This morning, I asked little R if he’d like to watch a few minutes of a movie while I put Baby A down for her nap. He replied “Yay! Can I watch the movie with the girl fucking?”
“What did you just say?”
“I wanna watch the new movie with the girl fucking.”
I could feel my mind searching like an old commodore 64, grinding through memory files; desperately searching for the piece of information that would make sense of what had just come out of my baby’s mouth. I could only have been more shocked if 8 month old Baby A said it. However, in that case, the shock would be quickly replaced with glee, as I ran to grab the video camera and do a search for the number of Oprah’s production team. It would mean I was going to be on Oprah’s final season, and then I would write a book about my incredible infant profanity prodigy! I’d be rich!
I’m an imperfect parent, for sure. I’ve let go some “stupid dogs!” and a few “I’m going to punch you square in the balls!” and the occasional “shitballs!”, but I try hard not to let the boy hear my profanity and I know for sure that I’ve never talked about fucking in that context. I know, because I never use that word in that context. I use it in every other imaginable context, but not that one. Suddenly, the answer came to me in a flash of understanding: girl viking, viking! From his new movie! A girl viking! We went over the difference between the ‘f’ sound and the ‘v’ sound, and we practiced pronouncing viking a few times.
Ironically, these moments of unholy terror turned into a real parenting coup, because I realized that R had acknowledged girl vikings. Yes, that’s right. About a week ago, we got a magazine in the mail that had a photo of a woman on the cover. She was dressed like a viking and had her foot up on a big rock, as though she had just triumphantly conquered something (as it turns out, it was cancer–it was for an article about beating cancer). R’s reaction was to turn to me and say “That magazine’s just joking. Girls can’t be fighters, girls are only princesses!” It killed me; he was ruined already and he’s only three. I was going to have to try much harder with Baby A.
We are the parents who let our son play with whatever toys he wants, and since almost all his friends and cousins are girls, he plays with a lot of girl toys. He even went through a phase when he was about two, where he had to have his purse with him whenever we left the house. And we were all “we’re urbane, we’re cool with it–we don’t reinforce gender stereotypes. Pass the volkswagen and the organic soy latte.” How had our son come to the conclusion that girls could only be princesses? I came to the conclusion that it was playing with all those girl toys, and watching all those awful princess movies. If he thinks so little of girls’ abilities, what do all the little girls out there think of themselves? I blame the media, mm hmm, that’s it–the media.
We did some reading of books with girl protagonists; we watched a couple of movies with strong, female, leads; we attended a couple of women’s studies lectures. It worked I guess, because now he recognizes dragon-slaying, ass-kicking, girl vikings. We’ll work on his propensity toward violence later.