My eyebrows shot up to my hairline, as I stared at Master Six in terror.
Oh dear, here it comes…
“Yes, I do… The question is, young man, do YOU?”
“Yes. Do you want me to tell you?”
“Yes, but because we NEVER say that word in this house, maybe you should spell it out for me.”
“Oh okay, this is an easy one…”
Now, I’ll break this story here to tell you that the last time this happened, a year ago, the ending was quite different and it went a little like this…
“Mummy, someone in my class told us that she knew a very bad word that started with ‘F’ today!”
Uh oh, first week of Prep and already it starts, I think.
“Oh, really darling? What did she say?” steeling myself.
“Well, when we all went over to her to find out what the word was, she got really scared, and wouldn’t tell us.”
Can’t you just imagine this little 5 year old getting the fear when 21 excited little Preppies crowd around her waiting for the first bite of this forbidden fruit?!
“Oh well, it probably doesn’t matter, my love, because you aren’t allowed to say it anyway.”
Phew, I thought, breathe, Mummy, breathe.
“Oh, no, it’s okay. She told us later, in the playground.”
Oh nooooo! Here it comes…
“It was F*RT!”
Of course, I very nearly cried with relief, while the little fellow laughed himself to hiccups at the fun of replacing our family word ‘Fluffy’ with the real live naughty version.
Suffice to say I’ve been waiting for this moment since orientation day at Kindy, when all I could hear being bandied around the playground was “Hey Poo-Poo Head!” and “See ya later, Stinky Fluffy Bum!” I could feel it in my waters that at least one child in the crowd would know how to swear and would delight in teaching everyone else how to do it too. I just hoped it wasn’t going to be mine.
I grew up in a community where swearing was absolutely taboo in Primary School. I’d never heard any adult other than my mother swear, and all my friends thought she was the coolest mum on the planet just because she occasionally dropped the mildest of expletives. We even had a swear jar for her that gave us many a good holiday on Stradbroke Island, but to her credit, she made it very clear that these were not words for her children to use, so we didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude and I certainly understand the joys of expletives. The freedom and release when certain words come out of one’s mouth can be quite exhilarating, but I just don’t get to do that much of it these days. A magic lock clamps down on your vocabulary when you become a parent and you suddenly find yourself saying, “Oh shivers!”, “Oh, for goodness sake!” and “Bummer” instead of the fruitier versions.
I also don’t want to be the one who gets the phone call from school, or gets ‘the chat’ from another parent whose baby has had their innocence torn away from them because of my child! One time as a social pariah because of my children was enough, as the following story will show…
We’d been playing ‘getting married’ at home one rainy afternoon, and I’d played the part of the celebrant, while my pigeon pair walked down the aisle and pledged their troth to one another. When the wedding waltz was over, and the game was packed up, I was mildly concerned to hear that brother and sister actually did believe they would marry each other when they were grownups.
Flippantly, I said the first thing that came into my head that I thought would turn them off that concept forever. “You can’t marry each other, you know. It’s not allowed. If brothers and sisters get married, they have babies with two heads.”
No further discussion, but a lot of fertiliser was dumped onto two imaginative children that day. So much so that I nearly had to leave town when a school grandmother approached me in the park one day after school…
“Hello Caylie, how are you?” eyeballing me in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable.
“I’m fine… how are you?” wondering what I had done wrong for this retired teacher to be so super-polite to me.
“I’m well, thank you for asking. You know, a funny thing happened in church yesterday I thought you might find amusing.”
“Oh, really?” Heart racing now, knowing I was about to get in a lot of trouble for that big mouth of mine.
“Well, yes, actually. When our family priest was telling everyone in his congregation about the sanctity of marriage, he mentioned a long list of people one was not allowed to marry. You remember, don’t you, ‘Thou shalt not marry thy sister’s brother’ etc.?”
Ahem. “Yes, I remember.”
“Well, my beautiful three year old grand-daughter took it upon herself to stand up on her chair at that point and call out to the entire congregation, ‘IF YOU MARRY YOUR BROTHER, YOU WILL HAVE BABIES WITH TWO HEADS!!!'”
Oh, shivers. Oh, for goodness sake. Oh, bummer…
“Oh, how funny! I wonder where she got that idea from. Kids say the oddest things, don’t they? Hey, is that the time? We’re late for swimming lessons! Great to chat, let’s do it again sometime!”
And I raced away, filled with shame and horror at my own words being gently poured all over me by this lovely granny.
So here we are again, at my day of reckoning, back at our kitchen table where Master Six was spelling out the F-Bomb, phonetically and quite obviously, correctly. He only missed the letter ‘k’, which of course, I pointed out to him so he can at least tell the other children in the playground how it’s really spelled. Honestly, what is wrong with me?
After a little bit of discussion about the sort of consequences that could be expected if that word was ever spoken out loud, we managed to move on to another topic and I think I’ve been spared hearing it from his beautiful mouth for at least a few weeks yet.
His little sister, however, was apparently fascinated by the conversation, and was seen to be practising her letters a little later that morning, reading a word on the side of my French Connection UK sunglasses…
“Why do you have that naughty word on the side of your glasses?”
Caylie writes weekly essays on her blog, Distractions of a Busy Mother, to help people feel less alone through shared laughter, tears and inspiration. She works to transform everyday events into vivid sketches, showing an understanding of what parents, women and people in the community are going through.
Her first book, Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers, is now available for purchase online, at selected books stores and via her website.