Pottymouth Training

Comments 17
This is not my son. I'm exploiting someone else's son in addition to mine.
This is not my son. I’m exploiting someone else’s child in addition to my own.

It must have been between songs, because I tend to play music loudly, even with my five-year-old son in the Jeep.

But I know what I heard.

“Dammit,” muttered my little kindergartner while playing a handheld video game.

What the… !?!?

“Hey! What’d you just say?” I asked him over my shoulder.

He didn’t answer.

Maybe I was just hearing things. He’s only five. He doesn’t know what he’s saying half the time. And where would he learn to talk like that anyway?

Suddenly, a driver switched lanes in front of me without using a turn signal, forcing me to tap my brakes, move my steering wheel maybe an inch, and go insane for three seconds. I involuntarily screamed: “WHAT’S YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM, DIPSHIT!?!?”

I cringed and braved a glance toward the backseat to make sure my kindergartner was still blissfully wrapped up in his video game.


The Troublemaker

I’ve worked my current job for two and a half years.

In that short time, I’ve been called into my boss’ office at least four times and asked to watch my language and to refrain from using large, inanimate objects as huge, fake penises. (For the record, he swears every bit as much as I do. He’s just more discerning in his timing. Or as I like to say, less honest.)

I like to goof off.

I don’t care what you think about it. I’m going to die someday. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in three minutes.

And a bunch of terrible shit is always happening to me, you and everyone else.

Adrian Peterson’s little two-year-old son was beaten to death by one of the world’s worst human beings last week. Our federal government is shut down and it barely matters to the average American because we’re too busy playing on our iPhones OR trying to cope with whatever horrible thing is happening in our personal lives.

I’m just not going to sit around being serious all the time. I’m not.

If that makes me immature, then fine. I’m immature.

If that makes me irresponsible, then fine. I’m irresponsible.

If that makes me an inadequate, asshole father, then fine. Tell me something I don’t know.

I’ve written this once before, and it was super-true, so I’m going to again: I’ve never been particularly bad. But I’ve always been pretty mischievous.

And I can’t stop.

Won’t stop.

You’re welcome.

And you know what else I’m not (part of the time)?

A hypocrite.

So, when my son is mischievous once in a while, what am I supposed to do? Give him the old “Do as I say, not as I do” speech? That speech is bullshit. And I have a feeling he’s already smart enough to know that.

Because he’s my little man. 

You Stupid Bastard

Because my son is me and I am my father and my father was a troublemaker, he let me watch movies he probably shouldn’t have when I was young.

Not like hardcore pornography and serial killer documentaries or anything, but PG-13 stuff where they said bad words here and there. Like Teen Wolf and Back to the Future when I was only six or seven years old. Actually, they were PG. But it was PG-13, by today’s standards.

It was watching those movies where I learned every bad word except “Fuck,” the black mamba of swear words, and one I wish I used much less than I do.

One time, when I was six or seven, I was riding in the backseat of my dad’s white early 80s Chevy Caprice Classic, probably listening to REO Speedwagon or Prince. My aunt was in the front passenger seat.

My dad said something that prompted me to bust out some of my newly learned vocab words.

“You stupid bastard!” I verbally jabbed from the backseat.

My dad and aunt looked at one another, pausing for a beat, then burst out laughing.

“Where did you learn the word ‘bastard’?” Dad asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Did you know that was a bad word?” he asked.


“It’s a bad word, son. And one children should not say or hear,” he said.

My aunt chimed in.

“Do you know what a bastard is, Matt?”


“It’s a mean name for someone you don’t like,” she said. “Do you want to call your dad mean things?”


“Good. It’s not nice to call people bastards,” she said.

And I never did that again until I was old enough to mean it.

Dammit, the Delivery is Perfect

Since that day in the Jeep, I’ve heard Owen say “Dammit” three separate times.

But here’s the thing.

He kills it. He’s five! I’m proud of him when he does big-boy stuff.

And busting a perfectly timed “Dammit” IS a big-boy thing.

Owen: “Hey Dad! Watch me yo-yo!”

Me: “Okay!”

Owen: *flubs it* “Dammit!”

Owen: “Hey Dad! Check out this cool tower I built!”

Me: “Okay!”

Owen: *knocks it over* “Dammit!”

Owen: “Hey Dad! Can I watch a show after my bath?”

Me: “Sorry, babe. It’s too close to bedtime. Just books tonight.”

Owen: “Dammit!”

And when I say, it’s perfect, I mean it. It’s perfect. Just the right tone. Not angry. Just sort of mock disappointment.

I laugh every time he does it. Bad dad!

But I always calmly explain why we don’t say that word in terms he can understand. How it’s only for adults. Like beer and caffeine and heroin. (I’m kidding about the caffeine.)

I remind him that if he ever says it at school, he’ll immediately have a “red day.” They have color-coded behavior charts. He’s been doing REALLY well lately. Lots and lots of green days. The day he took out his penis and showed it to other kids was a red day.

I don’t want my five-year-old son to use swear words. I don’t condone it. And I don’t celebrate it. And I wish I used nicer words myself.

But I’m also not going to lie to you about this.

I ONLY care because society cares. I sort of don’t. I get morally outraged about all kinds of things. I want to protect my son from all of the horrors in this world.

But a well-timed “Dammit”? Totally not one of them.

I’m not even kidding. The kid kills it.

I mean, it’s almost as if he learned it from someone.

fresh prince aint even mad

17 thoughts on “Pottymouth Training”

  1. Thanks for another great post –

    The hardest thing about raising a child is teaching him to be “appropriate,” when I’ve never learned it.

    My son wouldn’t even know words like “ass hat douche nozzle” if people in New Jersey knew how to drive.

    I only know you from what I’ve read, but troublemaker? You’re a good man. You’re just a bad boy.

    1. Thank you. I think everyone paying attention knows how much I value being a good person. In my core.

      But I still feel obligated to share all of my gray area.

      It looks just like this.

      I appreciate you reading. Taking time to say hi. And the effort to offer a kind word. Thank you. I hope you’re having a great day.

  2. I’ve really been trying to not be obnoxious and comment on every post, but I think it’s because your writing style is such that I feel like you are actually talking to me so it seems almost rude to not respond in some way.
    I could share many hilarious toddler swearing stories, but instead I will just say that I agree with you. In the cosmic, oh-my-God- the world-is going-to-shit (oops sorry) scheme of things, a few swear words are very small potatoes. And even though I don’t actually “know” you, I know you’re a good dad!

    1. 1. I want you to comment on every post you want to comment on. It’s flattering that you read them, and it’s a treat to learn that you do when you respond to them. I do not think you are a creepy blog stalker. I promise.

      2. I really appreciate you saying that I write in an inviting way. Conversationally. I don’t set out to do that. I don’t strategize any of this stuff. But I’m so happy the end product is accidentally something friendly and that you feel compelled to comment on.

      3. Thank you for saying I’m a good dad. I absolutely take that job seriously. And I hope I don’t give the impression otherwise by being unfazed by my child’s use of a somewhat-mature word.

  3. I secretly (ok, not secretly) love it when my kids act like me…
    my youngest son and I were with a friend of his once (that I had not previously met), halfway through the evening, the friend said “Dude, now I totally understand why you act the way you do”.
    **fist pump**

  4. One of my favorite quotes is, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” And I think it’s true of people in general. It sounds like your son has your gift for language…and I mean that in a good way! He learned a new word and uses it properly…that’s awesome! He’s a smart, observant, expressive kid. He may be a bit of a handful as he grows up, but he won’t be boring, dammit! 😉

  5. A parent who takes the time to teach his son how to curse well? Priceless. Mine didn’t and both grandfathers decided that was their job. They forgot that I had peers. Plus, Nebraska farmers are not the most talented cursers.

    1. Hopefully he and I won’t discuss the finer points of cursing until he’s a little older. But thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Thank you. For reading. And for liking it. And for saying so.

      It never stops feeling good to hear (read!) such things.

      I hope there’s a next time.

  6. Pingback: Pottymouth Training, Vol. 2 | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  7. My daughter is now 9+. When she was about 4 years old, she was struggling to open her umbrella in a tight space between the garage and a camper. She dropped a perfectly voiced “FUCK” and I couldn’t stop laughing. But she nailed it. We’ve since discussed how some words are for adults only and since she’s mostly a rule follower, it’s been ok.

    I admit to dreading the tween/teen years because I’m assuming she’ll STOP being a rule follower and start breaking them instead.

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Matt Fray

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