Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Language Timothy!

It's always a proud rite of passage when you overhear your child using their first swear word, isn't it? Such a reflection of the quality of parenting you are providing.

Captain Underpants was three and in the midst of the I'll-do-things-my-way-and-in-my-own-time phase, which is, oh, such a pleasure to experience. HE wanted to play on his train table. I was quite happy for him to play quietly at his train table...AFTER he had bought his breakfast plate and cup to the kitchen. Even with the greatest will in the world, my patience for repeating simple requests ad infinitum is bordering on negligible. I can usually manage one with a pleasant tone and polite verbiage before free falling into authoritative and commanding, landing with a bump into threats and consequences.

I was just at the point of confiscating Thomas, Gordon and the whole of the Island of Sodor when Captain Underpants looked at me very solemnly and said, "I promise I will in a minute Mummy, I just can't right this minute because I'm not feeling too well."

"Oh really? What's the matter? If you're not well then you need to stop playing trains, I'll get you some medicine and you can go to bed."

"No, I'm okay. I'm not THAT ill. I've just got this bloody headache."

I am stunned into speechlessness and quickly stuff my head into a kitchen cupboard to stifle the silent mirth that tackles me out of nowhere. The delivery was so perfect. The tone so calm and nonchalant. It completely threw me and without another word I helplessly wiped the tears from my eyes and retrieved his cup and plate myself. I wasn't sure whether to talk to him about his use of a swear word, but I didn't want to draw too much attention to it, for fear he would add it to his how-to-embarrass-mummy arsenal that he frequently resorted to in public situations. I decided to leave it - and have a word with husband later about not swearing in front of the kids.

A couple of months later my sister came to visit and we were 'enjoying' the process of bath time. That is, a bath had been run and two naked boys were racing up and down the hall way littering every surface with dirty clothes and shrieking at the top of their lungs. My sister was slightly horrified by their behaviour, particularly their blatant disregard for both Mummy and Auntie's clear instructions to "stop running around like lunatics right now and Get. Into. The. Bath." Being a novice, Auntie was trying to coral them into the bathroom, but of course this was purely interpreted as the greatest game of chase every invented and only served to increase the mayhem a thousandfold.

Being slightly more experienced in these matters I shepherded a ragged and breathless sister into the bathroom and we sat on the edge of the bath and waited for the boys to run out of steam.

At which point a naked two year old paused in the doorway long enough to shout with utter glee, "IT'S BLOODY CHAOS IN 'ERE!" before sprinting out of sight.

Auntie collapses into convulsive laughter and I slam the bathroom door shut quick, trying to find the I-don't-know-where-they-are-getting-this-from expression but-it-certainly-isn't-me. I can't fake it though. My Potty Mouth has been officially outed in front of family and there was nowhere to hide.

I am not sure when I morphed into Chicago's answer to Jo Brand. I certainly wasn't following the examples of my own parents, who never swore in front of us and kept a bar of soap to hand in case my sister and I were ever tempted to enter the world of profanity in their presence. If I heard the words Bloomin' Nora or Sugar! spoken with conviction that was the cue to take a quick assessment of the situation at hand and slink noiselessly into another room out of their sight.

I remember being 14 years old and falling off a horse, violently cracking the only part of my head not protected by a helmet on an upright concrete post whilst on the swift journey to the ground. My dad runs towards me, a look of horrified concern on his face. I reached up to rub the spot where skin had connected with inanimate object and stared in disbelief at a hand covered in blood. "Oh shit" I utter. In an instant my dad slaps me around the other side of my head, which up until that point had escaped injury, stating clearly, "this is no time for swearing young lady".

My parent's belief was that there are millions of expressive words in the English language - so to resort to swearing is unnecessary and downright lazy verging on ignorant. The fact that my speech is now regularly littered with Bloody Hell! Fuck! Shitting Shit Shit and What a Wanker...is hardly a testament to the parenting I received as a child.

I know I need to get a grip and set a better example - find some acceptable alternative expressions to litter my speech with - so the boys have a remote chance of expressing themselves intelligently over the years rather than sounding like a couple of oiks. Luckily for me, so far they may have mimicked the odd swear word but don't seem to have retained them in their daily vocabulary for repetitive use. Only yesterday my reactive verbal nature got the better of me when I spilt a bottle of water into my lap whilst driving. "SOD IT!" I shouted before I could stop myself. And for the next hour Johnny Drama explained, "Sud It!" every time we drove over a pot hole or he accidentally dropped a piece of his Pirate's Booty snack out of reach. (Note to self: time to forage out the muck in Johnny Drama's ears. On second thoughts...maybe not.)

Mind you, this is nothing compared to an incident that occurred over the winter. (I naturally have a very open and honest nature, however, I will never divulge this incident to ex for fear of him using it as evidence in court to substantiate my lack of parenting skills.) The weather was dire - 40 degrees below zero and the car was frozen solid. It had taken so much time stuffing the boys into appropriate layers, zipping snowsuits, grappling with snow boots and sourcing hats and gloves that we were late for school. The roads were like a skating rink and by the time we reached the drop off garage for Captain Underpant's school my knuckles were white with tension and my shoulders were locked up by my ear lobes. Just as I was attempting to skid my way into the garage an attendant placed a bollard in my path, preventing our entrance. He then tapped his wrist to indicate that it was now 8.30am and the garage was shut. I checked the clock in the car - 8.26am. I tried to wind the passenger window down but it was frozen shut. "Hey", I shouted, gesturing wildly to my own wrist, "it's not 8.30 yet!" I have a voice resembling a foghorn at the best of times, but as I was securely sealed by an impenetrable layer of ice inside the car it was obvious that my vocal complaint wasn't successful at reaching the person that it was aimed at.

"HEY! HEY! IT'S NOT 8.30! IT'S NOT 8.30!" I continued to scream. When it became clear that the rabid mother in the 4x4 was being ignored I totally lost the plot. I lent on my horn as hard as I could and shouted in rage, "Aaargh! They've shut the fucking garage early! I don't bloody believe it? What bastards!"

As soon as I heard my words ricochet around the interior of the car I paused and managed to catch my breath. Maybe the boys hadn't heard me? I breathed in deeply and started to drive around the block to try to find parking. As I negotiated my way through snow mounds and ice patches I said, slowly and calmly, "sorry for shouting boys - I'm just going to drive round the block and find somewhere to park. OK?"

Johnny Drama turned with concern to Captain Underpants (the font of all knowledge in his world). "Where are we going? Why are we driving away from your school?"

At which point Captain Underpants exclaimed loudly and with vehemence, "Cos the bastards have shut the Fucking garage, that's why! Ugh. WHY did they shut the fucking garage Mama? It's not even 8.30!"

I think this ranks as definitely my finest parenting moment to date. Oh the pride. Were IS my Mother of the Year Award medal? And I am just so relieved and thankful that this explanation wasn't repeated to his teacher upon the innocent question, "hello Captain Underpants, why are you late for school this morning?"


  1. Excellent, funny post! Thankyou! MH

  2. Sparkle is standing here asking me why I'm laughing. Told her Auntie Nic has written a nice story about CA and JD. She said, "ahhh...I know that story!"
    Good one.
    Look forward to the next and the next and the next.

  3. Hilarious! And you must be so proud. It is a seminal moment in a parents life. Well done!

    Btw, I've tagged you at my blog.

  4. Oh I think "Bloody" is OK, given that most Americans think it's quaint, even from a tot! It's when they start saying "butt" and "crap", which aren't seen as bad here, that I really get annoyed. My personal fave is "sodding" but no one knows what the heck I'm talking about so it's sort of lost on them really.

  5. Every time I come here and read the name Captain Underpants I start to giggle and it doesn't stop...

  6. Dear Nicola. Thank you so much for continuing to visit even though I am so crap. Am in a crisis at the moment but really appreciate your words and sorry that I can't be more supprtive, I will sort my life out one day! Cxxx

  7. MH - glad I am returning the favour!

    MTW - I sincerely hope she does not know that story! And if she does I am sure, knowing you, that all rude words were censored...

    NS - Thank you for the tag my love - and glad my bad parenting makes you smile!

    Expat - how's the back? Yes, sodding is good, isn't it? Also bollocks for the same reason. And a quick sharp exhale of BUM! can be quite therapeutic too.

    MM - One day I might post a pic of him in his underpants and then you really will be laughing.

  8. Love it! (And it's not until you've used a swearword as a verb, noun, adjective, adverb and the rest that you can really claim you know the English language. Yes, its got a vocab of over half a million words - BUT SOME OF THEM ARE SWEARWORDS!

  9. Oh god that's funny. I had a really embrassing experience which I can never forget. At the local Doctors' surgery when my daughter was about three. She was really sick until we got there, perked up and made a beeline to the Wendy House and sprung open the window shutters shouting 'Fuck, Fuck, Fuck' I looked over and rummaged in my bag to find a plastic Ikea knife - 'Lost your fork darling?' I said waving the knife. I still shudder...and snigger, she's never said it again...yet...

  10. I love this story! I too have tried to explain to my kids that swearing is often used when ignorant people can't find proper words to express themselves. Of late, under much stress and quite angry I have been flinging them around myself, breaking my own rule of "not infront of the children" and my words came back to haunt me when my eldest said, Mummy I thought you said only less intelligent people swear. Ooops!
    Am adding your blog to my blogroll. I love it!

  11. Cassandra - lovely to hear from you. sending the biggest hugs x

    The Dotterel - oh, only half a million eh? Will have to update the parents.

    Nixdminx - he he he. Oh the sins of the mothers...

    WIHK - Hello! SO glad I am not alone in the less than intelligent stakes. And THANK YOU for adding me to your blogroll - I really appreciate it!

  12. Unfortunately I have to admit that my darling small child has had a mouth like a sewer for a while now, although with my ignoring it, it's getting better and not as often. I blame the nasty kids at school for it. However she outted her sewer mouth to her dad in quite dramatic style (in case you don't know already I call her Dad Batman, and he's the type that accuses me of neglect if she so much as has a McDonalds once a year). Anyway, I got a ranting phone call from Batman one night saying that his girlfriend had been about to bath small child and told her to hurry up getting undressed. Child shouted something back, but neither of them got what she said. They asked her to repeat, which she did. They still didn't get it and again asked to repeat. Small child got annoyed at being asked to repeat everything so she shouted very loud, "I can't get my fucking shoes off!"

    Batman was not impressed. My mother of the year award got lost in the post that year.

  13. Anonymous14 May, 2009

    Oh that's brilliant! Made me laugh out loud. Next time we need it on video!!

  14. Love it. We've all been there.
    I used to call them "driving words" in front of the children because my bad language was mainly heard when we were in the car. I carefully explained that sometimes Mummy needed to use bad words but you can only use them when you are driving. When you are grown up and you can drive blah, blah... you get it.

    I thought I had it nailed. Felt really proud of myself. Then I took them to visit my mother. We had a totally fucking awful bloody journey and it required the full quota of driving words. They were so impressed when we got there that they spilled out of the car full of excitement about the journey, dead keen to tell their grandmother about the journey and explained that Mummy had used all sorts of driving words in many and varied combinations. She asked them what were driving words. Cherub one said "Oh things like bloody and bugger, Nain" and Cherub two added "And fuck". We had a great day.

  15. Crying with laughter here. Bloody, fucking brilliant post.

  16. Hilarious! Rosemary has somehow picked up the phrase 'Oh bother!' I have no idea where she gets, because it's certainly not from me or Chris, both of whom find it quite challenging to turn off the sewer taps when in her presence. When she was younger, she did go through a phase of using 'Bloody', so perhaps she's used it at nursery school and they've taught her the more polite phrase!

  17. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Glad you did; this post was hilarious. Thanks for the laugh and keepin it real.

  18. Fucking brilliant! I very rarely laugh when sitting alone at the computer but I howled all through this - thank you, you write beautifully.