Scene 1: Friday night, and the ballgame is not going well. Christian and Nicholas are cuddled on the couch watching, but it’s time to shut the TV off and do whatever has reached the top of the docket. Probably bedtime. Christian sighs and gets up to turn off the TV, just as another run comes home. “Crap,” he says, and shuts the TV off.
Nicholas throws his hands up in the air. “Crap,” he says melodramatically.
“Nicholas, you do not say that word. Even if Daddy does,” I say, giving a severe look to my husband, who is laughing sheepishly.
Scene 2: Monday morning, standing out on the driveway waiting for the bus to come for Julianna. It’s late. It’s been late a lot lately, but this is getting ridiculous. School starts in eight minutes, and still no bus. I go inside and call the bus barn, where the receptionist tells me they have a substitute driver, and we’re her next stop. No more than five minutes. “School starts in five minutes,” I snap, and hang up, wondering if I should just pile the kids in the van and take her to school myself. “Come on, stupid bus driver!” I gripe.
Ten minutes later we’re still waiting, throwing the basketball back and forth on the driveway, and I’m gnashing my teeth. “Mommy, whay is the stupid bus dwivoy?” Nicholas asks. (He still has problems with “r”‘s.) And my insides electrify. What have I just taught my son? I take a deep breath. “Honey, the bus driver is not stupid. People just have a hard time finding our house for some reason, and I’m frustrated.”
He thinks for a minute. “But whay is the stupid bus dwivoy?” he asks again.
“Nicholas, Mommy was wrong to call her stupid. She’s not stupid, and that was unkind. You don’t call people stupid.”
“But whay is the bus dwivoy who’s being stupid?” Nicholas is not to be deterred.
“Nicholas. I told you, I should not have said that. Do not say that word again. I don’t want to hear it again. You understand?”
Nicholas doesn’t say it again. I shake my head. Alex has always been able–and more to the point, willing–to distinguish the things parents sometimes say and shouldn’t, and to abstain from them himself. Obviously, we’ve gotten careless. I call the bus company, give them a good tongue lashing, and load the kids in the van. Julianna is twenty minutes late for school by the time we get there–Nicholas in bare feet slap-slapping along the institutional tile floors, Michael whining because he has a cold and wanted a nap half an hour ago. Julianna darts into the classroom without a backward glance–ungrateful little wench–and we head back to the van.
“Mommy, who is the stupid bus dwivoy?” Nicholas asks.
And if it wasn’t clear before, I realize I have a new prayer:
Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth,
keep watch over the door of my lips. (Ps. 141:3)
I do Morning Prayer with my Episcopal priest friend once a week and now that she’s on sabbatical, her two year old daughter is there. I think I used the words “shut up” the first week and her daughter immediately parroted it. Oops! I’ve been really intentional about censoring myself since then.
I think I just allow myself to get angry too often. So my censoring is more about the attitude that spawns the bad language than about the language itself.
Ah yes. I remember this well. The great thing, is I learned to watch my mouth and formed good habits! Kids can teach us a lot!
Hilarious. Kids pick up on the emotional non-verbal content behind the words and latch on to the words. It’s hard to keep that in mind when our emotions are getting the better of us.