the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Cover your precious ears

While I am upstairs dressing Marlo for bed, three of my house guests last week are sitting around the kitchen table sipping wine and continuing a meandering conversation that started before dinner and would eventually take us late into the night. Leta has paused an episode of her favorite television show to grab a glass of water when Anna Beth begins telling the other two women about a new acquaintance whose name she cannot remember.

“I met this girl, and her name was… hm… SHIT….”

Leta takes a sip of water during Anna Beth’s hesitation then says, “THAT is a weird name.”

Both girls joined my sister’s twin boys for a sleepover at my mother’s house on Friday night. After dinner Marlo demanded that she be allowed to “sthrpay” the counters, one of her favorite cleaning activities right up there with sweeping the floors and cleaning the toilet bowl. One day that kid is going to make a killer hot dog. AND I WILL NOT SHARE IT WITH YOU.

My mother set her up on a stool and then handed her a bottle of countertop cleaner and a paper towel. She was unaware that the countertop cleaner was almost empty when she asked the boys to keep an eye on Marlo while she quickly ran to the restroom. And here’s where I want to ask my mother ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR GODDAMN MIND? You left Marlo to the supervision of two eleven-year-old boys? Those kids are smart, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think they’d be quick enough to diffuse a bomb.


When my mother returned from the restroom both boys had their heads buried into the cushions of the couch to try to muffle their laughter.

“What happened?” asked my mother.

Noah peeked his head above a pillow and said, “Marlo just said SHIT five times.”

Evidently, Marlo became frustrated when she could not get the cleanser out of the bottle, and to convey her exasperation she yelled, “Sthit sthit sthit STHIT STHIT!”

I love that Noah counted each instance.

My mother turned to her and asked, “Marlo, did you say that word?”

Marlo nodded proudly. “Yesth, I did.”

“We do not say that word,” my mother scolded. But Marlo just stared at her blankly. “Okay, YOU don’t say that word,” my mother said correcting herself. “When I say that word it’s because I have a VERY good reason.”

  • Paula Allen

    2013/01/29 at 3:56 pm

    I feel like not being able to get the cleaner out of the bottle is a pretty legit reason…

  • HeatherArmstrong

    2013/01/29 at 3:58 pm


  • Tricia

    2013/01/29 at 4:04 pm

    I live in constant fear that my 2.5 year old is going to express his frustration exactly the same way when he’s at someone else’s house. I guess I need to incorporate some good Mormon “curse” words into my vocabulary since we live here now… but I’m from the South, and we say SHIT! It’s in our DNA.

  • OrangeCounty Babysitter

    2013/01/29 at 4:32 pm

    LOL – so reminds me of our family. We often have to explain why Grandma says words that nobody else is allowed to say.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2013/01/29 at 4:34 pm

    Christmas Day, 2009. My then-6-year-old son is playing Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo Wii that Santa brought. My mother-in-law is on the couch watching him play. My wife and I are in the adjacent room.

    At an apparently frustrating moment in the game cycle, my son exclaims the following:

    “F–KING PIG!”

    The investigation to determine who he had heard use that phrase did not take long.

    Guilty as charged.

  • issascrazyworld

    2013/01/29 at 4:50 pm

    If used in the right context…mine tend to get a pass. heh.

  • Kim's Kitchen Sink

    2013/01/29 at 4:52 pm

    I have a hard time justifying fake “curse” words in lieu of the real deal. I mean, the emotional expression is the same…is it really better to yell, “OH FUDGE!” when you’re angry? I’m honestly not sure. I mean, I’ll probably teach my kids not to use bad words some day, but I tend to get all existential about it…what are words, anyway? What makes some words “bad”? Is it because we say they are? Is there something inherently wrong with some words (I’d say, uh, no? duh? words are words?) that makes them unsayable? Like I said, I’m not going around telling kids to start cursing or anything, but thoughts like these get my mind going.

  • GirlWithTheKittenTattoo

    2013/01/29 at 5:04 pm

    Next word on the list: “Marlo, what do we call that thing behind Chuck’s modesty patch?” Bonus points if she can use it in a sentence the next time someone cuts you off while driving!

  • Brenna

    2013/01/29 at 5:29 pm

    My mom felt the same way you do, Kim–when my sister and I were old enough to have the “curse” words talk, she sat us down, look us straight in the eyes, and recited every single naughty word she could think of. It made a lasting impression until we got to high school, which I think is an more than appropriate age to take full liberty of your vocabulary anyway!

  • Dawn @thedalaimama

    2013/01/29 at 5:36 pm

    I give her credit for using it in the right context. She’s a keeper!

  • Kim's Kitchen Sink

    2013/01/29 at 5:42 pm

    Ha! I love that. We never had a talk as far as I know, and I honestly have no idea how/when I started cursing like a sailor. High school, probably, since I was a goodie two shoes forever — this is some “I am not a mother” logic, but I feel like it doesn’t do much good to say “don’t say these words, say these other ones instead”. The lesson should be about how we express ourselves, and using our words to describe our feelings, and that sometimes there are words that are just really satisfying to say, right? #livinginahippiedreamworld?

  • Robin Dearing

    2013/01/29 at 5:55 pm

    Swear words were some of my daughter’s first words. Powerful (and funny).

  • Dana Marie Vittum

    2013/01/29 at 6:15 pm

    I love your mom. Especially for this “Okay, YOU don’t say that word,” my mother said correcting herself. “When I say that word it’s because I have a VERY good reason.”

  • Dana Marie Vittum

    2013/01/29 at 6:17 pm

    When I’m at work, I try very hard not to swear because, you know, not professional or something. So I am typically caught muttering at my computer ‘You stupid bad word, you, I’m going to throw you out the stupid bad word window.’ It relieves frustration and has the added bonus of making my co-workers laugh.

  • Meg H

    2013/01/29 at 7:58 pm

    Does Leta have perfect comedic timing or what? Bonus points if it was in an uninterested tone of voice.

  • Kim's Kitchen Sink

    2013/01/29 at 10:37 pm

    That is a fantastic workaround. My workplace is full of cursing, what with all the 20somethings 🙂

  • William Armstrong Black

    2013/01/30 at 12:45 am

    Possibly one of the most hilarious posts I’ve read since I found dooce.

  • Melanie Ching

    2013/01/30 at 12:54 am


  • Jess F

    2013/01/30 at 2:27 am

    Love this…visions of conversations I will have with my son in the future.

  • Erin Gill

    2013/01/30 at 7:14 am

    My mother taught me it was ok to swear if I was either really, really angry; or in a lot of pain. However, I was never, under any circumstances, permitted to swear in the presence of a grandmother.

  • Terry Pine

    2013/01/30 at 7:19 am

    Aren’t you a proud daddy?!?!?!

  • Amelia

    2013/01/30 at 9:49 am

    Somewhat related–This morning I was riding with my 3 yr old in the car and NPR was on. He suddenly snapped to attention after the announcer said something about China and said, “he [the announcer] just said vagina!”. I mentally replayed what they were talking about and said, “No, he said CHINA. It’s a country where people live.” My son was quiet for a minute and then pointed out somewhat proudly, “China and vagina RHYME”. As they are talking about rhyming at school right now, I suspect that I will have a pretty amusing pick up report today.

  • Nicole

    2013/01/30 at 12:19 pm

    My 3 year old was sitting at the dining room table, eating dinner. She looked down at the cat, who was playing with a sock and muttered, “That fucker.”

  • Beth Rich George

    2013/01/30 at 1:24 pm

    I try to teach my son that swearing is in the eye of the beholder. Words are tools for engaging in relationships. For many, including one grandmother, swearing is perfectly fine in the right context and actually offers her a sense of connection with him. For the other, the message is he has a large vocabulary and the intelligence to use it, so try not to push her away with your language.

  • Jen Wilson

    2013/01/30 at 5:08 pm

    Tears are coming down my face right now.

  • Tricia

    2013/01/30 at 8:35 pm

    I hear you, believe me. But while the emotional expression might be the same, the social effect is vastly different, and that matters when you’re talking about how your child will be received in public. So yes, it is better to yell Fudge! when you stub your toe/cut your finger/spill your beer in your child’s earshot. The more satisfying alternative just isn’t appropriate language for them to repeat (and let me assure you from gut-wrenchingly embarrassing personal experience- they WILL repeat it, first out of innocent parroting, later to get a rise out of people). I think it’s realistic to assume that kids are going to be exposed to all kinds of colorful language as they grow up, but when you’re dealing with younger kids, I think it’s important to choose your words with care and even try to shelter them from language that’s considered vulgar in most circles. You don’t want your Kindergartener getting sent home from school because he’s too young to control his impulses and is so used to hearing curse words from his parents in moments of pain/anger that he follows suit. And I doubt “my mom doesn’t believe any words are bad” will go over well as an excuse. 🙂 But, aaah, I miss the days when I could be on the other side of this kind of conversation! It’s a daily relief to be able to have a conversation after the kids are in bed and not worry about everything that comes out of my mouth.

  • Kim's Kitchen Sink

    2013/01/30 at 10:21 pm

    I hear what you’re saying 🙂 Question (again from a non-parent) — would a teacher send a child home for yelling “oh fudge!” or “oh crud!”? I’m guessing not, based on the whole “some words are bad and some are not” thing we do, societally. My reasoning is that the meaning/intention is the same, and the discussion should be around how we express our anger, with less focus on the word itself. I suppose it comes down to what is socially acceptable though, since as you point out, there are some words that are not to be said in public. Not that there’s anything to be done about it, but it totally strikes me as one of those silly societal things, how we assign such weight to some words and not others. Ah, the power of language!

  • Daddy Scratches

    2013/01/31 at 9:50 pm

    Yes, very … but not about that particular incident. I go out of my way to not curse in front if them … but clearly there was a breach in protocol somewhere along the line.

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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