Last weekend, our family kicked off another rousing weekend of staying home and trying to entertain ourselves within the same 3-4 block radius in Washington, DC. As I woke up that Saturday morning, little did I know we would reach a quarantine milestone. We had to start a swear jar for our daughter! By the way, she’s four years old. Aw, fork!
We couldn’t blame it on her brother, who is only two and runs around declaring how much he loves things. “I love your hair! I love my hair! I love broccoli!” Take “I love ______” and insert whatever is in his eye line at the moment and it gives you a good impression.
(For the record, he decidedly does not love broccoli, despite his repeated declarations otherwise.)
Given that we’ve barely interacted with anyone for 12 weeks outside of our immediate neighbors, it clearly wasn’t from an outside influence like a rogue kid from school or around the neighborhood. But I have to be honest: as soon as that little verbal bomb came flying out, I knew 100% it was from me and her dad. Aw, fudge!
We’re not a cussing family. Sure, I picked up a more familiar relationship with some choice vocabulary during a seven-year stint in New York City, but I’d since toned down the swearing. Definitely since having kids. And then quarantine hit. Aw, shirt.
I love my kids, but I have to be honest: There are times that they drive me absolutely bonkers—and quarantine has provided a lot more of those times. Overall, I think I’ve done a rather good job controlling my reactions to stress based on the circumstances of now having no childcare while working a fulltime job while also being housebound.
But I’m human and there’s definitely been an unplanned outburst or two. Frankly, I can only think of one that happened in front of the kids and it was after a never-ending bedtime routine. There is a book about such bedtime routines. You may have heard of it. The title is definitely NSFK, not safe for kids. (And if you don’t like profanity, please don’t click on that link.)
Cut to a few weeks later. First, I should let you know that our daughter is extremely strong willed and reeeaalllly likes to be in charge. Not being in charge and simply being four years old often means tantrums. Lots of spontaneous tantrums. Being stuck at home with mom, dad, and little brother for weeks on end hasn’t helped. Pretty much everything about our daily schedule is out of her control, she’s not allowed to play with her friends or say goodbye to her teachers, and frankly, we’re all a little sick of one another. Prime tantrum variables.
The tantrums are usually pretty predictable. We watch a lot of Daniel Tiger in our house and try to talk about our feelings. It’s a work in progress but often results in a lot of flailing arms, stomping feet, tears, and screaming along the lines of “I. AM. SO. MAD! Gaaaaaaaaaah!” Annoying? Yes. Profane? Nope.
Then came Saturday of the never-ending quarantine. On this special morning, the unseen trigger was her dad picking out a pair of shorts for her to wear. The nerve of that guy!
I was trying to sip my coffee on the living room couch while reading Daniel Tiger Learns to Share for the seventh time in a row to the two-year-old, when a pink pair of bicycle shorts came hurtling down the stairway from the second floor.
“SHORTS!” she bellowed. “NO! THAT WAS NOT MY PLAN! #*%@ing DAD!”
It was 8:25 am.
You can probably guess the word based on the phrasing. No swearing is good for kids but man, this one really wasn’t good. Fudge. It was unexpected in so many ways that I also made the rookie mistake of acknowledging what she said, thus reinforcing that she did, indeed, say something she shouldn’t have. This is basically double-dog daring a kid to do it again. Double fudge.
So, the swear jar. It’s not a jar, exactly. It’s more like a serious discussion on how we don’t use words like that and how Mom and Dad shouldn’t use them either, no matter how upset we get. And how if we do, we get a consequence. It’s a mental swear jar, I guess.
On the upside, if there’s one thing my kid likes less than not being in control, it’s having something taken away as a consequence. So far, so good.
It seems we’re now back to the normal verbal slip-ups of a four year old that have me stifling laughter, rather than cringing. Like this past Monday, when she asked if we could make a “photo diary” (her words) by gluing a bunch of baby pictures into a makeshift book. She picked out the pictures, put them in order, glued them on each page, and titled it “G’s Photo Diary.” She was so excited she FaceTimed Grandma to show her.
Then she went to sleep with it. The next morning, when she couldn’t find it, she jumped out of bed and ran around the house yelling “Mom! Where is my photo diarrhea?!” Now, that’s some funny shirt.