People wonder why parents are so shell-shocked from life. There are videos of moms and dads effortlessly reaching out to catch a falling child and people marvel at their skills. It’s nothing special. It’s just the aftereffects of toddler-trauma.
Seriously, I was normal before these kids. I was cool. I understood the mainstream and took huge risks. I’d floor it on the highway late at night just to see how high I could get the speedometer to go. I was fast and furious before Fast & Furious.
Today, I’m cool for 1998. I don’t understand things like Snapchat and Lil Nas X. If my car makes a rattling noise, I go easy until I can go see Richie at Sunoco. I still want to be fast and furious, but I’m kind of tired and it’s getting late.
The transition from a rebel without a cause to the father on a Nick Jr. sitcom has been a slow burn. It’s from insane interactions with young people around me. My kids, their friends, and their friends’ friends all have worked to etch away at my brain.
Being a parent to a small child involves insanity like debating whether the lyrics to “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen are “Turn away and slam the door”, as I argued or…
“Turlamay and slam the door“, as my then-five-year-old daughter maintained.
That’s not a real word. It’s “turn away”.
This debate went on for weeks. I wanted to shout, “You’re a little kid! I’m a grown up! I have a driver’s license!” But it made no difference. She was standing her ground.
The worst part is that I couldn’t even just Google the lyrics because she was five. The written word doesn’t hold as much truth to a person who’s still tracing the letter C on ditto sheets at school.
Fast forward to today and whenever the song plays , I hear the line as “turlamay and slam the door.” So, yeah. She won.
Making it worse was that this isn’t an isolated incident. On one of the rewound and repeated videos in our home, the Sesame Street characters are joined by newswoman Diane Sawyer in a song. I know this woman because, again, I have a driver’s license. I am a grown up. I know Diane Sawyer.
Or, as my kindergarten then-kindergarten daughter vehemently fought for ten years ago – “Diane Soil.” She was positive this was the woman’s name based on nothing. She had no data. No life experience. All she had were her stubborn attitude and her still-developing ears.
Kids say the darnedest things, though. Half the time, it’s our own darn fault. We talk too much, or at least I do. There was the time when she was around eight and told me that she found clowns to be a bit creepy. I was driving so, without looking at her, I said…
Yeah. That’s actually a thing – creepy clowns. John Wayne Gacy was this crazy guy who buried people under his house or something. He dressed up like a clown for kids parties and then, afterward, would terrorize people.
I looked up in the rearview and there she was, my formerly shielded-from-the-world little girl, with her eyes bugged out and her mouth open.
Why would you tell me that?!
I, uh, I don’t know. I was just riffing.
I’m going to have nightmares now!
Um. OK. Please don’t tell anyone I told you that. You want to stop for Italian Ices?
Clowns are one thing, but curses are quite another. Seeing your kid become self-aware of bad words is a trip in and of itself. Sometimes it’s adorable, like when she told us about the curseword that was abbreviated “M.O.F.” Intrigued, we pressed her on what that meant.
She then told us the same phrase that we all know “M.F.” stands for, but added the word “of” in between. It was hilariously adorable.
When the curses start to seep into your little one’s mind, they don’t stop. She once became obsessed with learning the “b curse.” She had heard “son of a b” but was dying to know what the b was.
I can’t tell you.
Please! I won’t say it. I promise.
I will only tell you, if you promise me one thing. You can never say it. It’s important. You promise?
Yes. I swear. I swear I will never ever say it.
The B curse is “bitch.”
Her face scrunched up in a pensive glare. It was as if she was a primitive ape gaining consciousness. I saw her mouth the word to herself. So, I reminded her.
Listen. I’m serious. You can’t say it. Even just to repeat it or talk about it. It can’t come out of your mouth.
It’s important. Teachers and adults won’t like that. When I was a kid, a grown-up said a bad word and I repeated it and I got into a lot of trouble.
To this, she offered a compassionate face and, in a sympathetic tone, asked:
Was the word “bitch”?
If I was a cartoon character, my hair would have flown off and flipped in the air.
I just told you not to say it ever! You literally just promised!
She covered her mouth and broke into hysterics.
Oh no! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!
And since that day, she’s never said it since.
Of course, I’m kidding, B. Life moves on. That was nearly a decade ago. You should hear the mouth on this little M.O.F.er today.