Exclusive Book Excerpt...Potty Mouth Training
In light of Hell's Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay's recent admission that his son has picked up the art of cursing straight from him, we figured it would be a good idea to share a chapter from our book devoted to potty mouth training. Hope Gordon can pick up a few tips (and chuckles) along the way!
Potty Mouth Training--The process by which a foul-mouthed, four-letter-word loving woman finally realizes that her potty mouth is like the embarrassing hairstyle that haunts her every time she opens her yearbook . . . sadly outdated, slightly toxic, and an environmental hazard. She decides to clean up her potty mouth and learn to speak the universal language of mommy. For some, the transition is effortless (we don't know any of these women). For others, it's a much more slow and painful process as they lose words like shit and damn from their vocabulary and replace them with more child friendly versions--poop and darn.
There's no doubt about it, as mothers, we're obsessed with potty training. We buy videos, DVDs, and books, spend a small fortune on pull-ups and portable potties, and, if we've really gone over the edge, even break into a song and dance routine when our toddlers manage a poopy in the potty. (Admit it--you know you did it at least once or twice.)
As fascinated as we are by the traditional type of potty training, there's another kind that's forgotten about, never written about, and quite simply, never even acknowledged. Frankly, we feel it's much more challenging than teaching your child to make a doo doo in the talking potty you spent $29.99 on. As parents, we're the ones who need a little help in this area. By the time we need to be potty mouth trained, we're sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. Learn a new language, yeah, add it to my to-do list. But trust us on this one, it's a to-do that must be done.
If you're new to the mommy game, you probably think you have some time before your little angel starts picking up her mommy's devilish dialogue and you need to start cleaning up your act (as well as ten diapers a day). Guess again. Get on the potty mouth program before it's too late. Just because that beautiful little baby of yours can't speak yet doesn't mean she's not hearing every single curse that comes streaming out of your mouth. And, trust us, she's saving up to spit it back out just when it will embarrass you the most.
It happened to our friend Endria. Picture the scene. Endria, a real estate broker, driving through traffic with her client beside her in the front seat and her two-year-old, Christina, strapped in the back. The women are chatting about business, the baby is playing with her toys, and suddenly, a car cuts them off.
Beep beep--Endria honks her horn.
"Asshole," chimes in Christina from the back seat.
Since infancy, Christina must have witnessed that same scenario dozens of times but never repeated it. No, why waste this zinger on family or friends? Let's wait until mommy is doing business in the car to bust out with this wonderful new word.
Mary Poppins for the New Millennium
"Just a spoonful of sugar makes the expletives go down."
The sugar substitute. By far, the most important aspect of potty mouth training is the use of the sugar substitute. We're not talking Splenda or Sweet'N Low here, although we're sure you use those, too. No, we're talking about your filthy little four-letter word fixation. Maybe it's a work thing; we know how adrenaline-charged offices like newsrooms breed bad language.
"She missed her deadline, shit!" "What do you mean your piece is 15 seconds over, damn it!" But once you become a mom, you quickly realize that there is nothing cute about a four-year-old saying the F word.
Remember when you dropped the F bomb after spilling coffee on your freshly pressed white blouse, just as you were running out the door, late again, for a big meeting? Well, that little scenario left more than just a stain. Jimmy was listening, and now he thinks it's show and tell time with his new word.
And so you succumb to using the sugar substitute. That is, substituting "sugar" or some other child friendly word for your favorite little naughty nuggets.
You take your children out for a day of errands and some idiot in an Audi cuts you off on the highway. You no longer yell, "ass," you simply shout "sugar."
The pimply faced kid at the fast food restaurant forgets your fries? You quickly ban "damn" from your vocabulary and dole out a healthy heaping of "darn it."
Just like the other pre-packaged placebos, these sugar substitutes do come with a warning.
Be very careful when and how you use them. Although we don't necessarily condone cursing at home, we accept that sometimes at the office nothing does the trick like a tried and true blue streak. Just think how your staff would respond to you admonishing them by saying, "You came in $10,000 over budget? That's stinky." Some new hire with a big chip on his shoulder takes credit for your idea and you stand up and confront him in a meeting yelling, "You're full of poop!" Nope, that simply won't do. In that case, you can bet your ASS we won't be reaching for the sugar substitute.
Censor Thyself: When Your Kids Think They're Gossip Columnists
As a publicist and television producer, we're in the business of making celebrities look good. It's not in our best interest to slam a star because, in the end, negative press will inevitably bite you in the ass--oops, we mean tushy. Although we do have plenty of tales to tell about some nasty personal publicist or demanding actress whose requests exceeded the national budget of Mozambique, we keep those juicy tidbits to ourselves and never utter a word to gossip columnists, who are always on the prowl for a mean-spirited exclusive that is sure to embarrass their celebrity prey.
But at the end of the day, when we head home, somehow that permanent zipper on our lips bursts open and we start spewing our true feelings with those around us, bashing friends, colleagues, and PTA moms in our wake.
Even though you may want to let loose, beware of what you say. Our kids may not work for Page Six, but they might as well be on the payroll. And as the saying goes, loose lips sink ships.
Want to chat about how chunky your neighbor's been looking lately? Wait until the kids are in bed. Can't wait to dish about the messy divorce going on down the street? If the kids are around, don't even think about it. And if you're planning on replacing your babysitter, by all means don't mention it to Junior--he's sure to tell Nanny and she's sure to call in sick at 6 a.m. And, whatever you do, do not, we repeat, do not bitch and moan about other kids in front of your children.
Case in point: Your child tells you that her friend's older brother smacked her in the head during a playdate while her little playmate just stood there pointing and laughing.
Your blood will be boiling at this point, steam coming out of your ears, and your maternal instinct to kill those little bastards will be taking over.
Think before you respond.
Don't start going on a tirade about what devious monsters those children are because, if you do, rest assured that while you're in the office, your own little Liz Smith will share your commentary with her friend's mom the very next day. Trust us, this really happened to one of us, and as a result, we can't even walk into a room without getting icy stares from that mother who sometimes whispers and points in our direction whenever she thinks we're not looking. Newsflash! We see you. We're just too embarrassed to say we're sorry if we offended you and your two little demons.
When we decided to write this book, we promised to be honest. We swore to tell it like it is and not sugarcoat our experiences as working mothers--except for the sugar substitute, of course. We have a confession to make. As much as we truly believe in the need to potty mouth train, there are times that we do actually, intentionally, use bad language in front of our kids. Yes, Yvette is the guilty one here. But we can assure you, her unconventional methods are motivated by a higher cause.
It's All Greek to Me . . . Cursing for a Cause
I am guilty of teaching my children bad language. For our family, bad words aren't always reasons to give time-outs; sometimes, they're teaching tools.
I grew up bilingual, a first generation American in a Greek household. I want my children to grow up bilingual, to understand their Greek heritage and culture. We speak Greek at home and Christiana and Nicholas understand everything--getting them to speak Greek, that's another story.
I did everything humanly possible. We would sing songs, tell stories, and read books, whatever I could do to expose them to the language. They loved every minute of it, but at the end of the day, I would ask them a question in Greek and they would respond in English. It drove me crazy.
So, when everything else seemed to fail, I did the unthinkable. I thought of the one thing that would make my children speak the language of the Gods, some good old gutter talk.
It hit me one day in the grocery store, when the produce wasn't up to par. I leaned over and said, "Christiana, those cherries look like skata (shit)."
Christiana looked at me like I was nuts. (Gasp) "Mommy, that's a bad word."
"I know, Koukla (doll), but I said it in Greek so nobody here knows what we're talking about. Isn't it great to have our own private language that we can tell secrets in?"
That's all it took.
Give a four-year-old a secret and she's yours forever. Now, both of my children will switch effortlessly back and forth from Greek to English. When I want them to speak Greek, I slip in something slightly naughty and they're mine.
Family Potty Mouth Training
Now, just when you think you have your potty mouth training under control comes yet another complication, the family. That's right, as if we didn't have enough to worry about already, we soon find the rest of the family needs to be potty mouth trained as well. And as Beth found out, sometimes they're the toughest ones to tackle.
Grandpa Fixit's Foul Mouth
Beth's Dad Does It Again
My father is a prime example of an adult who is oblivious to the fact that his two impressionable grandchildren are always in earshot when he yells out profanities after stubbing his big toe on the coffee table. Or when someone cuts him off in traffic, he yells "son of a bitch," not realizing that the two parrots in the back seat have just learned a new phrase. In high-pitched voices they squeal in delight, "Son of a bitch, son of a bitch!"
You see, it's quite hard for a sixty-five--year-old man to watch what he says in front of our children--he's been uttering these phrases since I was a child. In fact, some of my most memorable moments with my dad happened back in the 1970s when he tried to make our Plymouth Grand Fury start by swatting the steering wheel and shouting "Son of a bitch!" After the car started with those magical words, I was convinced that all it took was a curse to start cars, dishwashers, lawn mowers, and washing machines--if an appliance was on the fritz, just yell out "shit" and it started up again.
So Grandpa Fixit, as we like to call him, has now had a crash course in potty mouth training. Every time he utters the "S" word, he gets admonished by his granddaughter, who advises that he better watch what he says or else Grandma will give him a time-out.
Ewwww . . . How Insults Can Do More Damage Than Four-Letter Words
I never realized how the word "ewwww" could be completely insulting and embarrassing until my seven-year-old used it on two different occasions while commenting on the unsightly physique of two unsuspecting adults. The first was a good friend of ours who had packed on a few extra pounds over the years and thought nothing of walking around a vacation house we shared with him without his shirt on. Unfortunately, this fashion choice left him in the direct line of fire of my daughter, who stared at his oversized belly and exclaimed "EWWWWWWW!!!!" Lucky for us, he made light of the situation.
Unlucky for us was the day we forgot to tell our daughter not to use that word when the windows of our minivan were wide open and our neighbor was doing some shirtless tree pruning. Out of nowhere, we heard the infamous insult fly out of her mouth, "EWWWWW!!!" and when we looked over at our neighbor whose back hair was standing on end while he stared angrily in our direction, we rolled up the windows and tore out of sight. Actually, we parked the car, sent our daughter to her room, and then instructed her to write fifty times that she won't insult another person ever again.
Role Mommy Reality Check
There's much more to potty mouth training then just minding those four-letter words. When we're at work, we can't censor what our children are hearing from that nasty little kid swinging from the monkey bars or from the soap opera that our babysitter left on while she was making lunch. What we can do is instruct our kids that swearing and name calling can be hurtful. Just ask Beth, who still has painful flashbacks to being labeled Stubby Beth in the fourth grade. We all know that cursing may be an inevitable right of passage for our children, but insults should always be left at the curb.
POTTY MOUTH 101
Ass = Tush
Shit = Poop
Damn = Darn
Hell = Heck
F*** = Fudge
Son of a bitch = Sugar
Asshole = Butthead
Moron = Silly guy
Idiot = Silly guy
Schmuck = Schmegeggie
Potty Mouth Odometer/A Guide to Cursing in Your Car
You miss your exit on the highway
Someone cuts you off in traffic
The same guy who cut you off gets pulled over by the cops
You roll through a stop sign and get pulled over by the same cop who pulled over the putz.
A Happy Meal toy rolls under your brake pedal
Son of a bitch
You're on a conference call while driving (using a headset of course) and the coffee cover you thought was placed on your drink pops off and saturates the outfit that just came back from the cleaners.
You accidentally drop the contents of a chocolate milk container into your $300 designer bag.
Copyright © 2008 by Beth Feldman and Yvette Manessis Corporon
Cover and internal design © 2008 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover photo credit © Design-her Gals
Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems--except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews--without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
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