“Butt Crack” and other things not to teach your kid to say


From “Babies,” one of Boo’s favorite books, by Gyo Fujikawa

One of my daughter’s favorite naptime books is full of bucolic baby drawings doing bucolic baby things: getting into the jam jar, sleeping, hugging. You know, icky cute stuff, but it seems to put her to sleep.

In one panel, there’s a kid bent over showing off his future in the plumbing trades, so of course Boobaby points and says “Butt crack!”

Boo also knows to pull my finger before farting. Somewhere she picked up the word “pimple” and uses it all the time now, usually while pointing at a stranger. And while it’s not “bad language” strictly speaking, she’s also prone to telling me after a day of gardening, “Your armpit is stinky.”

It used to be that Boo just cussed accidentally. Now the inappropriate language is learned and intentional.


Joy of joys, at TWO YEARS OLD she’s picking up the habit from other kids, too. A new friend is A—,  another of Boo’s 4-year old buddies. Boo and A— were swinging on the saucer together with another older kid. I was pushing, and so, of course, they ignored me entirely. (I love when toddlers treat me like a fly on the wall, even though I’m most of six feet tall and twelve stone.)

Anyway, with me basically invisible, the two older girls whispered, laughed uproariously, and then looked guiltily around, finally noticing me there. I betrayed no reaction, so they raised their voices for me to hear the naughty things they were saying.

“I’m going to take Cinderella and put her in my mouth!” they started. Oh, lord, I thought. Where is this going?

I was right to worry. “I’m going to put Cinderella in my pee-pee!” shouted the other girl, Boobaby looking on curiously. “I’m going to put her in my butt!” was the next escalation. Boo laughed a lot at that. Yikes, I thought.

Imagine Doodaddy trying to choose the right words to shut this down but in a non-punitive, cool-parent way. While I was considering, because everyone knows all the right terms these days, the first girl finished off the cycle: “I’m going to put Cinderella in my penis!”

Now, if these girls had been sitting off somewhere giggling and I wasn’t meant to hear, I wouldn’t have intervened — secret naughty talk is normal and probably important for development. I sure did it a lot myself as a kid — but I knew to keep it a private habit to be experimented with only around my friends. But in this case, since the girls were trying to make me hear it — and my daughter, for that matter — I finally cut it off with a quick “that’s-inappropriate-talk-LET’S GO PLAY ON THE TEETER TOTTER!”

Clearly, no matter how hard we try to keep Boobaby’s language pure, she’ll learn the bad words from her older friends. Is that a good enough excuse not to try?

I hope so, because I’ve always felt like a life where you can’t say “butt crack” when the occasion arises is a life half-lived.