File this one under “More Parenting Stuff I Don’t Know How to Handle.” At two and four, my girls are very into language. I so wish that I meant they are speaking French fluently. Not so much. I have let them have their fun with the potty talk for a little too long, but it’s time to drop the hammer. After a few strikes, I insist that they head to the bathroom to say whatever they need to say and while they’re in there it’s free reign.
It seems all words are now categorized into good words and bad words. Under the bad words umbrella, we have the obvious : poop, the aggressive : hate, the degrading : stupid. I’m firm on these and kind of love when the big girl hears one of them on TV and turns to me with big eyes or says, “Mom, did you hear that? They said [fill in bad word here]. I’m just saying it to tell you.” The little one just says, “That’s not right.” And yeah, after we had a house full of friends over for football, the little one said “fucking” for the next two days, all under the realm of “bad words.” (To be honest though, I handled that one with a two faceted approach of redirecting and ignoring : “What did you say? Walking? Ok, great. Moving on.”) They get it, but what I’m really having a problem with is “die, dead and death.” What do I do with these words? What column do they go in?
We constantly say “My cell phone is dead.” or “You can’t play with that [insert electronic device here] because it’s going to die soon.” TV shows (even the innocent ones) sometimes show kids playing games and when they lose, another kid says “You’re dead!” I suppose it really means the character in their game, but it’s confusing. When my husband was playing with the girls the other night, the big girl said, “Dad, you’re dead!” I heard it and said, “That’s really not a nice word and definitely not a good thing to say to Daddy.” It was obviously innocent enough, but even though she shouldn’t say that, I fear I’m sending the wrong message.
Death is a part of life and while I want them to know the consequences of, say, running into the street or wrapping a jump rope around their necks, I also don’t want to scare them too much. When they ask me about my scars, I can’t really tell them that I got my new boobs so the old floppy pair didn’t kill me. Not exactly the message to send to little girls about their breasts (hello puberty, meet therapist). It’s not that words related to death or dying are bad words. Certainly at some point, they will have to face losing someone they love. Is it time for us to get a pet to illustrate this point? They’re still a little young for this concept, I think. But at what point do I tell them that every living thing has an expiration date? Is it better to prepare them ahead of time or face this difficult topic when the time comes? You only get to be innocently ignorant for so long, I think I’ll let this one linger.