When C was almost 3, we watched the movie, Babe. It is a delightful, inspiring story about a farmer who believed in a runt pig and learned to trust his intuition and the little pig that believed in himself. Plus, there were lots of other talking animals. What’s not to love and entertain a 3-year-old and her mother? Oh, perhaps the “foul language” belied by the “G” rating.
C was our first-born, and like any obsessive mother, I wanted “to do everything perfectly.” That included washing the foul language out of my mouth and saying nothing harsher than an occasional “Darn.” Even the words stupid and hate were banned; “Be more specific, honey. Are you frustrated?”
I remember sitting on the couch with little C. We watched as Babe honed his herding skills. We giggled over the budding friendships between a pig, a duck, a cat, and a sheepdog named Fly. I can still picture the smile on my little girl’s face as the pig would ask the sheep to “Please, move into the pen.” Sweet, respectful Babe simply wanted the sheep to move into the pen and to be friends with all his fellow farm animals.
Then it happened. I don’t remember which animal said it to which, but I heard it: “Butt- head.” I felt my back tighten. I imagined my daughter name calling at the playground or a neighbor’s house. I casually glanced at my daughter, scanning her face for any signs of registry. There were none. Perhaps, she hadn’t heard it. Perhaps, it was like a foreign word–one she heard, but didn’t understand so she ignored it. Either way, I said nothing because it seemed to slip past unnoticed by her. Whew! Bullet dodged!
A month or so passed and then, I heard it. I was in the kitchen and she was in her “Captain Kirk” styled high chair, sitting next to her father who was reading as I prepared dinner. I heard, “Mom.” I ignored it. Her father was right there.
“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”
From the kitchen, I directed her to ask her father for what she needed. She could have. He’s a good father, willing to parent, but, it was my buttons she was seeking that evening.
“Mom. Mom. Mom. Hey, butt-head!”
My eyes flew open like a child’s on Christmas morning, but without the joyful spirit part. There it was. That word. It hadn’t escaped her; she was just saving it up, rolling it around in her mind and her mouth, waiting for the perfect time to drop it. She had succeeded in flushing me out of the kitchen.
“That word is unacceptable in this house. That is a time-out word,” I scolded. “If you need something, your father will help you or you can wait until I am done making dinner.”
“Torry,” came her reply, with sincere remorse in her big brown eyes. I walked back to my work.
Within moments, I heard, “Hey, butt-head.” I ignored it.
Then came, “Butt-head, butt-head, butt-head.” in her lyrical little voice. I was called to action once again. “C.M.,” (‘cuz real scoldings demand the middle name) “That is a time-out word. This is your final warning. If I hear it again, you are in time-out! Am…I…clear?”
She looked at my husband, who had (wisely) chosen to stay out of it. She looked up at me. She knew there was no way out other than, “Torry.”
I returned to the kitchen once again. By roughly my 8th step, I heard very softly “Butt- head” escape from under her breath. “Damn that pig!” I thought. After hiding my giggles, she was placed in time out and that word was never heard in our home again.
Fast forward 14 years to last night. As a family, we watched The King’s Speech. It is an excellent movie based on the life of King George VI. It chronicles his struggles with stammering, his rise to the throne, and the relationship with his speech coach-turned-life long friend. It also has an “R” rating, for language. My husband and I had seen it in the theaters; we knew what was coming. It was far bigger than “butt-head.”
Gathered together in front of the TV, I thought, “Here’s another perk with older children–being able to share movies like this one.” C wanted to know why A got to watch an “R” rated movie when we “never would have let her at 14.” It seems younger ones often get those forbidden privileges at a younger age because
we love them more of logistics. Should we ban one from the room–or never allow the older one to grow up? She thinks we should ban one from the room. “Compromise,” is what I told her. Besides being mature enough, my younger daughter really, really hates foul language and I can’t imagine the “F-bomb” crossing her lips.
The movie was as good as it was the first time we saw it. It prompted conversation and compassion, and included a rarely told history lesson. All the things I want in our home, and our home-school. It also included a fairly comprehensive list of “words we don’t say in this house.” Or didn’t say–before a certain pig started us on that slippery slope. Stupid butt-head.