I used the “S” word today with my kids.
I did. That terrible terrible word, the one they know about and sometimes whisper to each other but never, ever say aloud because they have somehow realized how trashy and vulgar it sounds and that they will almost certainly be cursed by some wicked spell (or unimaginably awful punishment possibly involving the confiscation of Barbie dolls) if they utter it.
I said it. I did. I didn’t mean to, but it flew out after my kids spent an hour bickering rapid-fire — first thing in the morning, before I had even had my coffee.
My kids know better than to fight over STUPID stuff before mommy dearest has her first dose of caffeine.
They’re barely two years apart, and given that and how forceful their personalities are, it is actually a miracle that they don’t argue harder and more. So maybe I’ve become spoiled. They have their faults, definitely (can you say whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine) but verbally fighting with each other is not usually in their repertoire. I guess that means I’m not immunized against that special grating quality of two small, high-pitched voices wailing things like, “You went first laaaaast time!” “No, it’s MY toy and you can’t be my friend or sister ever again!” “Moooommmmmyy, it’s always my turn but she never lets me go-ooooo!!!!”
There are a lot of things I treasure about my role as mother. I love to answer their questions about the world, the ones that come at all hours of the day about all manner of topics including things I have absolutely no actual knowledge about like where cranes come from and how coal is dug; I love cuddling them and holding them, even when it’s going on 15 hours and way past their bedtime and all I want to do is go to the bathroom in peace and maybe have sex with my husband but they still need one. more. snuggle.
I truly love all the duties I’m called upon to perform, except one. Referee. Seriously, if I had ANY interest in being a referee I would probably be a person who likes sports. Or debate. Or crappy reality talent competition TV shows. But I don’t like any of these things, and actually verbal conflict makes me flinch. I’m the person who looks away when the two strangers in the grocery store start fighting over how many STUPID items one has in the Express line. I can’t handle the tension.
This morning they were on a tirade. Everything was cause for conflict — who got dressed in whose room, who sat where at the breakfast table, who forgot to clean up their toys from the other’s room that one time last winter, who rolled the ball of red Play-Doh first, whose Play-Doh is it, who got the newspaper in, whom the dogs like better.
I reminded them over and over in my best on-paper-I-subscribe-to-gentle-parenting-techniques-but-I’m-not-messing-around-here-when-you-need-some-discipline voice: “Girls, there’s no need to be arguing with each other. It just makes everyone grouchy. We need to work together as a team and be kind to each other.”
But it was like my voice wasn’t there. They were on a roll, and they didn’t want to hear it.
I needed to shock them out of their cycle. Which makes it sound like I carefully premeditated my approach, which is not the case and giving myself all too much credit. Basically I lost it.
It went something like, “I can’t take these STUPID arguments over STUPID stuff anymore! You need to stop! You are ruining my morning!”
Eyes widened. Speechless ensued. I could practically hear them turning it over and over in their minds, committing it to memory, taking careful mental notes. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Mommy said stupid, soon I’ll try it too!
In the end there was nothing I could do about it but stand my ground. When they found their voices they were only too ecstatic to remind me that STUPID is not a word we are supposed to say, ever.
You’re right, I said, except in certain emergency situations like this one, where you are getting too focused on really STUPID stuff and it’s my job as a mom to help you change things around.
Everyone said sorry, we finished our breakfast and by the time we got to school the “S” word seemed forgotten.
For now. I know my loose tongue is coming back to haunt me. It’s just a matter of when, and where.
I couldn’t help it though, I just couldn’t. I wouldn’t take back the “S” word even if I could.
More than anything in this world, I really, really hate bickering over STUPID shit.