When I was young, I had a bad, bad habit. It really was a bad habit, and I’m honestly ashamed of it. I picked up this habit in college, for my parents certainly never allowed such goings-on in their home.
Anyway, this habit, as habits have a way of doing, had become such a, well, HABIT, that I didn’t even notice it any more.
I had potty mouth, and I had it bad. I had a witty, foul mouth. I could string together "those words" and people would almost clap. Some of my rants and terms of exasperation were works of art. I was an English major.
Now, young parents with potty mouth must remember something here. Tiny children learn to speak by imitating the language they hear. Any kindergarten teacher could have told us this, but this was an elementary bit of science that hadn’t occurred to me, because whenever I spoke to my toddler and my newborn, I used VERY appropriate and pretty mommy/baby/cutesy language. Oh, you all know it. That schmoopy pidgin we talk to babies with.
Ah, but it’s always the footprints you DON’T want them to follow, that they pick up on the fastest.
My tiny toddler daughter had a touch of the potty mouth at a most inappropriately young age, thanks to Mommy who thought she was doing a good job of hiding her own. I even thought it was kind of funny. Looking back, I’m just appalled at my lack of judgment.
As we drove down to the family reunion, I reminded my little girl to be sure not to say, um, certain words there. She agreed. I think she even understood. That bothers me now, too.
Sometimes it takes a humiliation to open your eyes and make you shut your mouth.
With this background in place, I will now tell this story that some of you have already heard, again.
My husband's grandparents were awesome, lovely people; they were so good to us when we were first married, in many, many ways. They were also VERY conservative Pentecostal holy-rollers. Key words here: very conservative.
Dowdy clothes, bun-hair, dark hose, tongues, oil. . . .you get the picture. And no, I’m NOT making fun of them. I loved them dearly and deeply. I am merely DESCRIBING them. That is what they were. I loved them. But I digress.
The precious and wonderful grandparents were hosting a family reunion in their huge white Victorian house. The welcome mat was out, and they were standing in the door almost weeping with joy as each carload of relatives pulled up and were greeted. It was very Norman Rockwellian.
Ramble, ramble. . . . .
At dinner, everybody was crowded around their huge table, chowing down on food so good, the gods would have traded their nectar for just one bite. My newborn son was sawing logs on Grandma’s big bed, and my tiny daughter was dining with the rest of us, sitting in a red wooden high chair that had been in the family for generations.
At this particular time she was going through a dining phase that can best be described as the “banana chip and shaved ice” phase. She was thin as a rail, and simply wouldn’t touch most foods at ALL. The grandmothers and uncles and aunts were all worried to death about her, even though she was bright-eyed and energetic and obviously loving the complete control that any kid with food issues has over the adults in her life.
At this meal, she was pressured from all sides to eat this, or that, PLEASE? Just a taste, for Mamaw, for Grandma, for Grandad, for Aunt, Uncle. . . .Skin and bones, SKIN AND BONES, she must EAT. EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT.
Finally, she’d had enough. Catching my eye across the table, she knew better than to disobey the orders about potty mouth she’d been given before we got there, but she’d had enough of the constant nagging about food.
So my princess, my precious baby girl, freshly two years old but talking in complete sentences from the womb, master of innocent satire, stood up in the high chair, put both tiny hands on her tiny hips, swept the room and the people with an exasperated glance, and said, “Oh Mommy, I wish I could say SHIT.”
And I wished I could say ‘abracadabra’ and just vanish. I was torn between falling out of my chair laughing, and falling out of my chair to disappear forever underneath that massive table.
Nobody laughed. I’m sure they wanted to, but the shock and the environment hushed it all up.
For many, many years, I cleaned up my verbal act enough that she had no more of “those” words to mimic. Most of me is ashamed, but part of the shame is in the fact that there is a teeny-tiny part of me that still thinks it was funny.
I’m also ashamed to confess that some of that potty-mouth is back again.
But I’m nice, really I am. I’m @#$%^&*())(*&^ nice.