Thursday, March 12, 2009

Poisoning My Kids

This morning Sebastian was rambling about someone named Maria. "What's her name? Maria? Wait. Who's Maria? Is she the one who's a nun? Yeah. And she lives in that big house." And without a breath he breaks into, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"

I smiled to myself. We haven't watched The Sound of Music for quite a while and I wondered what triggered that nugget. He went on for a while, trying his best to remember the tune and when his memory ran dry, he shifted gears, "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no."

And what struck me as he warbled from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Amy Winehouse was how all parents poison their kids. Admit it. We do. With our likes and dislikes, the way we turn a phrase, the food we eat, our personal style, the television and movies we reference. (My white son does a spot on Miss Celie from The Color Purple.)

Amy Winehouse was Michael's introduction, although not The Sound of Music. Ever since Children of the Damned, Michael is wary of any movie with a passel of blond children. No, I was responsible for The Sound of Music. But only the fun parts in the first half of the film. After Captain Von Trapp marries Maria it gets heavy-handed for little ones. Hell, I'll admit it, it even gets heavy-handed for me. Julie Andrews is downright matronly. And I miss Baroness Schraeder and her bitchy remarks, "If I had only known, I would have brought my harmonica." So, I skip the parts about Nazi occupation, and instead the kids and I laugh as the children fall into the lake, sing with lonely goat herd marionettes, and giggle uncontrollably when Reverend Mother asks, "What is it you cunt face, Maria?" (Sebastian thinks her high falutin nun voice sounds funny, I appreciate the unintentional lowbrow humor of cunt face. It certainly makes Climb Every Mountain take on a different meaning.)

Recently, I have taken up the expletive, Jiminy Crickets (note the pluralization) to be used in place of the other popular JC. Just as easily, I could have chosen Julie Christie or Jimmy Connors or Jose Cuervo, but I get more bang for my buck debasing a Disney character. (Although, maybe I'm being shortsighted. Try this on for size: I just dropped an anvil on my big toe and Joan Collins it hurts like a Morgan Fairchild!) I can also be heard around the house shouting, "Dingdang it!" This of course replaces goddamnedmotherfuckinsonofabitch! However, both Jiminy Crickets and dingdang it are barely satisfying. I imagine it's like smoking Marlboro Reds for many years and then having to downgrade to a heavy filter. The kick in the pants is that both my kids have taken to exclaiming "Jiminy Crickets!" and "dingdang it!" when the situation warrants. Yep. Poisoned.

When Sebastian was three, he acquired a bad habit. He'd be pissed off about something and look at either Michael or I with furrowed brow and say, "You're a bitch." This confused us. We couldn't figure out where he heard that particular phrase. It wasn't us. We weren't going around the house saying, "You forgot to take out the trash, and by the way, you're a bitch." Now, if Sebastian was spouting, "Bitch, please!" we could have taken responsibility. But you're a bitch? We suffered through the typical parental rigmarole. We chastised. We ignored. But nothing stopped Sebastian from sounding like a broken parrot, "You're a bitch. You're a bitch. You're a bitch."

One day, I was picking Bash up from preschool, and in a stern tone, from across the playground, I heard one of his teachers reprimanding a student, "You're benched." Light bulb. You're benched. Evidently, parents are not the only ones who are poisoning our kids.

About six months later, Sebastian was at it again. In frustrated moments, he was partial to saying, "Fuck me." But this time we didn't freak out. We knew this came from us.

I can't believe no one told me how perversely pleased I would be when my kids would take on my isms. As long as Sebastian isn't cursing like a crack whore, it tickles me pink. And that's not to say they will cozy up to all of my stuff. As a kid, I did not want to sit in front of the TV and root for the Sooners with my dad. Nor did I care for my mother's peculiar snack of crumbled Saltines in skim milk. Consequently, I steer clear of both college football and soggy, salty snacks. But when Bash helps Maxie out of an anguished moment (and she's two, so those are often) by cooing, "It's okay, sweetheart," using my exact words and intonations, it sends me over the moon.

Last week, I took Maxie to the grocery store. The doors swoosh open and in the entrance, I don't know why, there were cases of soda stacked around a basketball hoop. I reacted as I usually do when confronted with things out of context, I ignored it, as if basketball set ups were commonplace at the neighborhood Ralph's. Maxie, with crystal clarity says, "Basketball." Now, I'll be honest, I could say we don't watch basketball at our house, but that would be a lie by omission. We don't watch ANY sports at our house, college football to synchronized swimming. Hell, I was fidgety during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

So, how does my daughter know this random object, surrounded by Coca Cola products at the grocery store, has anything to do with basketball? I might not think this significant if she was labeling an actual basketball. But a regulation basketball hoop? We don't have one. Neither do our neighbors. Neither does her preschool. So, unless my daughter is sneaking out of her crib at nap time, and somehow getting to a playground for some one on one action without my knowing, there is no way she could cognitively know what a basketball is. But check this out, Maxie's birth mother was a basketball player. I'm not saying love of basketball runs in the DNA, but something instinctual is going on here.

With birth parent genetic makeup coursing through both of our kids, we don't get, "He has your eyes," "She has your laugh." So, when we're listening to the show tune station and Sebastian hears Tomorrow and asks, "What's that from?" not "What song is that?" I puff out my chest with great pride. Because that is our stamp. And in the whole nature/nurture mystery, it's thrilling to know we are leaving our indelible mark. Jackie Chan, I love poisoning my kids.

16 comments:

KWG said...

What a great post. Could've been a genetic predisposition to B-Ball. My wife and I don't think too much yet about "poisoning" our daughter because she's only six months old and can only shriek like a Hindi baby velociraptor. We read a lot to Bea, but we also love our TV; our feeling is that we grew up with TV and we're okay (I think). And I still cuss like a trucker sometimes and need to curb that pronto.

Oh, so much to look forward to. Don't remember the c-word line in the Sound of Music, though...disturbing.

Jason said...

hahaha, it's all cute now, just wait until a fuck me comes out at school...not quite as funny LOL.

Isabella said...

Awesome post!

Our little one is only 11 months, but I'm sure she'll have a treasure trove of things to say when she starts talking. I'm hoping she picks up my favorite saying, "Geez oh Pete!"

And thanks for making me aware of the unintentional swear in Sound of Music. I'm going to giggle every time I heard it now.

E. Payne said...

My daughter (3) is a dangerous sponge. It's not enough for her to soak up the good and bad from mommy and daddy. No, she is able to understand the context after only hearing or seeing something once.

A few days after Christmas her mother was putting one of her toys together and she ran up to her mother and shouted, "Mommy, what the f@*! are you doing?" Personally I don't curse, but mom is definitely the sailor. I looked at mom she looked at me and put her head down.

You gotta watch everything you do around these little ones...

Happy Fatherhood Friday.

PJ said...

So true, I'm poisoning my 11 month old constantly. I can't tell you how many times I get the evil eye from my wife when another expletive leaps from my mouth. She swears she's going to take him to out of the house during football season. I have nasty habit of swearing like a sailor on shore leave.

f8hasit said...

Love it. And DONE it!
My daughter, who is now 10, is smrt enough now to know when and where to spout my "ism's".

I remember that we used to watch the Simpsons on Sunday evenings and then there were some episodes that weren't quite children friendly, so we stopped. How we manged to morph that into weekend romps with Southpark I haven't a clue...
or when she said stubbed her toe and told me that a glass of wine would help it feel better...

Yup. We poison our kids.
:-)

Keep it up! Thanks for the chuckle!

john said...

lol. very funny post. Kids are like little sponges. It truly is amazing.

ciara said...

this was a great post...my girls have/had taken on some things that i have said or my ex. when my 12 yr old was 3 she said the f word, not just f word but mf, too and used it in right context. that's where we had to start watching ourselves :-/

makeshiftspaces said...

Haha I was loving your whole post. I have had a few slips with babysitting that kids have picked up before. A bit mortifying sometimes

Jed said...

great post! One day in the recent past, Adrian was sick with a chest cold and we went to the doctor and he proclaimed "NO, God Damnit!" repeat ad nauseum when confronted with a Nebulizer, I changed my tune to "God Bless America". He's such a patriotic kid nowadays.

CF77777 said...

Perhaps I too was poisoned as a child, cause when I was a teenager I would cuss like a sailor or Hell's Angel. Then a miracle would happen, the second I got around my parents, something switched inside me head and not a filthy word came out of my mouth. It was like some sort of "Magical Enchantment". Now I have a Grandson, and I still curse, as if it were the Queen's English, and I am praying that the "Magical Enchantment" returns, cause sometimes I find myself midway in a curse word and then try to make it sound like I wasn't cursing. If only there was a "magic" pill an adult to take, to stop cursing so little minds wouldn't be damaged, until they got old enough to appreciate what curse words mean.

WeaselMomma said...

Nature and nurture and individual personalities come together to keep parents on their toes.

justlori2day said...

Um yeah. Me too. In fact when "Dont call me a dumbshit" came out of our then 4 year old son we realized that he had grossly mis understood "hey you in the blue shirt", and moreover was understanding more what a dumbshit really was.

That and when our now 11 year old still had tossled blonde locks and sweet innocence of a 4 year old expressed to us her perfect behavior by shouting "I got in the God damn car good today didn't I mom?"

Yep. I try to make up things that sound less repellant, yet not noteworthy to their 6/11 y/o ears, yet even "son of a motherless goat" has found their lips!

Poison is right.

ShankRabbit said...

Awesome post!

I fear that one day my kid is going to be in school and will say to the teacher:

"Miss Jones! Earmuffs!.... Awww FUCK!"

Me-Me King said...

Oh, man! I remember this as if it were yesterday, "Mom, what's a mudder fudder?" Thank goodness my son mispronounced this in when asking front of his grandparents.

CSY said...

Poisoning our children is what parenting is for! Love the post!