Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Say Shit, Daddy?

A while back, I posted one of my favorite quotes, from George MacDonald:

The business of the Universe is to make such a fool of you that you will know yourself for one, and so begin to be wise.

Life is just full of humbling experiences; I was reminded of another one recently, from back when my older girls were small. . .

Both of my 'big girls' were very much 'doll-playing' girls when they were little, and Molly and I were mildly indulgent of their fondness. We would buy them new doll clothes, and stuff like that, and it was just a lot of fun to watch them playing. We tried to draw a line at Barbies - the uber-buxom fashionista just wasn't the image we wanted to plant in our daughters' brains - but it was mostly futile; 'forbidden fruit is the sweetest', as the saying goes. Once they discovered that some of their friends had Barbies, they would just ask to play at their houses all the time.

Once, we were at the spring carnival that our parish school holds every spring, and there was a sale of several donated items. One of the men in the parish had donated some really nice hand-made wooden items, including a doll cradle that was the perfect size for our girls' favorite dolls, so we bought it, and the girls liked it, and had a lot of fun with it.

Over the course of many months of use, one of the 'rockers' on the cradle broke off. It didn't quite render the cradle unusable, but it was more of a hassle. So I, in my young-paternal earnestness, undertook to repair the broken rocker.

I should note, at this point, that I am mildly handy - I've built a few bookshelves from scratch, and a few other items, as well - but I sometimes lack confidence, and will stew over a project, sometimes for a considerable amount of time, while I try to figure out the best way to accomplish the goal. And this was one of those. The rocker had broken off in a way that was going to be tricky to re-attach it, and I thought about it for several days, before I finally decided that I would 'screw it and glue it'. And so, broken cradle in arms, I headed down into my basement workshop to do my Heroic-Dad thing.

Well, such things are never quite as simple to execute, as what they were in your mind when you first thought them up. I had an immediate problem of how to securely hold the cradle, so as to drill a hole for the screws, and how to hold the broken piece in place against the cradle body, so that the holes in the two pieces would be aligned. I jerry-rigged a kind of constraint, but it wasn't as 'secure' as it should have been, and when I started drilling the hole, it wound up being at a bit of an angle, rather than straight into the wood. So that, once I glued the broken piece in place, and started screwing the pieces together, the wood kind-of exploded, and rather than a not-quite-as-good-as-it-ought-to-be doll cradle, I had a completely unusable doll cradle, along with a small pile of splinters.

I was stunned. And frustrated. Really, really frustrated. It would be one thing, if it were an aberration for one of my projects to go catastrophically awry, but I'd had a few of them, in the preceding months, where my efforts at doing-it-myself so as to save a repair bill had resulted in an unrepairable mess, and even greater expense than the repair would have been. So, all of my frustration, mixed with anger at my own incompetency, just sort-of spontaneously erupted.

I stood there, staring at the mess, and just yelled, loudly and deliberately, "SHI-I-I-IT!"

And the next thing I heard, from behind me, sitting on the basement stairs, where she'd been quietly watching me work, was 2F (who was 2-3 years old at the time), saying, in all sweetness and innocence -

"Why say 'shit', Daddy?"

Ever feel like you just wanted to crawl between the cracks in the basement wall? I mean, here I was, looking for all the world like Heroic Dad, doing amazing, mysterious things to fix her doll cradle, and then, Huh - Why Say Shit, Daddy? Busting the cradle didn't make me feel nearly so bad as my sweet little daughter busting me for a non-deleted expletive. . .

Actually, Molly told me later (a wife with a Child Development degree can come in handy, sometimes) that 2F had no idea what the word was - she was only relating to the (all-too-apparent) emotion with which it was uttered. Daddy is upset about something; I wonder what he's so upset about? And so, she was only asking, in all innocence, why I was upset, so as to utter the excrementary expletive. The word itself was only a marker for 'Daddy is upset'. Which made me feel a little less like a jerk. A little.

It was still the least bit embarrassing, though. But, like most of my most embarrassing moments, it makes for a funny story, given sufficient passage of time. . .

10 comments:

Xavier said...

Ahh, I remember the day. Only it was "Double dumb ass". Which is kinda what I felt like with both daughters in the truck at the time.

FTN said...

I'm sure it didn't sully your reputation in her mind. When I was young, I spent a lot of time around a Dad who spent all day in the garage and the shop, working on engines, and on the rare occasions when something went MASSIVELY wrong, I heard plenty of cussing. Although he mellowed out on it as he got older -- which probably coincided with a type of "spiritual growth" for him.

My outgoing and constantly talkative 7-year old daughter is just recently hearing some "new" words for the first time at school. She's smart enough to know they are so-called "bad" words, and it's funny to hear her talk to us about them at home. She knows not to use them, I think, but when she discovers the word, she'll talk about the word and say it to us quietly, inquisitively.

Which is weird, hearing your sweet 7-year old daughter asking what "f*ck" means.

I suppose if I did more work around the house (on things like doll cradles), she'd be more likely to hear those words from me...

lime said...

ah yes. i think every parent must have a similar story. mine reflects even more poorly on me than yours does on you.

i was driving with my son in his car seat. we live where there are a great many out of state drivers who tend to be very aggressive. i was grumbling over a locally plated driver who had just annoyed me no end when i heard my son chime in sweetly, "mommy, are you going to tell dat guy to go back to his own damn state?"

erm, yes, ok then...moving along....

Cocotte said...

My kids used to enjoying telling on me to each other..."Mom said the "H" word today!"

And I fix everything with a hot glue gun.

for a different kind of girl said...

My parents were cursers of super caliber skill, but I grew up with such a fear of punishment should I sneak a similar word out as a means of testing the water that I quite honestly don't think I ever said such words until I went to college where, like so many other things, that part of me was unleashed!

We try very, very hard not to curse at home. In fact, I think Tool Man could very well hold a Guinness Book of World Record title for never having cursed in his life (at least as far as when in my presence goes), but it is hard to shield kids from them. They definitely hear - though perhaps not 'learn' - them in school, and when passing through the living room at times when whatever TV show that's on unleashes a tirade.

Even now, though, they don't say them to me, even my nearly 12 year old. He'll tell me know knows a dirty word, but he doesn't want to say it to me because he knows that's not how we talk. I'm hoping we can keep that up as the years go.

Desmond Jones said...

Xavier - See, the kids really do respond to the emotion of it; at least when they're little, they really have no reference to the words themselves. . .

But you also remind me of a home-video we took maybe a year after the incident herein described, of 2F giving a guided tour of the creche at Christmas-time. She proudly held up 'the cow and the donkey', at which Dad, behind the camera, reiterated, "The Ox and the Ass". At which little 2F turned to the camera, an utterly confused look on her face, and said, "The Ass???" Completely precious. . .

FTN - So, is this where I call you a slacker, and tell you to get busy on the projects, so as to improve your cussing vocabulary?

Naw, I wouldn't do that. . .

My dad grew up on a farm, so as far as he was concerned 'shit' was just what comes out of the back end of an animal. Or, you know, a teenager who's desperately trying not to get caught at something. . .

And I think I was nine the first time I heard the f-word. So, yer girl is at least a couple years more, uh, 'sophisticated' than I was. . . ;)

Lime - Don't you just hate it when they give your own words back to ya?

But hey, if the neighboring state is the one I'm guessing it is, I was once the object of a serenade of horns there for having the temerity to actually STOP for a red light at a busy intersection (I'm sure my Michigan plates didn't work to my advantage, either). . .

Cocotte - Ah, yes - the 'little scorekeepers'. . .

And, ah, yes - the Hot Glue Gun - sorta like slightly higher-tech ductape. . .

faDKoG - You know what's sad? I can remember, when I was in 7th grade or so, making a very conscious moral effort to rid my voacbulary of 'cuss-words', and I succeeded pretty well, even thru my college years. It wasn't until I'd been married for a couple years, and fell in with a group of guys whose 'Vision of Christian Manhood' included not being afraid of 'rough speech', that I reverted. And it's been a much harder habit to lose, as an adult. . .

(*sigh*)I have another friend, who's something of an armchair 'moral theologian', who will make fine distinctions between 'vulgarities', 'crudities', 'obscenities', and 'curses'. And I can see his point, but none of it sounds particularly good coming from one's mouth. Especially if your two-year-old daughter is gonna parrot it back to you. . .

But. . . "he knows that's not how we talk". . . I salute you for that; you've done something right, there. . .

Therese in Heaven said...

Hey, Desmond, nice to meet you! ;)

Desmond Jones said...

Therese - Nice to meet you, too! Stop by often!

You know, you remind me of a statuesque blonde I knew once; lots of shoes. . .

;)

Sailor said...

I think we've all had it happen, in one form or another. Rather like overhearing your child of perhaps four, singing to himself, under his breath: "damndamndamn".

Musical, but definitely not what I wanted him singing, ugh.

Desmond Jones said...

Sailor - You know, when I was in high school, my brother and I got in big trouble once, because our little brother, aged about four at the time, went running thru the house yelling exactly that, after wandering into our room when we had an 'alternative rock' station on the radio. It might not have been so bad, if we hadn't tried to shush him (little rat). . .