Thursday, March 7, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Do, Dammit

Let me start by saying that this whole being-a-good-example thing is hard.  I do not like it.  I am not good at it.  I'm forty years old and I like my bad habits. 

They're endearing. 

Fine.  Maybe not endearing, but I've grown used to having them. 

The thing is, I don’t want Iris to have them.  I want all of Iris's habits to be good.  Yes, I know that’s unrealistic.  Shut up.  I'm entitled to my wishful thinking.

When Iris was younger, I wasn't thinking about the habits Iris might pick up from me.  I wasn’t thinking about any of Iris’s habits.  Or anyone else’s habits, either.  I was too busy trying to keep her fed and happy while managing to stay sane.

But, then Iris came home from preschool one day and sneezed into the crook of her elbow.  See, I didn't teach her that.  They taught her that in preschool.  And it got me to thinking.  I know it's a good thing for her to do.  It's polite.  It’s hygienic.  It's a great habit.  But, yeah, I don't do that.  And I don't mean I-sometimes-do-it-but-most-of-the-time-I-don’t.  I mean, I don't do that.  I know I should, but what I was taught, way back in the dark ages, was to cover my mouth with my hand.  This crook-of-the-elbow stuff is new.  And, if I'm being really honest, I don't even use my hand all of the time.  Sometimes I just sneeze or cough freely without even thinking about it.  Don’t say it.  I know.  I’m good about it in public.

It's just that I want Iris to be good about it all the time.

And she's watching me.  I'm her example!

Which means I’m going to have to start being good about the elbow-coughing thing.  Hell, I’m going to have to start remembering the elbow-coughing thing.  Crap. 

I'm really no one's good example. 

I mean, I don't stand up straight.  Or sit up straight.  I am queen of slouching.  I slouch all the time.  I even periodically tell myself that I need to stop slouching and I go around with my shoulders up and my spine straight for a while, but, within 24 hours, I'm slouching again.  And, sometimes, I talk with my mouth full.  Oh, who am I kidding? I talk with my mouth full a lot.  And it probably doesn’t make it more polite that I cover my mouth with my hand while I do it, does it?  Most days, I don't make my bed.  Or pick my towel up off the floor after my shower.  I chew on pen lids and pencil erasers.  I have been known to pick my nose.  (Oh hush, like you've never done it.) 

Also, when I am home, I don't always wash my hands after I pee.  Every time after I poop, mind you...that's ingrained.  But, you know, sometimes you just didn't get anything on your hands and you're at home and you just want to get out of the bathroom and back to the action and....don’t look at me that way!  I can't be the only one!  But that one’s going to bite me in the ass now that we’re potty training, isn’t it? 

I want Iris to always wash her hands.  And never pick her nose.  And I’d like it if she thought chewing on pens and pencils is gross.  Because it is.  So is talking with your mouth full.  Slouching is bad for your posture and can give you back pain.  I have always planned on having her make her bed every day and clean up after herself in the bathroom. 

I'm going to have to change the way I do a lot of things.  And right quick, too.

Otherwise, I’m going to have a nose-picking, open-mouth-chewer on my hands.  I can see it now, instead of saying, “You should be more like Iris,” the other mothers will say, “Don’t be like that Iris!” and no one will want to have play dates at my house.

Worst of all, I swear.  A lot.  No.  Really.  A lot.

My favorite word?  Fuck.  Followed closely by shit, bitch, asshole, and bastard.

None of which I’d like Iris to be saying anytime soon.

There are other, more minor, words I’d prefer she not say, too.  Like the time about a year ago when pointed at my breast and asked me what it was.  I told her it was a boob.  Which is how she came to be saying "boob" over and over again at Target later that day.  And not quietly, either. People were staring.  I tried to pass it off like she was saying "boom," but I'm pretty sure everyone knew that's not what she was saying.  Especially because she kept pointing at my chest while she said it.

Still, I don’t think anyone was scandalized by a two-year-old saying boob.  If, however, a three-year-old starts saying fuck or shit?  I don’t think anyone’s going to find that cute.

The thing is, before I had a child that might parrot back to me whatever comes out of my mouth, I never thought I swore a lot.  I mean, I knew I was capable of putting together a pretty salty phrase. Especially after ten years as a public defender.  I just didn't know I did it quite that much.  But you really start to notice how often you’re using a word while you’re trying to weed it out of your vocabulary.  This whole thing has been way harder than I thought it would be.

Seriously, can you even think of a word that can truly take the place of fuck?  Or shit?  They are both just so very versatile.  When you drop a full sippy cup on your foot, you will understand exactly what I mean.  And, sometimes someone is being an asshole or a bastard and I just can't bring myself to call them a "meanie" or a "bad man." 

When she was not quite two, Iris ran around all day one day saying "shit."  I tried to tell myself that she was just mispronouncing "shirt," but, c'mon, we all know that was just my own, personal delusion.  And we all know where she got that language. Well, shit.  And here I'd thought I'd been doing so well.  (Also, I knew I shouldn't laugh, but, let's just face it, watching a toddler run across the family room while saying "shit" repeatedly is pretty funny.) 

There are also the true mispronunciations.  For a while when Iris was maybe eighteen or nineteen months old, I’d drop her off at preschool and have to tell her teachers that, when she was trying to say "horse," it was going to sound like she was saying "whore."  But, I promise she wasn’t saying "whore."  Really.  Because I'm pretty sure a whore doesn't say "neigh," right? (Unless you pay extra, but I digress…)  And, later that same week, she's started saying "fork," but it came out sounding like....well, like “fuck."  Her teachers were very understanding, but I kept waiting for them to start looking at me like I was "that mom"?
And, despite my best efforts, it hasn’t gotten better.  Iris is three now, and a few weeks ago, at dinner, Iris dropped her fork on the floor and said “Dammit!”  Clear as day. With the exact inflection I use when something frustrating happens.  My husband, Quinten, and I were stunned into silence.  We just stared at Iris.  Had she really just said that?  Iris took this as a sign that she’d done something interesting or, possibly, funny.  “Dammit!” she said, louder.  “DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT!”  Smiling and giggling while she shouted. 

I’m not winning mother of the year anytime soon.

I know what you're thinking.  I'm painting this like I'm the mom version of Samuel L. Jackson.  I know you're imagining me potty training by saying "When are you going to motherfucking poop in the motherfucking potty?" 

I'm not like that.  I promise.

But this being a good example is such hard work.

Can’t I just be a horrible warning?


  1. Awesome post! My first word was "shit" and I got it from my grandmother. hehe

  2. My sister uses "sugar" instead of shit. Said with enough venom, it's surprisingly satisfying.

  3. I do believe, this is my favorite post. ;)

    We have found some entertainment value in finding creative ways to express words we'd rather our kids not repeat. An oldy, but goody- "water retention device." Or, perhaps "that guy is such a donkey!"