Dirty Little Secret
I am a bad mother. No, I didn’t let my kid ride in the car without a car seat. I didn’t let her eat a bag of Cheetos for dinner, and I didn’t let leave her alone in the bathtub. I taught my daughter, Lina, to swear.
Though not intentional, the tiny little “damn” was out before I even knew it was there. Of course, she picked it right up. She hadn’t picked up on how to count to 10 in Spanish, but one little “damn,” and she sounded like the parrot of a drunken sailor.
When I say she had picked up on it, I mean she went to town. In no time, she had the use of “damn” down pat — as an adjective and expletive. How many 2 ½-year-olds can make that distinction?
For example, she was able to clearly state to me she could use the potty by herself, because she was not “a damn baby.” She also grasped the concept of the adjective form, when she told her older sister to “stop your damn screaming.” Lina also demonstrated her ability to use profanity in its purest form, as an expletive. Barbie’s shoe won’t fit? “Damn!” Spill the milk? This is sure to bring forth vulgarity from her tiny angel mouth. This point of distinction should not be a secret source of pride, but a bad mother has to find a silver lining where she can.
Not only did I have the guilt of turning my child into a potty-mouth, but I also had the burden of keeping it a secret, especially from my mother. During a recent trip to grandma’s, my little cherub informed her grandmother she had dropped her damn fork. My mother looked at me with a horrified expression on her face and demanded, “Where did she learn that?”
I did what all bad mothers would do in this very situation. I shrugged my shoulders and said self-righteously, “She must have picked it up from her father.”
I was determined the whole situation would burn itself out in a few weeks. The experts say not to make a big deal out of bad language, and to ignore it. A few weeks passed, and no evil utterances occurred. I thought the burden had been lifted, thus scheduling a play date with my friend, Diane, and our broods.
Our kids ate and played together until they practically passed out. Not a foul word had been spoken, or so I thought. The following day, Diane and I were at work discussing the misdeeds of our children. The conversation went something like this:
Diane: “Boy, my kid is driving me crazy. She is going through a lying phase.”
Me: “Oh, really?”
Diane: “She will do something, then turn around and say someone else did it. And get this, yesterday in the car, she told me the baby (meaning my Lina) was swearing at her. I had to punish her for that one — lying about the baby.”
Me: “I think you might want to re-think that punishment.”
Me: “Lina has, um, acquired, some new, less tasteful vocabulary.”
And so out came my dirty little secret.
So what’s a mom to do? She was dropping the d-bomb left and right. I decided to seek the advice of the real experts — the sage, wise women in my life. Surely, they would have a solution.
“Hot sauce on the tongue!” offered up the first. Hot sauce? I don’t even keep that stuff in the house.
“Wash her mouth out with soap,” advised another. That soap probably was made in China and tainted with who-knows-what. I didn’t need to add accidental poisoning to my list of crimes.
I decided to try a rather unorthodox approach to the situation: reasoning with her. After all, if she was smart enough to differentiate between the different uses of the word damn, then surely she could understand why she should no longer use the word. Armed with my reason, I called her over and sat her on my lap.
“Lina,” I said very seriously, “I want you to stop saying the word damn.”
She looked up at me with those baby blues that could melt an iceberg in January.
“Why Mamma?” she inquired, blinking her spidery long lashes innocently, and placing her soft baby hand on my cheek. One look at her perfect little face and I lost every word I intended to say. Heaven help the man who marries her. “Why, Mamma, why,” she repeated.
“Because …” I stammered, completely helpless in the moment, “it’s not nice.”
“OK, Mamma,” she said sweetly as she planted a kiss on my hand. With that, she scampered off.
I haven’t heard one damn since. At least not yet.