarah

    A boy about Leta’s age said to his mom: “MOM this is FUCKING ME OUT”

    He obviously meant “freaking” but they had a short chat about when and when not to use that word afterward.

  • Andrea

    …forgot to say – great post! I’m still laughing…

  • Leena

    seriously, this makes me want a kid!!!

  • while i am sure you will take a bunch of shit for telling these stories, THANK YOU. you have made my day.

  • So this is my first time here and I dont know you. Usually I just leave if I don’t like the post…but seriously, WTF kinda mother are you?

    “outside the house”

    Seriously? You let her talk like that inside the house?

    It’s no wonder kids these days are growing up disrespectful…they are being raised by you.

    Leta honey, save your allowance now. You will need it for therapy.

  • leta. ftw!

    seriously i’m 31 years old and grew up in a household where my parents swore on a pretty regular basis. my mother still freaks when i say fuck. and i tell her to just get over it! and it works. 🙂

    it’s my favorite word and i refuse to give it up just for my MOTHER.

  • I love it. The C word was the weapon of choice at my high school – every still looks shocked when someone from my school drops the C bomb.

  • Amy

    Leta is 4 and I’m almost 40—I still haven’t learned to cuss that well. What the flip?

  • Ooooooh, darlin’, you MUST have been bored today b/c it goes w/o saying how many people are going to get their knickers all in sailors’ knots about this post and flood your site with nasty, righteous, reactionary comments and e-mails. Best of luck weathering those seas! (Like my nautical theme? I’m so random today.)

  • C

    This post made me laugh, and for the record, from what I’ve read over the years, I think you’re a great mom.

    I admit I *am* curious to know whether a little kid can truly understand that certain words allowed in the home are not allowed in public–esp in situations of extreme anger. I find it difficult to keep my mouth in check when I’m in freak-out mode, and I’m a grown-up! Sounds like it might get kinda problematic at school… esp with the way teachers overreact about stuff like that.

    But she’s your kid and I totally trust your judgment. Really. Also, I think you’re brave and badass and beautiful and awesome. And this post was very well-written. Peace!

  • I’d be grateful if mine used the opera-sung helllllllll. When he gets mad (at a ripe old age of 4), he bursts into…are you ready for this….

    I hate you toopid fucken mummy.

    Had to carry him out of my neighbour’s house using the same hold you used on Leta one fine summer day. It’s those precious moments that make parenting all worth while.

  • Judith

    I have been reading for years and this is my first comment. Yeah, Leta!!!! And yeah, parents!!! And to the person who questioned your parenting, that’s the same thing I taught my sons about cursing. They are almost middle-aged now and very upstanding citizens and not given to cursing in public or private but if they do it, they do it well.

  • herself

    Potty mouth that I am, I wonder what my stance on the foul language issue will be by the time my 6 month old reaches swearing age. Since the last 6 months has passed like one long day, then he should be swearing by next tuesday. It is unlikely I will have stopped cursing by then.

    But Oh My God The Hell if it is anyone other than me who teaches him to swear.

  • Andy in Ogden

    My parents both used Damn and Hell and my Dad’s favorite was Shit.

    Only once did I hear him drop the “f” bomb, and I KNEW he was pissed.

    When my nieces an nephews were growing up the favorite of theirs was “That just pisses my off!”

    Out of the mouth of babes indeed…

  • I am laughing out loud right now. Just woke my husband up…because he can’t possibly sleep well tonight without reading this first.

  • Buffy Davis

    I am in the habit of saying, “YOUR MOM’S A WHORE!” loudly every time I hurt myself. My mother has warned me about doing this in front my four year old. Part of me knows she’s right… but another part of me kind of can’t wait to hear her say it!

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.