I am a terrible influence on my daughter.
Like most toddlers her age, Abigail is in a mimic stage where she copies what she hears and sees in her world. Lately, this has included everything from Daniel Tiger (“Come on in!”) to us (“Hi, honey!”).
Abigail’s also in a phase where she wants nothing to do with a diaper change. Merely suggesting it sets her off with whining usually followed by a dash in the opposite direction of the changing table. Trying to pick her up results in her throwing her arms up and going limp like a war protester in the middle of an arrest. While trying to strap a Pooh bear-adorned diaper on her I have to dodge flailing arms and legs.
These two phases came together one night last month when Abigail was trying to squirm off the changing table. Diaper tabs in one hand, the other on her belly I said “Wait a second, wait a second!” “Waaait a sec-end, waaaiiit a sec-und,” Abigail replied in a tone that betrayed a hint of mockery. I started cracking up because she sounded a little like my departed grandfather who, when faced with us squabbling grandkids would say “Wait-a-while, wait-a-while!” She also sounded a little like a precocious sitcom child in search of a catchphrase.
Several times over the next couple weeks I’d be trying to change her diaper and get more of the same. “Waaaaiit a sec-ennnnd!” This was all fine and good until one night last week when Abigail was being particularly squirrely and kicky. You know those times when you’re parenting your kid and you’re so focused on keeping them from harming themselves you don’t quite realize what you’re doing until suddenly something happens that brings your conscious mind back into the moment? That happened to me this night when Abigail – naked and thrashing – started saying…
“Damnit, damnit, damnit, damnit!”
I just stared at her.
“Damnit, damnit, damnit, damnit!”
Oh god, my child is cursing. At two years old. I have failed as a parent. Game over.
Where had she picked this up, I wondered. As if she, at two years old, was spending time with stevedores and pipefitters and bringing home some colorful language she’d never otherwise be exposed to from her incredibly kind nanny who’s never so much uttered an unkind word let alone a curse word, several PBS characters and her parents who…
Oh wait…that was me wasn’t it?
Much like the “Wait a second” bit, I realized I had unwittingly let loose with a “Damnit” when she was thrashing around as I was trying to wipe her butt. And so I began trying to unring the bell. My daughter was, at that moment, like an overflowing toilet whose filth was spilling out over its lip. And I was powerless to stop it.
Look, I swear. So does my wife. Quite a bit. And often creatively. But I don’t want Abigail showing up to story hour at church dropping mind bullets on the other kids in four-letter-word form. This toothpaste needs to get back in the tube.
“No, no, no, Abigail. Waaait a second! Waaait a second,” I exclaimed trying desperately to redirect her language back into the hacky sitcom-like verbiage I found so charming.
She stopped. But the damage was done. My daughter’s innocence had been stolen by my momentary lapse in judgment and her incredible facility with language.
So far there’s been no recurrence of her colloquial usage. In the meantime, I’m going to try saying “Filth Flarn Filth” in those instances when something more colorful is required.