The Kid ‘Milestone’ I’ve Been Dreading

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

It happened. As I was driving my three kids home from dinner at my parents’ house, we experienced a family first.* But rather than it being the kind you jot down in the baby book, it was the kind that makes you feel like you’re not really excelling at this whole parenting thing. Love those, right?

First, a little background: When my older two get into our car, they immediately start talking — nonstop and over each other. Then they argue about who gets to say something to me first, and who gets the most airtime, and whom I’m listening to more attentively. It’s all very relaxing for me, obviously. And the night in question was no exception. My six-year-old Alex had been learning about U.S. Presidents with my history-buff dad and wanted to share. Here’s what transpired as I drove down the street:

Alex: “Mom, I know the first five Presidents of the United States. Do you want to hear them?”

Me: “Yes, definitely.”

Alex: “George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jeff—”

At this point my four-year-old began talking loudly — about her soccer trophy falling on the floor and wanting to feed the baby her bottle next time because she never gets a turn, and about all the reasons she should definitely get to watch TV when we got home even though I told her there would be no TV that night. In other words, she didn’t have anything to say. She just wanted to be heard. And to complain. Par for the course with that one.

Alex: “Why does she always have to interrupt me? It’s so unfair that I have a sister who always talks over me, I mean, ugh! [Huff, puff, huff, puff] I’m so mad mom! It’s ridiculous! It’s just so…”—get ready for it— “…fudging annoying!” Only he didn’t say “fudge.” And it wasn’t even remotely under his breath.

A silence came over the car as I whipped around and watched his face go white. He pushes boundaries regularly but this was a big one, and he knew it. I stepped on the brakes (carefully, and just for effect — I knew there were no cars behind me), and my travel coffee mug from the morning toppled over and leaked out onto my new beach hat that was still on the floor from the weekend. It was one of those moments — and then some.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Alex, totally unacceptable language! Are you kidding me?” I said. “I don’t want anyone else to say a word until we get home. I need to focus on driving. Got it?” And then my brain started scrolling through my options for how to handle the situation and what to impress upon my son so it wouldn’t happen again.

I’m not one to make a big deal out of kid infractions, but this was pretty bad. It wasn’t like him asking, “Mom, is ‘shit’ a bad word?” as one of my friend’s kids did last week, or even taking a four-letter word out for a test drive alone in his room. Or under his breath. This was him using the F-bomb in context, out loud, in a rant, in front of his sisters. I needed him to fully grasp how not OK that is. And how he cannot, under any circumstances, speak like that in front of other kids. I can’t even imagine how embarrassed I’d be if he let that language slip around his peers.

Of course I have no idea where he learned that word. It must have been on the bus or from some kids on the playground or from his older cousin.

Ha! I wish. Unlike Ralphie’s mom, I’m not that naïve. There is no one to blame here but myself (and by ‘myself’ I mostly mean ‘my husband’). My husband and I try to keep it G-rated, but every once in a while some salty language seeps out. That’s life. At least it’s life in my house, particularly lately. And while I’m not sure it’s time to turn myself over to the authorities (I’m sure some of you will beg to differ), it is clearly time to tighten it up again. The car episode was a good reminder that I have three little sponges living in my house, and they are especially skilled at absorbing the stuff they know they’re not supposed to hear.

Any of your kids drop the F-bomb before? Or the S-bomb? Or maybe the B-bomb? Got any kid cuss-word confessions to make me feel a little better about my own?

*I’m pretty sure my four-year-old said the F-word once when she was three but I’ve blocked it out.