We know our children are little sponges who soak up all our words, actions, mannerisms. They are often parrots, but even more often they are fun house mirrors, amplifying and exaggerating our own idiosyncratic behaviors until we cringe, laugh, or hang our heads in shame.
Yesterday while cleaning up his toys, Sweet Boy got frustrated trying to put one of his train pieces together. Instead of crying or raging like he would have a few weeks ago, he threw the toy down and yelled, "Oh, fuck it!"
Oh. My. Lord.
The air was sucked out of the room. We were suspended in time and space, frozen as our eyes met. I took a split second to consider my options:
(1) Freak out and yell at him---scare him into never saying it again;
(2) Ask him to repeat what he said, because maybe I heard it wrong and I don't want to overreact;
(3) Ask where he heard that word, stuff his mouth full of soap, then call the offending child's parent immediately (a la The Christmas Story);
(4) Ignore it so he doesn't realize that he can get a rise out of me with this new word, thereby eliminating its power;
(5) Marvel at his intelligence because he used that word correctly!
He stood there looking up at me with big scared eyes. He knew that what he said was a no-no. What he didn't know was how I would react.
My gut tells me that I should not react in a big way when he uses bad words. He's experimenting, not only learning new words but learning the power of words. So I squatted down to his eye level and simply said, "Buddy, what you just said is not a nice word. It's a word that sometimes grown-ups say, but it's a naughty word. And it's not a word we use in our family. I hope I never hear you say that again."
And he responded, in all his glorious three-year-old innocence, "OK, Mommy. From now on I will said 'Oh, bin!' instead of 'Oh, bucket.'"
We're working on rhyming words these day, too.