My daughter has discovered talking. As of right now she has about 125 words in her vocabulary. It’s great to (finally) have her ask for help instead of just screaming until I figure out what she wants. It’s also great hearing her express herself. Well, it’s usually great.
When she’s cursing like a sailor at Whole Foods supermarket it’s…less than great.
I made a parenting mistake. When Adi was 18 months old she dropped the toy she was holding and yelled “Oh sh**”. She was very slow to talk, and up until her recent word explosion, I was a little concerned that she was having speech problems. At the time, I was thrilled to hear her use a word (ANY word) correctly and in proper context. So I praised her and gave her a sticker to reward her verbal self expression. I also decided that I needed to censor myself a bit better to prevent her bleep-worthy vocabulary from expanding. I started to say things like shoot, and gosh darn it, and go fiddlesticks yourself, but it was too late. My daughter’s memory waited for her verbal skills to catch up and unleashed every swear word she had ever heard since she was a fetus.
I admit, before I had a child, my language was pretty…colorful. I have made an effort since Adi was born to shield her ears from blue language, but shoot happens. She’s pretty much heard every word in the book.
When Adi said her first swear word, I should have told her to use a different, nicer word to express her anger instead of cheering and giving her a reward. Now she’s this adorable Shirley Temple looking toddler who sounds like George Carlin. This is about to spin out of control.
If it were somebody else’s baby I would think it’s hilarious. (Full disclosure: sometimes I do think it’s hilarious when Adi curses). Last week, I stubbed my toe really hard and in my agony, I yelled out a swear word. Adi was there, of course, and repeated what she heard. Her first word with an ñ in it. I tried to backtrack and pretend I said “conejo,” but she wasn’t buying the rabbit excuse and spent the rest of the afternoon saying her new word to anyone in the neighborhood who would understand it (in my neighborhood that’s pretty much everyone).
Fiddlesticks. Gosh darn it fiddlesticks.
So how do I correct this behavior? We’re still a teeny bit behind on sentences (she knows a lot of words, they just aren’t strung together yet) and I don’t want to discourage talking, but this swearing thing needs to stop. Whenever she says a swear word, I suggest another, more appropriate one. This is working for the most part, except now she thinks the word for rabbit is that word with the ñ in it. It makes things awkward at the children’s zoo when the zoo keeper holds up a rabbit and asks what it is.
Maybe we should stick to animals in English for now.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.