Watching your child develop language skills is definitely one of the great joys of parenting. My five year old is picking up big, grown-up words every day, and it is fun watching her figure out how to use them.
But, as with any new skill your child obtains, there are definitely drawbacks. When they learn to walk, watch out! They are so much harder to keep safe.
When they learn to use the potty, they inevitably need to use it at the most inconvenient times and places. And when they become proficient talkers, it’s the same deal: they say some truly awful things, like last night when my daughter told our host that her meatballs were “disgusting.”
And then there is the child’s fascination with potty talk. We spent several days last week with my good friend’s son, whose two favorite words are “poopy” and “butt.” This week, he is gone but his two favorite words have stayed behind.
Apparently potty talk is contagious.
Do you know what is really awful? Potty talk combined with a five-year-old’s love of, but lack of proficiency for, knock-knock jokes.
Honestly, if I hear one more joke to which the completely illogical punch line is “poopy” or “butt,” that’s it, I am going to pack up and move to a country where the small children all speak a language that I couldn’t possibly understand, like Azerbaijani. Then, when the kids there say something and then all crack up, I can pretend that they are genuinely funny and smile affectionately.
You should see me cringe when one of my kids says, “Knock, knock!”
In the interest of research, I asked my six-year-old this morning, “Why is the word poopy so funny?” Her answer was just what I expected. “Grownups don’t like it, so it’s funny!” Right, that is what I thought.
But of course we don’t like it! If you have seen as much misplaced Number Two as I have in my years as a parent and pet owner, you would shudder at the mere mention of it too!!
Okay, so what are we going to do about it? If potty talk is only funny because it annoys parents, should we stop being annoyed by it. Should we, like our kids, crack up at the mere mention of pee and poo, rolling on the floor in hysterics when one of the kids calls the vegetables at dinner, “Poo Poo Peas”? It might work, but I don’t think I could pull it off.
We could try to not react at all. We could completely ignore it and hope it just goes away. That might work. But, I don’t know, my kids are pretty smart, even if I didn’t say anything they would read my body language – banging my head against the wall in pent up frustration – and would still get the pleasure out of it.
I guess as parents we have been charged with the difficult task of explaining everything to our kids. We have to tell them what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior, before they get to kindergarten and call their teacher a potty-head.
So, I tried this: I explained that grownups don’t think poo is funny, for what are to me the most obvious reasons. I told the kids that you have to consider your audience – I am planning on raising comedians, you see – and that if your audience doesn’t think poo is funny, then save it for a different audience. When they are alone together, they can say it all they want. When there is an adult in the room they should behave accordingly.
Doesn’t that sound great? Aren’t I smart?
Maybe not. My daughter just interrupted my writing to tell me she was practicing her poopy dance for the poo and pee play they are going to put on later.
I fear that putting up with a little potty talk is just one of the hardships of parenting, like sleep deprivation. It’s inevitable.
When I first started writing this, I was hoping to lay the blame for rampant potty talk on mass media, including books like Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Honestly though, I think these two book series are just meeting kids where they are. Like they say, if you want kids to read, give them something they like to read.
Try as we might, we can’t take the funny out of poo. Only changing diapers and cleaning up after a sick dog can really do that.
So in the meantime, laugh away, just don’t expect me to laugh with you.