It’s no secret: Our household is no Leave it to Beaver rendition over here. I’m probably the least domestic person on the planet (my dad used to say I burn water), and my husband isn’t exactly winning any handy man awards. We sometimes eat dinner crowded around the coffee table with the TV on and enjoy family sing-alongs in the car to gems like LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It and DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s Turn Down for What at volume eleventy million. I let my kids stay up dancing to music and watching cartoons until sometimes midnight or 1 a.m. when we’re at the family cottage on the weekends during summer, and it’s quite possible my children haven’t seen a vegetable in the better part of a week.
To say that potty and adolescent humor reign supreme in nuestra casa is an understatement. On more than one occasion we’ve had to tell our kids that something we’ve all joked about or laughed at on the TV or in a movie is an “at home only topic,” meaning they can’t go to school and talk about it with their teachers or their friends. These “at home topics” usually involve pooping, farting, belching, nose-picking, or reciting suggestive lyrics, and when they ask why they can’t spread the joy to the classroom or their friends’ houses, we have to explain that not all people find that sort of thing funny or enjoyable, least of whom are their preschool and kindergarten teachers.
We’re doing the best we can; we’re just not bending over backwards to subscribe to some arbitrary idea of what makes people Parents of the Year over here.
It’s not surprising, then, that the pet names I’ve concocted for my children are less than conventional. It’s not like I’ve deliberately set out to defy traditional family values by affectionately calling my kids Stinky Butt or Booger Brains. It’s just that calling them Poopy Breath as I tuck them in at night is a term of endearment that comes most naturally to me.
Without a doubt, this is because I grew up the same way. My mother came up with all sorts of creative yet baseless names for my brother and me when we were kids. To us, this was perfectly natural and acceptable. I distinctly remember, though, that round about my late elementary or early middle school years, something changed. She must have read an article or listened to a radio interview claiming that calling your children anything other than Sweet Honey Nectar or Precious Daffodil would scar them for life. Already concerned that being a working mother was scarring us enough, she must have felt our fragile psyches could not handle one more assault lest we grow up to be little Jeffrey Dahmers in training.
The first time she tried out her attempts to thwart our impending serial killer status, I was instantly uncomfortable. I remember she came in to my bedroom, either to say goodnight or to wake me up for school, and she called me Sweet Petunia Breath in the process.
I sat up, alarmed. “What–what was that?”
“What was what?” she asked, smiling.
“That. THAT. The thing you just called me.”
“Oh. Sweet Petunia Breath. Because you’re as sweet as the breath a petunia might emit could it breathe.”
“OK. I need you to stop doing that. Immediately.”[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
“What do you mean, my Fragrant Little Orchid Petal?”
“No, seriously. Stop it. You’re scaring me.”
I didn’t know what had possessed my mother, but I was certain it was one of Hell’s demons, if not Lucifer himself. She explained that she was worried those other pet names were tainting my already feeble self-perception and that from now on she would be using more pleasant expressions of love. It didn’t take long, however, before Glistening Morning Dew morphed into Prickly Rose Petal Farts. Eventually, we were back to Super Smelly Bottom and, not coincidentally in my estimation, the Earth’s proper tilt on its axis, ending my mother’s brief yet highly distressing attempts to Not Screw Us Up.
I’d be lying, though, if I said I don’t also sometimes worry that calling my kids Doo Doo Guts might be setting them up for poor self-esteem as well. Just this morning, I called Ewing Mr. Stinky Brains as I beckoned him over to me for a kiss, and when he replied with “Don’t call me Stinky!” a piece of my heart fell to the floor before he followed it up with “Call me Smelly!” There’s always the slightly nagging fear at the base of my brain that they’ll internalize these affections and really believe they have Diarrhea Teeth or Belchy Butts despite the fact that I’m not really sure how those could even be construed as a thing.
Deep down, I know I should just file this concern away with the gazillion others I have stored in my Mommy Guilt drawer, because if there’s one thing I know from experience, it’s that children appreciate anything a mother calls them as long as she calls them that out of love (well, almost anything).[/nextpage]