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.”

  • Rachie

    2008/09/23 at 4:01 pm

    Aw, I think that’s adorable! The trembling lip thing when she knows she’s in trouble. So cute!

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/23 at 4:47 pm

    OH Dooce, I don’t know how you put up with all these self righteous people every day…. your poor tantrum throwing child…if she were only perfect your blog would read everyday…
    Dear Internet,
    Leta was a good girl today. She blah blah blah blah… yea we want to read about that… thanks for keeping it real with your own touch. Most of us love you. 🙂

  • Gina

    2008/09/23 at 4:54 pm

    Heather, Thank you for this post and many (all) others. My husband and I made a pact to swear as much as possible while I was pregnant and to stop when the baby came. Well it’s been 5 months and we haven’t stopped, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to handle the whole swear thing (yeah, I’m jumping the gun), but the, “Leta, we told you never to use those words outside of the house, remember?” is so SMART. And it must come in handy for other things too; nose picking is the first thing that comes to mind. You are doing such a good job of raising your little human, you have impressed me many times with your understanding and humor. Thanks again.

  • Stacey

    2008/09/23 at 5:13 pm

    My new favourite saying will be OH MY GOD THE HEEEELLLLLLLL!

    Almost tops my two year old niece asking her (very religious) grandmother “where’s my f@#king dummy?”

  • Krista

    2008/09/23 at 6:34 pm

    What is wrong with you that you would let your 4-year old use that kind of language anywhere, let alone making a distinction between inside and outside the house? When she starts using those words at school, I am sure it won’t bring nostalgic tears to anyone’s eyes when her little butt is sitting by you all the time because she gets sent home for using language like that. I would totally be ticked if your child taught my child those words. Kids don’t have control over what they are taught and who teaches them; shame on you for being the adult who should have controlled herself so that your daughter doesn’t have to use adult judgments as to whether or not a location is suitable for using certain words.

  • MB

    2008/09/23 at 6:45 pm

    Awesome. Double standards need to start young.

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/23 at 6:53 pm

    And I am directing this to the commenters.

    I dunno if Heather is a brilliant mother, but she is really no different for me or anyone else I know who is parenting a young child.

    First of all, cussing is not unravelling society.

    Second of all, little kids cussing actually IS really funny, unless they are using the words correctly and directing them at another person.

    Third of all, even a 4 yesr old can distinguish environment as it relates to his or her behavior. Many MANY kids behave one way at school and another way at home, based on thee expectations set there. Many behave one way at mommy’s and one way at Daady’s. Ditto their parents house and their grandparents ouse.

    My son knew, as young as 3 that whipping out his penis was NOT ok in public, but was more than acceptable in the privacy of his room or the bathroom. In spite of this contradiction, he has yet to whip it out in public.

    Finally, My 7 year old has been listening to Greenday since.. well, BIRTH. He has never cussed out in public.

    I don’t think mean little kids who “cuss you out” are cute either. But Leta is hardly on her way to Juvie.

    So again I ask.. really? and to those parents who’s household was perfect and structured and not at all chaotic, who’s kids neevr did anything horrifying in public and who NEVER did something in terms of their parenting style that went against the norm because it was YOUR FAMILY… stay the hell away form me. I can’t relate.

  • Treat

    2008/09/23 at 6:59 pm

    Kids should have enough respect not to swear in front of their parents, no matter what age they are. You should really teach your daughter that. From what I’ve read though, you don’t really have control of her. She rules the roost and she knows it. Four years old and still has on-the-floor tantrums. I’d be afraid. Very afraid.

  • Amy

    2008/09/23 at 7:06 pm

    I read your blog so that when the time comes, I will want to have kids rather than being too scared per chance of screwing them up. Thank you.

  • Stef

    2008/09/23 at 7:10 pm

    Wow, this one warranted two comments from me 🙂

    I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I’ve been around them enough to know that they know damn well what they’re doing. Two-year-olds know what they can get away with at grandma’s house vs what they can get away with at home. It’s not a double-standard, it’s LIFE. In real life, acceptable behavior is determined by your surroundings. You want an adult example? You can yell, scream, and act like a maniac at a football game, but don’t try it at the DMV.

    Besides, sheltering your children doesn’t do them any good in the long run. I was in a convenience store one day when someone informed me that my car had just been hit. I yelled, “Shit!” and a parent berated me because her daughter was present. (Granted I probably would have tried to tone it down if I had known the kid was there, but I didn’t.) I made sure to slip in a few more loud obscenities on my way out the door, because I was pissed off and because I could. If the parent and/or child were that offended, the parent should have simply explained, “We don’t say those kinds of words, even if other adults do.” It’s much more effective than telling other adults how to live their lives.

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/23 at 7:33 pm

    I am not understanding how this is cute one little bit. Cursing is so…trashy to me…It bothers me when other kids cuss in front of my daughter. I think it shows a lack of respect for others to be honest. And I have never disliked one of your posts 🙁 I guess I am no to hard to rattle but this was the first one that did!

  • Maria

    2008/09/23 at 7:46 pm

    We have a swearing at bedtime rule for my 4 and 6 year old daughters. It works great, and they never use those words except at bedtime. If my husband or I swear they say, “it’s not bedtime!” they can definitely differentiate between inside outside words. Oh, we started the bedtime words because my four year old (when she was three before bedtime words) walked up to a group of people (including me) and announced, “THIS IS A GREAT FUCKING PARTY!

  • alfredsmom

    2008/09/23 at 8:29 pm

    Good work!

    I so so want to have the courage to discipline my child out in pubic, but I get all fearful of judgement. But whats worse? Your child acting up and doing nothing, or doing something? Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Jules

    2008/09/23 at 8:32 pm

    My boundaries were really tested by this post. I thank you for that. I definitely have a new outlook on this subject and I have to say that I agree with your stand on this.

  • menokissass

    2008/09/23 at 8:40 pm

    I dare Heather to post a false story about something that she did that was truly horrific and see how many people pat her on the back. I know it would happen. You people are too much. Really–get lives already. Swearing kids suck. By allowing kids to do it, you are opening the floodgates of a lifetime of disrespect. It’s the little things that really add up in parenting.

  • Talon

    2008/09/23 at 8:54 pm

    Yes please publish the hate mail from this post!!

    *kisses middle finger sweetly to #225*

    When my daughter was two, and I was big into Gundam Wing (one of the most awesomeest animes EVAR) I taught her to say “Stalker-bitch Relena.”

    I also taught her to name all the Gundam boys and their Gundams in order, but that’s not nearly as amusing.

  • Sweet Herald

    2008/09/23 at 8:55 pm

    I don’t think you’re a bad parent by any means, but you do have to be careful because you can confuse the living hell out of kids if you’re not careful. For my five year old little boy, I have gone through a list of “bad” words, some he had never heard of, but inevitably will from television, or from Mama inside the car in downtown traffic, or hell even a fucker on the street will be cussing on his cell phone. I’m not going to deny the words are out there, and that I too sometimes use them. No need to shelter him. However, he knows these are words that belong on naughty word/adult list, and he is not allowed to use without permission. I have never given him permission, and he’s never asked. Snort!
    But, shit man, it seems to work.

  • Dee

    2008/09/23 at 9:08 pm

    My kids both know they aren’t allowed to cuss, even though I occasionally let a cuss word slip out. However, my 12 year old son decided recently to try pronouncing f*** and sh** like the Irish do, with a charming lucky charms lilt. No more Irish movies! I informed him I would not accept mispronunciations of bad words either, he could bet his arse on that….

  • Talon

    2008/09/23 at 9:24 pm

    Oh, and to all the morons who think that a four year old can’t understand inside words and outside words…um…excuse me? We teach our children about inside and outside voices.

    How the fucking FUCK is that so different??

    Jesus christ people…get a fucking hobby!!!

  • LoriM

    2008/09/23 at 10:30 pm

    When my now eight-year-old son, Elliott (who’s favorite cuss word is “shit,” by the way) was three, he was OBSESSED with construction toys. Unfortunately, he had a few issues with pronouncing the letters “T” and “F”. So — we’d be cruising down the highway, beltway, pathway, walkway and fairway and every single time he saw a construction truck, he would belt out, “Mommy, look at the BIG FUCK, look at the BIG FUCK!!”

    It gets worse. He also had “issues” with the letters “D” and “N”. His favorite construction fuck — I mean, truck — was a digger. One day, while perusing the construction toys at Target, he honed in on a big, yellow digger. But instead of repeatedly asking, “Mommy, can I please get the digger?” he inserted an “n” for the “d.”

    I’m so not kidding.

    I have never been so mortified in my entire life.

    For days, we did nothing but practice saying “digger.”

    To this day, whenever I think about it, all I can say is, oy fucking vey.

  • LoriM

    2008/09/23 at 10:37 pm

    That should read, “whose favorite cuss word is shit…” — not “who’s.”

    Sorry, I’m fanatical about grammar lapses.

  • Mark Dodge Medlin

    2008/09/23 at 11:28 pm

    I was going to point out that they’re Froot Loops, not Fruit Loops, but I decided against it. Didn’t want to get lumped in with grammar cops like #421, who might as well bail out the
    Great Salt Lake with a thimble as try to keep people from mixing up “who’s” and “whose.”

  • Katie

    2008/09/23 at 11:42 pm

    That tops the list of fricking funniest anecdotes ever. I almost peed laughing.

    I try not to swear or use ‘god’ or ‘JC’ in front of my kids, but honest to GAWD, ‘Cheese and Rice’ just doesn’t have the same passion as a good wholesome JeezusChrist yelled at the top of your lungs.

  • cc

    2008/09/23 at 11:45 pm

    I am beginning to hate reading the phrase, “Shame on you…[insert act here].” Used to think it was cute (when used with sarcasm.) Didn’t realize some people actually used it for real!

    OMGTH! You got yourself some self-righteous people ’round here.

    Must be the same folks who got angry with your political post.

  • Sweet Herald

    2008/09/24 at 1:21 am

    Your daily photo thumbnail…ummmm…hehehe.

  • Melissa

    2008/09/24 at 1:41 am

    Delurking to comment.

    To those of you wondering aloud why kids have no respect these days and then instantaneously deeming curse words the root of this disrespect, you need to get out more.

    In my experience working with abused kids previously and as a counselor currently, I say the kids I have known who have no respect are the ones whose parents never show them any form of discipline, never teach them guidelines, or rules. Obviously Heather demonstrated with her post that actions have consequences and there are guidelines and rules to follow for acceptable behavior.

    You think kids can’t differentiate about where and when to use that sort of language? Well, no, they probably don’t right away, but if the parents are consistent, immediate with discipline, and actually TALK to their kids, their kids can learn. The problem these days is that parents don’t take the time to communicate with their kids and aren’t consistent when they do. THAT’S more why there are disrespectful kids.

    I applaud the fact that Heather gave more than a finger wag at Leta and furthermore explained why she was disciplined!

  • ksue

    2008/09/24 at 6:05 am

    Love the name (though I was rooting for Fargo just knowing how affected that can sound, being from Minnesota doncha know!)!
    Had a little detour thanks to your Daily Chuck.
    Not sure if you found the Motown Video from ’83? That’s where “the internet” says he first performed the Moonwalk for a live television audience.
    Here’s the link:

  • Nicole

    2008/09/24 at 6:22 am

    If I have a child I know she will be just like Leta and I will be just like you. Sometimes it’s like you rip thoughts out of my brain and post them on your blog. By the way I want those Michael Jackson sunglasses! Rock on Heather!

  • Kathy

    2008/09/24 at 8:53 am

    This cracked me up so bad I had to tell all of my friends to read it. I almost peed myself picturing Leta on the floor “Oh the Hell!” hahahahahah

    The people who have commented negatively toward this obviously have no sense of humor and think they are perfect. Big deal… it’s WORDS— I’ll bet if you followed them around all day they have ACTIONS that speak much louder and way worse.

    OH THE HELLLLLLLLLLL = my new saying.

  • Denise

    2008/09/24 at 9:20 am

    Those kids DO listen to what you’re saying after all!!!

  • Andrea

    2008/09/24 at 9:33 am

    This totally crakced me up. My husband and I have been having a little tug ot war on this issue. I think its fine to have words our 3 year old can say only at home where as he thinks he should never say them b/c he may slip-up in front of someone who would not find the humor in it as we do. My dad always says there is a time and a place to use fowl language (which aparrently is all the time and every where for him).

    We are also debating whether “douche bag” is actually a bad word. As in “you are such a douche bag.” I think its fine because its an actual thing but my husband says no way.

    Thanks for the laugh!!!

  • JB

    2008/09/24 at 9:50 am

    One question. Was “there” said in her best southern voice?

    If so, that thar was a damn good post!

    I loved it!

  • Shelly

    2008/09/24 at 10:42 am

    Ok, Heather. Although I have read your blog for a while, I did not want to join the ranks of those who post and make gratuitous ass-kissing an art form BUT I have to say that I ‘ve finally come to the conclusion that we were separated at birth (especially based on your last few posts). Itsy Bitsy Spider? Not a chance! Lately we’ve had Arcade Fire, Muse, and of course I CANNOT stop listening to “In Rainbows.” Thank you for posting the “Nude” video and turning me on to that one. Now I can stop listening to “15 Step” 10,000 times a day. Also, I have a hilarious video of my son listening to MIA’s “Paper Planes.” I’m sure you’ve heard that one, right? That definitely puts me above you to win “The Worst Mother of the Year” award—hah! Anyhow, keep writing and have you guys considered a road trip to Denver? I think Leta and Atticus would get along fabulously!

  • David M

    2008/09/24 at 10:43 am

    “Inside rules” and “outside rules”? Sounds like the foundation of a very confusing world view. Sorry. I love the dooce, but I question the thinking sometimes.

  • Vikki

    2008/09/24 at 10:55 am

    One particularly crabby morning, my daughter (who is 3) was sitting down at the table to have breakfast with her brother (who was 6 at the time) and said in a tone that suggested she had the weight of the world on her shoulds,”God…I hate these damn chairs.” He looked at her, nodded and simply said, “Yep.”

  • EM

    2008/09/24 at 11:02 am

    Your posts make me smile…for that, THANK YOU!

  • Lori M

    2008/09/24 at 11:04 am

    # 422 — Mark Dodge Medlin

    Jumpy, much?

    I understand. Bottom feeders are like that.

  • Elizabeth

    2008/09/24 at 11:13 am

    Ohmigod — WHERE is that child picking up that LANGUAGE?

  • Fishing Around

    2008/09/24 at 11:39 am

    You’ve got a funny kid there.

  • Friend

    2008/09/24 at 1:07 pm

    This post confused me……

  • Christy

    2008/09/24 at 1:28 pm

    #321…Emily…love you.

  • Adubs

    2008/09/24 at 1:31 pm

    Just looked at the pic of you in the new blouse. Yep, you still got it, Heather.

  • LindzML

    2008/09/24 at 3:23 pm

    I live in the house that my grandmother grew up in and one day when I was 4 I was gardening with my mother. I asked her what a huge pewter pot was doing in our garden. She told me it was the “dammit pot”. Apparently my great-grandmother ran into the huge pot (it was used to heat the wash water) and burned her hand. It surprised her so much she said her first word, “Dammit!”. It was what she’d always heard the women saying who were washing clothes.

    I fell on it a year later and cut my cheek open. Apparently I told my mom through the tears that the “damn dammit pot scratched the hell out of me”.

    All that to say: No worries, it happens to the best of us.

  • Anonymous

    2008/09/24 at 3:58 pm

    The tsk tskers are making me laugh.

    When my brother and I were little he told on me for saying Fuck. When my mother grilled me regarding his horrifying accusation, she kept on asking me if I used the F word, which I kept denying, which apparently she wasnt satisfied with, so she kept repeating, DID YOU SAY THE F WORD TO YOUR BROTHER, like 5 times. I kept denying.

    I was finally getting fed up with being grilled so I said, I did say the F WORD Mom, I said Fuck! To which she almost fell over laughing.

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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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