Curse of the Copycat Child
Yesterday, while on the phone with a friend, I forgot that I had a kid and let the word “b#$^*” slip out. Babyface was quietly playing with her Polly Pockets in the dining room. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
I didn’t even catch myself in the act. Instead, I heard, “Mommy, what did you say?” Ruh roh. I did a mental rewind and pinpointed the word my little eavesdropper was referring to. I quickly informed my friend that I had to go and tried to brush off the question by offering Babyface a snack. When I was a kid, this would’ve been a Kraft single, Ritz crackers and some Hi-C (gross, in hindsight), but for her, yummy is GoGo Squeez, $.80, organic applesauce in a squeeze pouch. Believe it or not, this is the same as offering me a dark chocolate bar and a bottle of cabernet.
She ignored my snack offer and repeated, “Mommy, what did you say?” Her tone was slightly elevated; her eyes open wide enough to see the whites all the way around. I could tell she knew what I was saying, but she wanted to hear me say it AGAIN. She was either trying to prove a point or testing me. Or, maybe she just wanted to hear it again, so she could repeat it the right way (bingo).
“Beach. I said, ‘beach.’ What sweetie? I was talking to your Auntie about possibly going to the beach.” My daughter loves sand and just about any body of water: ocean, lake, bath and even puddle. I figured this would distract her to talk about sand toys and her princess bathing suit. No such luck.
“Mommy, what did you say? You didn’t say, ‘beach.’ What did you say?” At this point, she had glided closer and closer to me like the Dilophosaurus that sprays Newman from Seinfeld in Jurassic Park. One second she was in the dining room. The next second she was on the other side of the kitchen island peeking over it. The final second, she was standing an inch away from me looking straight up into my eyes with conviction. “Mommy, what did you say?”
Okay, she had already repeated the question four times, so it was obvious my usual distraction methods weren’t working on this one. The jig was up. I sugarcoated the obvious, “I didn’t say anything important. Mommy may have said a bad word by mistake. Mommy won’t say it again.”
“Mommy, you said ‘b#$^*’,” she said and quickly put her hand over her mouth. Ruh roh magnified by a million and to the max. Instead of referring to “these” words as “bad words”, she was starting to repeat them. She kept her hand over her mouth and stared at me. I stared back, trying to quickly calculate how to deal with this mess I made.
“Honey, that’s a bad word. It’s a grown-up word. Mommy shouldn’t have said it and you definitely shouldn’t repeat it,” I said, without enough time to formulate a perfect response and just going with the flow on this one. That’s when her hand started to slide from her mouth and I noticed the tears settled at the base of her eyes.
I realized she didn’t like that she said that word and she certainly couldn’t take it back. She looked like she had just realized she hit someone in the head with a baseball bat or something. I could tell she was mortified by her actions. The crocodile tears trickled down and quickly turned into a river of regret.
“Honey, you didn’t do anything wrong. Mommy said a bad word and you were curious, so you repeated it. It’s okay. You didn’t mean to repeat it, just like mommy didn’t mean to say it. It’s over now. We both just have to make a pact not to say it again [crossing fingers behind my back and hoping that when I do repeat it, she’s nowhere in sight next time],” I said.
The river slowly dried up and she said, “Okay, Mommy, can I have my snack now.”
We hugged and headed for the fridge. I’m pretty sure this is how June Cleaver would have handled The Beaver repeating her potty mouth slip-ups. Just so I can prevent this from happening in the future, “b#$^*”, f#$*, s#$*.” Got to get rid of the profanity build-up, right?