Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Laugh Like a..."

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Interrupting Cow.”

“Interrupting Cow—“


If you don’t think this joke is funny, or if you think it should be told Only Once, you are probably on a different part of the humor spectrum than we are. Lucky you. We are a very corny, silly family with penchants for repetition and nonsense. Z’s sense of humor tends toward the witty, G’s toward the baffling and awkward; both love a good potty joke. As for me, sometimes I feel as a Full Spectrum Mama that if I am not laughing I might well be crying…So when my head is clear enough to make that choice (which is not a given), I choose the giggle. That shared sense of humor may well be our saving grace.

This happened when Z was four years old. In order for the story to make sense, a few preliminary details are necessary. First, we do not have any broadcast television and live in a pretty idyllic and sheltered rural area. Second, we do not cuss in our home. I believe I may have said the “S” word once or twice, but that’s it. I manage to eff up on a daily basis in plenty of other ways, but non-cussin’ is one area of success. It is possible that Z and G have heard profanities at their father’s house, but always as exclamations, never as vernacular. Finally, at the time this incident occurred, my now-husband (henceforth referred to as “Pardner”) and I were dating, and the kids called him “Shushu” (uncle in Mandarin).

We are at a cute little restaurant in trendy, charming New Hope, PA enjoying some adequate Mexican food on our way home from visiting with family. Again, Z is four, a sassy, going-on-25-going-on-75-four, but nonetheless she is barely as tall as the table at which we are sitting. Our little family – Pardner, G, Z and me – is enjoying some jovial repartee and eating tacos and sides. Z likes her food spicy and G likes his bland, so I have apportioned the food accordingly.

In my memory, I am looking at my yellow rice and lumpy brown pile of beans when Z turns to me and says, “Mama, Susu Pardner makes you laugh like a bitc#!”

I turn to Pardner, sotto voce, “Did she just say laughlikeabitc#?” I feel, simultaneously, a very wide range of emotions. The dominant feeling is: I am about to crack up laughing worse than ever before in my life in a way that will be highly inappropriate on many levels. Also, I will not be able to stop laughing, either, should I start.

I lurch into autopilot-damage-control: “Snitch,” I say, “Where did you learn that funny, funny word?”

“I said Bitc#.”

“Oh, hahahahaha, ditch, yes, that IS funny. Hahaha.”


Has it ever hit you full on that your child, your tiny little child, is already much cooler than you ever have been or could hope to be? The best part was how she said it, all feisty and ghetto, and like she knew what she meant. Head bobbing a little from side to side and the pointed finger going. For real.

Let’s face it, hearing babies and little kids swear is funny. It just is. Cute, too. Yet of course Full Spectrum Mama has to protect her daughter from her own precociousness and from apparent insidious influences. As much as Z has seemed all her life to need nobody, nohow, she’s still a child and she needs guidance.

Somehow I kept a straight face. I used the famous parental move “ignore and move on,” (a.k.a. “Cuban Missile Crisis”). Afterward, I did do my best to figure out where she got the idea to say “laugh like a bitc#,” although I never did find out. I believe she has forgotten this particular phrase, though she still can be plenty fresh. I remind myself on the daily that Z may seem like a cooler, more socially-adept peer, even, ahem, someone who might’ve been mean to me in high school but – she isn’t. She is my little girl. So I need to be the grown-up.

I thought about “laugh like a bitc#” the other day when we were walking home from school. There is a beautiful forested area right next door to our house and I sometimes allow G to walk through it en route. That day he asked, “Mama, may I venture into the woods?” “Why, yes, my son, go in peace,” I replied.

Wonder where he gets his quirky turn of phrase?

G, a major bookworm from birth, has always talked as if he lives in medieval times, or is in a Poke´mon program (he sees them chez the ex). Back in preschool, he would literally ask the other kids questions like, “Would you care to engage in a playful interaction with me?” (Sample, highly effective Z preschool utterance: “Gimme that if you wanna play with me…whatever.”)

How did it evolve that my two children – who have the same parents* -- express such a Full Spectrum of speech patterns? Ways of speaking -- how we tap into the vernacular (or not), how we draw from our reading and other parts of the world around us…how we hit the coolness nail on the head or NOT -- can be seen as more Full and rich Spectrums.

(*Oops, I totally forgot that Z was adopted for a moment there – but let’s agree that certainly she has had the same parental environment as G since she was 9 months old…)

Z remains the sharp-witted queen of kindergarten, whilst G’s courtly language flies about as well in fourth grade as it did back then. Oh, someday he will find his tribe. But…Goddess? PLEASE get him through middle school with his sweet soul intact. And please, please -- I know it is not my girlbaby’s job, but she can handle it -- make Z protect him once they are in high school together.

I will do anything!!!

Laughing like a bitc#,
Full Spectrum Mama


  1. We swore up and down for Little E's first two years, but cut it out when he was just parroting everything without understanding. I didn't want him to get a lot of reaction (from others) for words he didn't understand. We do pretty good nowadays - he says shit occasionally, shoot in the exact same situation I do (when I'm in the car in the driveway and realize I forgot something in the house). I don't really think swearing is a big deal, they're going to learn it eventually. It's a part of our language, and I'd rather equip my kid to use it well, colorfully, artistically. I just figure my kid will be the cool one teaching all the other kids how to swear during recess. That said, Little E doesn't yet display any cognitive/social issues, except maybe some defiance and high activity. Both of which I'm hoping he will learn to manage as he matures. LOOOOOVVVVE to you and your precious family!

    1. Agreed, lady - nothing inherently wrong with it whatsoever. Non-swearing is a weird artifact from my childhood. But I do think with these *particular* children teaching appropriate boundaries is more of a concern than with most - so for now we wait. Love.

  2. OK, so I impulsively told the Interrupting COW knock knock joke to my clients on a phone call today after a heavy, awkward silence, with my boss on the call, lurking in the background as usual.... They laughed, but it quickly was clear (too late) that this was a child's joke, and not their kind of humor, and I realized they were definitely all in some other part of the spectrum. They tried to help me out by following up with their children's favorite knock knock jokes ("orange you glad I didn't say banana")... but it only got worse... Ah...! Maybe I will have lost my job and be blogging soon too! Love, Keli

    1. My friend Beverly is having trouble posting to this site, but she said re: this post:
      "Tell a joke only once? Are you kidding? Everyone laughed the first time...and we ALL like to laugh. Why not tell that joke EVERY time you see your friends...surely they will think it delightful and laugh again!!!"


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