We’ve all heard about it or lived through it. You spend days trying to teach your little one to say “Mama” or “Dada,” only to be met with silence. Just when you’re ready to take your child to see a specialist for speech issues, you get a visit from somebody you like to impress, You know, somebody like a pastor.
PASTOR: That is a darling child!
ME: Oh, yes! He’s a sweetheart!
PASTOR: Does he talk yet?
ME: Not really, just some sounds for now.
PASTOR (leaning down towards the child): You are just adorable!
CHILD: (Can’t write it here because of Facebook rules…but let’s just say it rhymes with “truck.”)
PASTOR: Um, oh my…
While this might be a worst-case scenario, believe me, it could be worser…and often is.
ME: I have no idea where that came from! Haha! We certainly don’t talk like that around here! I’m sure it was just a sound…
CHILD: (Use your imagination here) Truck! Truck! Trucktrucktrucktrucktrucktrucktrucktruck!
PASTOR: Um, perhaps I should visit later?
Many of us have lived through an embarrassing episode like this. Kids have a way of picking up every bad word they hear. The worst part is, even if they have a speech impediment and can’t pronounce words correctly (something I still deal with at times), for some reason the cuss words come out loud and clear, perfectly enunciated, and loud for effect. There’s nothing more endearing than listening to your cute little prince or princess uttering profane niceties while hugging their teddy bear.
Some parents are actually correct, they don’t use those words in the house. Just because they don’t, doesn’t mean the child won’t be exposed. If they have any interaction with other kids, they’re bound to pick something up.
One of my son’s relayed a story to me about his son, my grandson. He’s four years old and usually a delight. He dotes on his little sister, he’s courteous, and he seems perpetually happy…at least when I see him. I know I’m biased, but the fact remains, he’s the ideal grandson. In my eyes, he can do almost nothing wrong…
One day, not too long ago, he was singing a song. The words weren’t clear and my son and his wife didn’t really pay attention to what he was trying to sing. It wasn’t until my son put him into the bath that the words came out clearly. What he was singing had a couple words that rhyme with, “Other Trucker.” Now I know for a fact that those kind of words are not used in my son’s house. They just aren’t, so of course, my son had to get to the bottom of this.
MY SON: Where did you learn those words?
MY GRANDSON (exasperated): I’ve been singing them all day!
It turned out he learned the lyrics from the neighbor kid who in turn had learned them from some of the music his parents listened to. They were as appalled as my son and learned a lesson that day. Little kids are sponges that absorb everything in their path, both good and bad. They aren’t born with the ability to discern words. They have no idea it’s bad until you tell them. Then, of course, after you tell them, they, in turn, tell all their friends. That’s how it works.
It’s funny, however, that my brothers and I hardly said cuss words growing up. Having deaf parents, you would think we could’ve supplied every kid in the neighborhood with choice words to take back home with them, but we didn’t. I’m not sure why, but I do know one of my brothers was quick to tattle if we crossed that line. Maybe that was it.
Another theory I have is that there really wasn’t a challenge in being bad with bad words around deaf parents. We really weren’t getting away with anything. It’s not that my parents never swore, they did on occasion, but swearing in sign language is much different…except that middle finger thing. Maybe if we went around cussing in sign language it might’ve been a challenge…but so was escaping my dad’s enormous spanking hand.
I remember when a deaf kid taught me a slang version (yes, they have slang in sign language) of the words, um, “bull poop.” This was one of my dad’s favorite things to say when somebody was pulling his leg, only he said it in proper sign language. I approached him with the slang version I learned and he loved it. He taught it to all his adult deaf friends. In a way, even though this was the 70s, that sign went viral! Pretty soon I saw it at a lot of activities where deaf people were congregated. Heck, I still use it today.
ME: So, how’d you do with explaining to your wife why you were late getting home last night?
BULL POOPER: I just told her and put her in her place.
ME: So…the black eye?
BULL POOPER: Oh, I just bumped into…hey? What’s that you’re doing with your hands?
ME: Oh, just encouraging your current line of thinking…
Sign language can be very handy sometimes. That particular sign has been used at political speeches, meetings, school, bars, coffee shops, and so on. Of course, it was me using it, but don’t worry. I always muttered (signed) it under my breath. No sense in accidentally teaching a little one how to sign cuss words, they do perfectly fine verbally.