Words. They can be powerful. They can be meaningless. They can send chills down your spine. They can go in one ear and out the other.
Or is that just me getting all giddy to use a word like “PERPLEXING.”
So why is it that we have all these “RULES” about words? They’re just… words. Meaningless until someone attaches a feeling around it.
We’ve called my daughter, “Stinker” her whole life. We’ve called her “Pooper” “Pooper scooper” (honestly, I have no idea why, but it’s a term of endearment, I swear) and “Stinker Butt.” We rarely call each other our real names in this house at all, actually. “Man Baby!” “Buddy” “Babe” “Little Man” “Yo I want some more milk.”
So it was a bit of a shock yesterday when our daughter informs us that we’re no longer allowed to call her “Stinker” in school. “We’re not allowed to say Stinker” she scolded us. “That’s a bathroom word. You use it in the bathroom.”
I taught four year olds for a few years back before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I learned that words get tossed around as a way to “test” their power. If you give the word power, the kids will run with it. My husband and I always said cussing is just that.. cussing. Meh. I do it all the time. But there is a time and a place and that’s what we want our children to understand. At the playground? Not the time or place. When you smash your finger with the car? Let out a huge fbomb if you want. We won’t judge. It’s a word.
I often say back to my children, “Hun, we’re not going to say shit at the playground, ok?” Because it shows I’m not afraid of the word “SHIT”. She knows it’s a word and that word we don’t say here. In fact, I remind her, let’s just say “OH MAN” like Swiper the Fox? Ok? Because you’re four.
So far so good.
This is the “Take my picture, Mommy! I wanna look fourteen!” look. She’s perfected it, yes?
We’ve decided that teaching our children to handle various people will do them more good in the long run than sheltering them from said variations. In theory, this will work out lovely. We’ve yet to come to cross roads with that theory but I’ll be sure to fill you in on that day.
So the day my daughter comes home to tell us she can’t stay “STINKER?” The word we’ve used as a love pat to our baby girl since her first fart 3 days old? Well, it’s a little heart wrenching. It’s like we’ve been doing something wrong these past four years unknowingly breaking some rule of parenting by calling our child little shit to her face.
But also? What the hell.
And I didn’t even close the bathroom door to say that.
Stinker in all her glory.
*Stealing the idea from The Bloggess: Best Comment Of The Post
Kid: Mommy, what dat called? (pointing to her little girl parts)
Me: That’s your vagina.
Kid: (looks at me confused, puts her finger to her chin) MOMMY, MULAN IS FROM FUH-CHINA!
Me: (cue me, laughing my ass off) Yes, darling, we’re all from there at one time or another.
12 guests here now.
That’s funny. I’m with you, a word is what you allow it to be. My son ran around as a youngster for months saying “stemit” and it wasn’t until he did so after dropping a toy that we realized he was repeating what he had heard me say under my breath which was “damn it”.. Now come one, wouldn’t have been better if he had just known the right word instead of dreaming up his own to use and then having us pray he didn’t go to church with my mom and holler “stem it, I want to go home NOW” because inevitably, that’s what would have happened…..argh…I"m with you sister…preach on…but you probably wouldn’t like my mother’s church any more than I do…oh well, the kids do, what’s it matter, right?
By Jerri Ann on 2009 08 05
I heart you.
By Rachel - A Southern Fairytale on 2009 08 05
My BIL & SIL (Doug’s people, not mine) are quick to correct people when they use words that *they* don’t allow in their house. You know like butthead and silly and whatnot. They correct everyone but me of course, because I’ve worked really hard to instill the proper level of fear in all the in-laws that I am not one to be messed with and certainly never one to be corrected. They were a lovely little gaggle of puritan bliss before I came along.
I grew up in a semi-drunk, Irish Catholic soap opera where fuck was used in every way possible. As a result, there was nary a stick up an ass to be found.
I marry Doug and now I’m on zoloft - so you tell me who was getting it right?
As sad as it may be, nothing sends pride shivers up my spine more than when P belts out an ‘oh shit’ at exactly the right moment. My hubs hates that I giggle, but really, when she uses it in context and has awesome comedic timing, how can I not beam?
By Amy in OHio on 2009 08 05
I think many people try to cleanse their language (and that of those around them) way too much. The fact of the matter is that people say words like poop and crap and stupid. I prefer that my kids don’t swear, because I don’t swear [very often] but when people say they can’t say darn it or crap or whatever I wonder what they are supposd to say when they jam their finger or drop their whole glasses of milk. Oh fiddlesticks? Yeah, right.
By Heather @ Cool Zebras on 2009 08 05
I’m impressed. You never seem to shy away from difficult parenting issues, you always address them head on and I admire that. I remember my nephew had a problem with the word “truck”. Every time he’d simply call out “Fuck” as in “Dumb Fuck!” and proceed to point to a dump truck. Although I only heard the story, and therefore did not remember HOW the situation was handled, I can only hope they approached the situation with grace, and good humor. Much like you.
By Maya on 2009 08 05
We have been calling the now 3yo “pooper” for most of his life and after eating a quart of blue berries, he is know as “pooper berry”.
As for words: a few weeks ago while slicing up the most beautify avocado: With great anticipation, I used a large spoon to scoop out each half. The first half promptly slid off the spoon and into a sink full of soapy dish water. Shit! I said. The 3yo from the next room: Fuck!
By Andrew on 2009 08 05
I work with 6 year old girls at a summer camp right now and the only time I tell them that they can talk about things in the bathroom is if they’re actively describing bathroom activities (it’s disturbing how much they like to talk about their own poop, really.)
I agree, a word only gains significance if you give it significance. I hope that some day my kids can understand that words are not what’s intrinsically hurtful- it’s the intent behind them.
Also? Snatch is pretty much my favorite word.
By Overflowing Brain (Katie) on 2009 08 05
I heart you!
By AmazingGreis on 2009 08 05
During my working days, we had a customer come in who always called her (probably 3 or 4 year old) son Poo. Then Poo peed right in the middle of our parking lot.
In other words, if the name fits…
By C @ Kid Things on 2009 08 05
I’m totally stealing your idea about telling my kids “let’s not say XYZ at the park today. I really do think that making words “bad” MAKES kids want to say them. I know that I can’t always keep from cussing, it’s in my DNA, I can’t help it.
As for Stinker? Really? That’s not okay to say?
By jennifer, playgroups are no place for children on 2009 08 05
I like the way you approach the issue. Teaching your children that the words are not powerful, but are sometimes not appropriate is a wonderful way to go about it.
It is the little things like this topic that I worry about, in the event that we ever have kids.
The big topics are easier to handle, I think. It is the finesse and grace with which one handles the smaller teaching moments of life that makes that person a good parent.
By Jennifer on 2009 08 05
Can’t say stinker? Wow, what a messed up world! LOL Now I wonder how many other things suddenly aren’t OK.
I curse. A lot. Probably too much. So I’ve made it clear that there are grown up words and kid words, and a lot of people get upset when kids say the grown up words. So far that works after they do the initial testing out period.
By Summer on 2009 08 05
Awww! That’s sad. I guess if the teacher had said not to call someone else “stinker” that might be ok, but to not say it at all? I guess Abby won’t be allowed to say “Abbadabba poo-poo train” when she goes to school. I do feel kind of bad calling her that in public these days.
On the flip side, I have found the word “poop” works great with 7th graders. If you ask them to stop acting like a poop, it defuses any situation.
By Kelsi on 2009 08 05
Ok I knew I loved you. This is totally our plan for cussing and being parents. Because we cuss a lot. You let me know if this ever backfires K?
By Jen on 2009 08 05
Since my only kid is 2 and just now starting to suck up language like a sponge, I’m trying to be careful of what I say and when. So when something annoys me, I’m more likely to say “oh eff,” rather than drop the actual f-bomb. Of course, if she calls her preschool teacher a mother-effer, I’m still going to be in just as much trouble, so I don’t know that it does that much good.
I haven’t really thought about how I’m going to handle this when the time comes, but I like your thoughts about not letting the words have power.
By cindy w on 2009 08 05
Everyone slips and swears now and then. When the 10 year old lets an appropriately used ‘what the hell?’ as a bird buzzes his head, I don’t get mad. I just ask him what the rule for those words are. “Don’t say it at school or in front of grammy because if you get a phone call at work, I am going to be in trouble.”
By Jolene on 2009 08 05
I’ve got to say that I’m with you on this. My husband and I have very different opinions on this, but I think it’s better to have boundaries rather than strictly forbidding them. This all said, my daughter is not quite 18 months and is not yet at the cussing stage, so what the hell do I know?
Also, I’m a new reader and I’ve been meaning to comment about how ridiculously funny and enjoyable your blog is. You’ve quickly become my favorite.
By Amy on 2009 08 05
Words *are* just words. I totally agree with you on that. My mom, however, doesn’t seem to agree when my 4 year old says “you’re really pissin me off, Gramama”.
Also…parents of teenagers at church get pretty upset when they find out you dropped and f-bomb in front of their impressionable, young, virgin-eared teen. Oops. (There was fire involved people! FIRE! Fuck is a totally acceptable word when you think you’re going to catch on fire. Just sayin’.)
By Bridget on 2009 08 05
We have a variety of nicknames going on in my house. In fact, I don’t know if we ever use real names. For example, my daughter Allie goes by the nicknames: bertie, bert, alberta, poop bug, etc.
My husband calls me gail. It totally isn’t my fucking name. Obvs. I call my husband Fitzergald. not his name—at all.
PS. I would again like to point out that I regularly refer to my daughter as Poop Bug. I hope she doesn’t try to write it out as her name when school starts. I can imagine the calls already.
PS again. pay extra close attention to my location.
By Amanda of Shamelessly Sassy on 2009 08 06
STINKER?!? God… Pathetic.
I remember an issue with another mom whose kid was PUNISHED (at 3 years old) for saying “Oh my GOSH!”
By tracey on 2009 08 06