It is both fascinating and frightening to watch your child's use of language develop. Fascinating in that every new word is a discovery, a revelation, and frightening in that some newly acquired words are a pure abomination.
When we lit the Hanukkah candles last night and said the prayer in Hebrew, my son yelled out to his friends in attendance, "What the HELL was that?!"
At what point did my 3-year-old's language head south?
It started so innocently a year ago when he would yell, "Oh, Cheeze-its!"
He quickly moved on to Larry David references, much to his father's delight: "Get outta here, Shmohawk!"
Then he started calling his baby brother "Mr. Poopyhead" and badgering the pizza delivery man, "Hey, ya l'il weirdo!"
The other day I overheard him yell at his 1-year old brother, "Come back here, you little BALLBUSTER!"
When I call my husband to report our boy's offensive word of the day, he wants to know if our son used the term in a grammatically correct and logically appropriate time.
Growing up, my sister and I were never allowed to say so much as "Shut Up," and the only time I ever heard my dad curse was when he stepped on a nail.
On the flip side, name-calling and teasing in general is part of my husband's being. He is one of five (four boys and a girl) and he was forced to develop a sixth sense for picking out the idiosyncrasies of his siblings as a defense tactic. He and his brothers can sniff out a strange pronunciation of the word "tilapia" or "out" a person who has yet to shower on a given day or draw attention to one eyebrow waxed a tad higher than the other.
He comes from a world where all the guys sport nicknames: Tony "the Shakes," Nicky "One Ball." You get the idea.
So I guess this boy name-calling madness is what's in store for my near future. But still I try.
"What the HECK?!" my son yells.
"Better!" I say. "I like that better!"
"Mommy, I didn't say, what the HELL! Right? "Hell's" a bad word? What the HELL? I didn't say that."
Oh. Here we go.
Now I'm trying a new tactic. Teaching my son Spanish while trying to brush up on my own.
He does not know any bad words in Spanish yet. It's a revelation. And sometimes it's nice because I can tell our babysitter things about him in Spanish without him understanding what I'm saying.
"So I got a call from his teacher this morning. There were corroborated reports from several children that he was . . . como se dice, "under the pirate ship on the playground with his pants down"?
Like I said, fascinating and frightening no matter how you say it!
Stacy Heenan Biscardi is a freelance writer and attorney from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She has written for The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, Chic Mom Magazine, and several other publications. She is a former writer/producer for NBC and CBS. Stacy lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and two young sons. This post was adapted from her blog, Wifty & Shifty.