“Tiny boobies. Tiny boobies. Mommy has tiny boobies!” My friend Catherine’s daughter, Emma, sings this lovely little ditty at restaurants, in the playground after school, wherever the mood strikes. And the mood strikes pretty often. (Please note: these names have been changed to protected the innocent and the hilarious.) It’s enough to make anyone uncomfortable and Catherine is no exception. I’m pretty sure that in the privacy of their own home, she’s in on the joke and can’t help but laugh. Out in public, however, it’s a little much. She threatens to leave wherever they are, withhold treats, even take away TV (which punishes parent as much as child, so really no one wants it to come to that!). Nothing works. Nothing overcomes the power of BOOBS!
Penny has been a big fan of boobs for as long as she’s been around. Even though she wasn’t breastfed (my wife took on the grueling task of pumping exclusively for nine months), she’s always known that there’s something interesting going on up there. And who could say she’s wrong? Every man I know, even if he’s a self-proclaimed leg man, will not look away from a nice set of boobs. They’re fascinating. They’re soft and round. They have nipples. They’re fun to play with and they provide the ultimate nourishment for newborns. They are the consummate example of the merging of form and function. But I don’t need to tell you about boobs! You’ve seen ‘em. You may even have them. They’re awesome. I will leave it at that.
For a long time, Penny confused the things that held boobs with the boobs themselves. So, all of my wife’s bras were “boobs.” As were all the bras in Macy’s. Those were fun trips! “Look at those boobs, daddy. Wow, those boobs are gigantic!” Ariel was her favorite princess. I suspect because of her, Penny referred to them as “mermaid boobs.” Soon, all bikini tops became mermaid boobs. For a stay at home dad who brings his daughter to the pool a couple times a week during the summer, this terminology led to some awkward moments, as well as looks of confusion, disgust, and sympathy (usually for me, though, I suspect, sometimes for my poor impressionable child). Now, I believe, Penny is confusing boobs with nipples. “Daddy, you have boobs,” she tells me. To be clear, I don’t have “man boobs” nor do I have a particularly sculpted chest. So, in no way can I be said to have boobs. When I told her I had a chest (kind of) and not boobs, she poked me right in the nip and told me I was wrong. Ouch, dude. Injury to insult.
Between titters (hee, hee…I said “titters”), I tried to explain to her that men don’t have boobs. We have a chest with nipples (that don’t do anything. Seriously, aren’t guy nips just kind of weird?). Women’s boobs, and mommy’s in particular, helped feed her and her brother. She looked at me, raised an eyebrow, whispered “boobs,” and ran out of the room laughing her little ass off. Come on! How could I not chuckle, too? The girl has got comic timing down.
Penny’s interest in poop began as soon as she started potty training. No surprise there. Before then she knew she pooped, but it was just something uncomfortable in her diaper that mom or dad took care of. Now it was displayed in all its glory at the bottom of her Dora potty. So many different shapes, colors, and smells! How could she not love it? As parents, poop had been a major topic of conversation for Allie & me since she was born. “Why was she pooping so much?” ”Why hadn’t she pooped in days?” “Is that color normal?” “Good god, that stinks…come here, you have got to smell this!” And once she was pooping in the potty,”how could such a tiny girl produce such a gigantic poop? She barely eats, yet her poo is the size of her leg!” And she just loved looking in the bowl, so proud of those long logs. She’d even anthropomorphize her excrement, looking at two pieces stuck together she’d exclaim happily, “they’re best friends!” Ah, how cute. And gross. And really friggin’ funny.
Penny still thinks poo is hilarious, even if she no longer takes the time to examine it. Poop inspection is more challenging now that it drowns in the water, buried under an avalanche of way too much toilet paper. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I did just try to get a little poetic about poop.) But holy crap (no pun intended) does she love talking about it! She discusses daddy’s smelly poop, how her friend pooped her pants, and she even smells her little brother’s butt to let me know when it’s time for a diaper change (so helpful). She also loves singing about it. Nothing is guaranteed to crack her up quicker than changing the words to an old favorite. Her mother (not me, ha!) taught her “Twinkle, twinkle little shmoop, how I wonder where you poop. Up above the world so high. Please don’t go poop in my eye. Twinkle, twinkle little shmoop, how I wonder where you poop.” Gets her every time. And the other day, I literally made her pee her pants a little when we were playing a game (ironically) where I was calling her “poo” and she was calling me “pee.” What? It was funny! (And she started it.)
Boogers haven’t been as steady a source of amusement as boobs or poop, but for an every-once-in-a-while gag, boogers can be hard to beat. Mostly they’re just a punchline or way to make Penny smile for a picture. I guess some people say “cheese” but in this family we know that shouting “boogers!” is the best bet for a soon-to-be cherished family photo. Go ahead, say it to yourself. It has the same automatically-upturning-your-mouth effect as “cheese” but now you’re saying “boogers,” which is way funnier! “Boobs” and “poop” don’t really work for pictures, because the words themselves (devoid of meaning) don’t make your mouth “smile.” But “boobies” and “poopy” do. (Note: I don’t like saying “poopy,” because it sounds too much like baby-talk. I know this whole thing is pretty immature, so it may be odd that I draw the line at “poopy.” But I generally try to talk to my kids – if not as adults – at least as I talk to my friends, who tend to straddle the line between full grown men and immature idiots. Just like me! And I have definitely used the word “boobies” with them, but never ever “poopy.”)
Let’s Talk about Poop, Baby!
Some parents try to put the kibosh on “potty” language. To them, I say “good friggin’ luck!” I’m a pick-your-battles kind of guy. And stopping this kind of language isn’t worth the bloodshed. If Penny thinks boobs, poop and boogers are funny, how can I tell her they’re not? Especially when they so clearly are! These are the things that will ALWAYS make me laugh. ALWAYS! How can I not expect her to giggle about them with her friends and sing about them at the grocery store? She’s four. She’s discovering that the human body is really weird and that it excretes strange objects, silly sounds, and awful smells. And if you don’t find that funny…well then something is wrong with you, sir!
That does not mean that my daughter has carte blanche to discuss what she wants, where she wants, how she wants. The lines I draw are usually about context…and volume. (Penny tends to be loud.) For instance, if she calls someone a “poopy head” we’ll have a talk about name-calling and she may have to go to timeout. Or if she points to some dude at the pool and tells me he has hairy boobies, I will try not to let out a guffaw as I explain to her why that is neither nice nor true (even if it kind of is). And if her volume is getting out of control – which it frequently does – we’ll talk about using an inside voice. Penny has both an outside voice and an inside-a-stadium voice, but with a couple reminders she’s pretty much able to keep it in check. So when she starts sing/shouting “poop goes the poop weasel!” we’ll have a little chat about how not EVERYONE in the store needs hear it. (Maybe just the people in our aisle.)
I certainly don’t fault anyone for trying to keep their children’s discourse more appropriate. Every parent has to decide for him or herself what rules need to be enforced and how strictly to enforce them. But, let me just say one thing…