And now, a long overdue follow-up to the previously hinted at Baberly indiscretion.
I would like to blame The Menopause, but in truth I can only blame myself. What follows is an object lesson in what can go wrong when one has not prepared one’s Profanity Game Plan far enough in advance. The experienced amongst you will snicker knowingly; those among you yet-to-tread this path should scootch your chairs up close and take notes.
Not that I didn’t know this all wasn’t coming down the pike. I just thought she’d be a teensy bit older.
See, we were driving back from her preschool the other day, the lil’ monkey and me, and she was fiddling with some little thing where she sat in the truck’s “jump seat.” What it was isn’t important. Maybe it was one of those little ponies, I don’t know.
“F#cking car,” she says sweetly.
Up go my eyebrows into my hairline, and I direct all my nerves toward the pressing matter of NOT zigzagging into a passing tree trunk, then a garbage can, then a bicyclist, then a bus stop bench and parked car.
I compose myself. I take in a long, slow breath; breathe it out “through a straw,” like how we learned in our childbirth education class, back in the heady long ago before our first child, when it was easy-peasy to be a perfect parent.
In case I might not have heard her the first time, the lil’ monkey gently presses the button a few more times.
“F#cking car, f#cking car.” All with this no rancor in her voice — she’s not angry or irritated, she just knows it’s a choice adjective.
“Yegods, it’s happened!” I think to myself. Then I think: “Think! Think, man, think!” Which of course crowds out all other, actual thoughts.
“Where did you learn that word, sweetie pie?” I ask, gingerly.
Even as I ask the question, I am saying in my head “Don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me!”
“Sally,”she says matter-of-factly. Wheew.
Sally is one of her imaginary friends. So is Mary. For a time there, maybe half a year or a year back, she had a whole slew of them, with beautiful names fit for a Tolkein novel. Gawania. Tarala. Names up this alley. But now, we’e back to the basics.
“Sally, eh?” I try to sound as matter-of-fact as she does. “Well. First off, I’m glad you didn’t say ‘Baba,’ even though I rather suspect it might have been me you heard that from.”
I’m driving, so I can’t see her expression, but I can hear that all movement has ceased.
“That’s a pretty powerful word,” I go on, digging myself in deeper. “In fact it’s too strong to use in ordinary situations.” And then I traipse directly into a conversation about it as if she were a college freshman ruminating on the power of language.
“There’s a lot of people who won’t like hearing you use that word. Lots of people think it’s not right for kids to use language like that.” I think to myself about all the offensive, unkind, bigoted words I would have pulled the truck over to the side of the road and lectured her sternly about. This one, alas, wasn’t one of them.
Continued silence from the jump seat. Or, crickets, I think people say these days.
“Lots of people have rules or guidelines about what things people can say, or what kids can say, and that word is definitely, definitely on the list of Words Not To Say for lots of people. Kids or grown-ups.” I start to list the situations she’s likely to be in where her use of that word would arouse a feverish response. Okay, where her use of that word would let the cat out of the bag regarding Baba’s potty mouth.
“You know you may well have heard Baba use that word before, and if you did, if just maybe, just once, you might have heard Baba let slip with it, I want you to know that I shouldn’t have.”
“So ideally, in the future, if you want to use that word, you should only use it around me.” Yep, uh huh, I said that.
I forget the next thing that she said, but thank heavens it was a complete non sequitor. She had already moved on. Not that I think the conversation escaped her notice. I just won’t know when or how it will surface again. Kind of like with everything regarding kids.
Later that day I reported the exchange to the beloved. She dropped her head, held it in her hands, and rocked back and forth. Muttering stuff like, “You didn’t. No, you didn’t say that.” And things of this nature.
I share this all just in case it seemed as if we were always singing harmoniously from the same Profanity Game Plan page in the same parental strategy hymnal. She was singing “Amazing Grace” or whatever, and I, apparently, was behind the barn with a joint, reading Mad magazine.