Lyrical Profanity

My dad swears like a sailor. In fact, he used to be a sailor. I actually never attributed his cursing to the Navy. Angry and frustrated, my dad was a master profanitarian; thunderous, lyrical and awe-inspiring. Scared as I was of his tirades (although he was all bark and no bite, then, and is neither bark nor bite now), I was also a little proud of them. I felt sure that nobody could do what he did.


Despite being around such language as a child, I never had any doubt which words I could use and which were entirely off limits. Maybe that was my mom’s influence, or maybe it was just context. I don’t think I could have imagined feeling angry enough to attempt one of my dad’s interjections. Anyway, he doesn’t use four letter words. My dad swears in compound phrases, with a delicate balance of adverbs and adjectives, and startling combinations of the mundane and profane.

There have been moments as an adult I have needed to copy him to express my feelings, but unlike him, I always stumble or make a ridiculous combination. I often wondered if he practiced and revised his rants.

“Maybe next time I’ll say___in’ ___ hole before son of a ___in’ ___master. I think that would have a greater impact,” he might think, while chopping wood, unaware that soon, he would need to put his plan into action after smashing his thumb.

Anyway, given my upbringing, it’s not surprising that I can be a little foul mouthed, and I actually think profanity gives some statements the emotional boost they need. (But I do have the decency to understand I’m supposed to feel ashamed of that.)


Of course I try not to swear around my kid, especially now that he is repeating things. I have been mostly successful, but sometimes I slip.

Recently he was trying to do something, and it wasn’t working out so he exclaimed, “Bad Damage!!” I was startled, then pleased to have been misunderstood in such an innocent way. Until I realized that if what I said, sounded like “bad damage” then him saying “bad damage” would sound like what I said. So I had to tell him not to say it.

That was a little challenging, because neither of those words are bad. It’s hard to explain how two non-bad words can sound like bad words to someone else, so I just told him not to say them. Then I feared that I have caused some future problems when he’s say, explaining a homeowners situation to his insurance agent. (Yeah, I’m a trouble-borrower.)

There are other situations that are less questionable. Like when he walked up to me, looked me in the eye and said, “FOCK.” He said it just like that, and there was no doubt in his mind that he was going to get a reaction. Funny as I found it, I didn’t smile, and I mustered the most shocked face I could manage. We talked about why it was a bad word and made it clear that he was never to say it again.

Then Jeff and I took to playing the blame game. Must be one of the older kids at school. He didn’t hear it on TV, we don’t even have HBO.

The next night, I realized I had left something on downstairs after I was all comfy in bed. I sat up and said, “FOCK!” only I didn’t say it just like that. It seemed I owed that “older kid at school” an apology.

Cut me some slack, I told you how I was raised. And even though I wasn’t in the Navy, I was in the Army Reserves. So, now I know I have to be more vigilant with my self-censoring… bad damage.

Sleep Crazy

When I was pregnant, people would tell me, “Say goodbye to sleep!” One particularly bitchy woman said it frequently, with a stupid grin on her face, like she was enjoying picturing my impending misery. I never liked her.

Let me just say, I am CRAZY about sleep. I mean that in the conventional way: I enjoy sleep a lot. But I also mean that literally: When it comes to sleep, I am crazy.

Portions of my pre-baby life involved long periods of involuntary sleep deprivation along with occasional bouts of insomnia. Once I got the hang of sleep again and had a life that involved a normal day-night schedule, I was not looking forward to giving that up.

People’s warnings were pointless and unhelpful, because you can’t imagine the kind of sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby. It’s impossible to warn anybody, and there is no reason to. It’s not like you can build a slumber stock-pile.

After the first difficult few weeks, we got into a pretty good rhythm, and then I started responding to a full night of sleep like a superstitious sports fan responds to a win. “I was wearing the blue shirt, the night he slept for 5 hours in a row, better put that on.” Anything we did the night before a good night of sleep, I repeated. I have always been terrible at establishing any kind of routine for myself, and I was often irritated with myself that I couldn’t. At least, I thought, I’m too lazy to develop OCD. Not for Chris, though. I developed a schedule so strict, it would have been the envy or a military establishment.

7:00 PM: Bath with soothing lavender baby bath – NO! You got the Target brand? That’s not soothing enough, Dammit! What were you thinking??

7:15 Dry off with the hooded puppy towel, the TV tuned to “soundscapes” (soothing tunes for the high and anxious).

7:30 Dress in special overnight (wishful thinking) diaper, long-sleeved onesie, cotton socks.

7:45: Warm bottle in darkened room, fan on, white noise machine on in the background, glowing sea horse playing lullabies.

8:30ish: We have sleep. Steal away stealthily, like ninja mom, ease the door closed.

8:30-11:30: Hover nervously by the baby monitor.

Now that he’s a toddler, the ritual hasn’t changed too much, no bottle, diaper or sea horse and bed time is a little later. We’ve ditched the lavender baby bath or Mr. Bubble, but the rest is pretty much the same. And I still stay with him in his room until he falls asleep. Of course, I wonder if that’s weird. If I’m hovering, if I’m making him too dependent. I know people would have opinions about it, so I tend not to mention it. The thing is, I like it. It is this quiet time we have always had together. We sit together and talk for a little while or read stories, then I just sit near him and read or write until he falls asleep. Now that he can talk, I get some of the cutest little insights into who he is during these times.

The Inception Dream

The thing I discovered (along with most mothers) is how irrevocable the transformation to motherhood is. Before Chris, I had a vacation-like easy life. At least it seems so in retrospect. I had extra money, extra time, I traveled, I went out with friends, I slept a LOT.

After Chris, I’m a relatively broke, sleep deprived homebody, with chronic short-term memory loss. And at the risk of sounding cheesy, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I used to hear that and similar sentiments before having a kid, and I thought, “Well, duh, it’s not like you can change it. What else would you say?” But now I’m on this side of things, and I’m like, “OH!!! Nope, I really wouldn’t change it.” I am delighted by my son, even when he is being a monster. Nothing on Earth has ever made me happier or entertained me more and it’s worth every puke covered top, broken knick-knack and lost night of sleep.

I consider myself a pretty responsible human being, but I still can’t believe I have been trusted to take care of something so good. So, my brain can’t even go to any imaginary place that doesn’t include me being Chris’s mom. My rational, lazy mind has been replaced with this constant terror-alert– PROTECT PROTECT PROTECT. If no immediate danger is apparent, the alert will be downgraded to WHAT-IF WHAT-IF WHAT-IF… Promptly bringing it back up to terror.

That means it is not possible to wish for my life before. If I try to imagine a situation where I am relieved of nonstop laundry, long sleepless nights, a constantly messy house and a drained bank account, I have to rely on science fiction.

“Wouldn’t it be great,” I’d think, “If I had a pause button for the world?” Smilingly dopily at the idea of pressing a button on a remote and freezing a tantrum mid-shriek so I could catch a nap on the couch.

I watched “Inception” like it was an educational film. “I see, so if I had a dream, within a dream within a dream that I was sleeping… I could sleep for 3 days straight? Guess I gotta get me one of those talisman thingies. Let’s do this.”


Who took my sweet child and replaced him with an emo Tasmania devil?

We were very lucky not to really have terrible twos, but it seems like we are having terrible threes. He’s so emotional, and so easily frustrated. I’d get upset with him… OK, I do get upset with him, but I also see myself in him. Honestly, the way he reacts to disappointing situations is exactly how I want to react. I would rather he didn’t stomp on his trucks or fling his little super hero guys across the room when they don’t behave the way he wants, but I’m not surprised or even that upset that he does.

I’m pretty good at self-control, and I’m teaching that to him as best I can. This is a little challenging, because I actually can’t really remember how I learned it. It might have just been natural; maybe I’m just a restrained person by birth, despite the brattiness that I can feel bubbling underneath. It might have been lots of tough lessons.

Even though I know it’s important for him to learn self-control, if for no other reason than to keep him from getting kicked out of places, I kind of hope he doesn’t learn it quite as well as I have. I think there are many times in my life when I would have been better served by screaming my frustration. So sometimes, I just let those action figures fly, without commenting on them. I’m pretty sure they were asking for it, anyway.