Caden-3yr is a blond, blue eyed, sunny sort of kid. He likes to laugh, and he’s good at sharing.
This week he started swearing like a cranky little sailor lost at sea.
I was horrified. Have I told y’all that Seth-2yr is saying everything he hears Caden-3yr say? I could see where this was headed.
Wednesday I thought I heard him say something he definitely should not have been saying, but I wasn’t sure. So I looked back over my shoulder at him, and was trying to decide if I should ask, or just let it go. That’s the traditional wisdom with these things, yaknow. Ignore it and don’t react. You’ve heard that, right? Yuh huh. That’s SO hard. But he cleared it up for me, and said, “MOMMY. I just said ‘*^%$%$#!!’”
“Um. Uh huh. I thought you did.” I was going to leave it at that while I figured out what to do next.
FIve minutes later over lunch, he dropped something, and said it again. We had a conversation (sooo casual in tone, in contrast to my silent Mommy Freaking Outedness going on inside) about how no one in our family talks like that. It’s true. We don’t. To which Caden-3yr helpfully said, “But I am in this family and I talk like that! I JUST SAID ‘^$#%^*#!!’”
As if I had forgotten.
“And that’s the problem, Caden-3yr” I tried to calmly explain.
Just then Mike got home and I gave him the update, out of Caden-3yr’s hearing. And MIke said, “Oh yeah. He started that when you were out of town last week. I forgot to tell you.”
I stomped back inside. Caden-3yr and I had a long complicated conversation and finally figured out which of his friends says this at PeeTool. It helped once he told me “IT’S A LITTLE GIRL, MOM.” Right.
After a few more uses of his new favorite word, my fake calm was gone. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. I threw the traditional ‘ignore it and don’t react’ wisdom out the window and told him if he continued to use that word, my hand would spank his backside each and every time.
Three hours later we’re at the restaurant in Tucumcari with the big cow on the sign. It’s on our way to Albuquerque, and the onion rings are great there, if you’re ever passing through. Not that I had onion rings, or that they would be relevant. They’re not. But Caden-3yr spilled his drink, and that IS relevant, because he just shook his head and uttered “^$#%$#!!” The waitress looked at me, saw that I had clearly abandoned the Do Not React train of thought somewhere east of Tucumcari, and she got out of my way.
Caden-3yr is crazy-smart. They all are, and as I hauled him off to the bathroom, he was stalling. It was a long walk, and he had time to think. He casually asked me “So, what are you doing, Mom?”
(I’ve all but flown over the table at him, grabbed him out of his seat and am carrying him like a surfboard through the restaurant, and he is calmly feigning innocence.)
I remind him of our deal where he says the word and I spank the butt. He reaches back and places one hand behind his little behind. Then, brilliance strikes and he says, “Well. You COULD spank me, but I really need to twinkle right now, and it might go everywhere…” He shakes his head as if to say, ‘it could get messy…’
Nice threat. Really, really nice. I’m impressed, but unmoved.
We got to the bathroom and I told him I was willing to take that chance. I spanked. We talked. When we got back to the table, Mike was back there – having been changing Seth-2yr in the men’s room while all this happened.
I told Mike we needed to have a “What To Say Instead” conversation. Mike asked, “Well, what did he say before?”
“Before he took up swearing?”
And we remembered that last week Caden-3yr used to say “Oh, MAN!” like Swiper the Fox on Dora the Explorer. He also is fond of ‘Oh! My! Goodness!’ So we talked about those phrases.
No swearing since. One spanking and a brainstorming session later, and his vocabularly is back to its normal, less than colorful status.
Bad habit seemingly kicked, BEFORE it could be passed on to other brothers. That’s a victory all on its own.