Hailey’s grandparents and aunt took her and her cousins to the aquarium yesterday. When they picked Hailey up in the morning, my almost 3-year-old nephew’s first words to me were, “My daddy farts. And mommy poops. A LOT.” Oh boy, I thought. His mommy will be thrilled to know this is how he greets people now. Then Hailey felt compelled to chime in: “My mommy…” “My mommy…” she began a couple of times. Where’s she going to go with this? I wondered, a little nervously. “I used to live in my mommy’s tummy,” she finished. Phew. I really dodged a bullet there. She could have gone any number of embarrassing places. At 4, Hailey is not yet able to filter the information that stays at home and that which can be shared with the world. Below are the five stories I’m a little terrified she’ll share in public someday.
1. Naked wrestling. Josh is really into MMA and watches UFC fights, mostly out of the house with his friends, but every once in a while at home after Hailey has gone to bed. Hailey is moderately aware of Josh’s interest. She knows what UFC is and she’ll peer over daddy’s shoulder when he’s reading highlights of the fights on his phone or laptop. Since the men are shirtless when they fight, Hailey calls it “naked wrestling,” and she’ll say things like, “I want the guy in the black chonies (undies) to win!” Or, “Is Daddy watching naked wrestling with Raul tonight?” Sometimes she’ll even challenge daddy to a naked wrestling fight. I’m very worried that someday authorities will show up at my door because Hailey shared with her teachers or classmates that she naked wrestles at home.
2. Where’s the chingadera? Josh and I refer to the remote control, or pretty much anything we can never find, as “the chingadera’ — loosely translated: that fucking thing. When Hailey started talking and Josh and I put our potty mouths on lock down, we forgot this one. As a result, guess what Hailey calls the remote: the chingadera. Example: “Mom, can I watch Strawberry Shortcake? I think the chingadera is on the couch.” I really should put the kibosh on this, but the Spanish speaking side of me chuckles ever time she says this and the English speaking side is none the wiser. But now Hailey’s reached the age where she could have a play date with a bilingual friend and refer to a soccer ball or a sand bucket as “the chingadera,” and that child’s parents will judge me. They’ll judge me good.
3. Any information about our dogs. Our dogs Bella and Chewie are our fourth and fifth members of the family. And when your pets are so integrated into the family you have ample opportunity to witness nature in all its glory and all its grossness. In the last year I’ve had to have a frank but nonthreatening talk with Hailey about dog erections, which inspired a shadow puppet show. We’ve discussed why dogs don’t use toilet paper. I’ll let you arrive at your own conclusions about how that conversation went, but I will say, Hailey’s reaction was, “Are you serious, Mom?” We also had an impromptu conversation about why puppies come out of dogs’
butts vaginas. Still considering getting that puppy for your child?
4. Poop. We talk about poop a lot in our house. We say the word “poop” a lot in our house. Both Josh’s family and my family are afflicted with various distressing gastrointestinal conditions. Hailey did not hit the genetic jackpot in this respect. Someday she will talk about poop a lot with her own family. Already, she has picked up on our lack of discretion about poop talk. I had to censor her four or five times on our last play date.
5. How we feel about our neighbors and a couple of other folks. We have nice neighbors on one side of us and jerks on the other side of us. Sometimes when we’re talking about our nasty neighbors or anyone else we don’t happen to care for, we forget that Hailey sometimes overhears us talking and is taking it all in. Every once in a while she’ll distinguish our neighbors as, “the ones we like” and “the ones we don’t like.” I’m a little afraid that she might spill the beans on this one, not because she’ll offend the neighbors — I’m sure they know how we feel about them — but because at 4 she isn’t ready to feel the emotions associated with telling someone, “we don’t like you.” Also, it’s inappropriate for a 4-year-old to divide people into “like” and “dislike” columns. Let’s save that for middle school.
So how do you stop a 4-year-old from sharing the family stories with the world? Do you do as my mom did and put the fear in your children that you NEVER talk about family stuff outside of the house? No, I don’t think so. I will often gently remind Hailey that some things are okay to talk about at home but not at school or at the park. Just the other night we were saying prayers and she said “poop” (of course she did), and we took the opportunity to talk about the moments when it is important to be respectful. Does it sink in? A little, I’d say. Keeping the conversation short and sweet is key. You cannot harangue a preschooler. I think so much depends on us as parents too. Josh and I will have to encourage Hailey to rename naked wrestling and confine our complaints about the neighbors to the hours after her bedtime. I think, sadly, we might even have to rename the chingadera. I suppose you eventually have to let go of some of the things that make for cute stories in the home once your child ventures out of the home. Cute stories they may be, but kids grow up and parents have to grow up right along with them.