I'm having a bit of a dilemma. My 3- and 6-year old sons have decided that the phrase "butt crack" is the most hilarious thing on the planet. I have no idea where they learned the term (one of them insists they heard it on PBS), but they are now slipping it into whatever sentence they can, whether it makes sense or not, and then laughing uncontrollably at how ingenious they are. For example, this morning we were at a drive-through window when one of them decided he would go for it.
"Can I have a chocolate donut," my 6-year old called from the back seat of the minivan, and then paused for dramatic effect, "with sprinkles and a butt crack?"
"Excuse me," his younger brother added, trying to lean his head out the window to make contact with the drive-through operator, "Can I have a butt crack too?"
They exploded in laughter.
"So," I asked while we were driving away, "do either of you comedians even know what 'butt crack' means?" They looked at each other with blank stares.
"No idea," my 3-year old replied.
"'Butt' is a funny word," his accomplice added.
My first son, who thinks his brothers' behavior is too infantile for his 8-year old sensibilities, just shook his head.
"Mom, they're being gross again," he hollered. "Aren't you going to do something about them?"
Herein lies my dilemma. Every once in a while, I engage in the wishful thinking that if I ignore the misbehavior in question, it will go away on its own. I suppose it's lazy parenting on my part. Especially when someone like my 8-year old calls me on it. On the other hand, the last time I made an issue of a particular word, the boys thought it was even more uproariously clever to say it in public. So they kept saying the word. Repeatedly.
Before "butt crack", it was "penis."
"What's wrong with saying 'penis'?" they asked a few months ago. "Is it a bad word?"
"Well, no..." I replied, "but you probably shouldn't say it out loud in public."
"Well, it's a word that describes a private part of your body," I stammered, hoping this line of questioning would somehow resolve on its own, "and you should talk about private things in private."
"Why is it private if everyone has a penis?" my 6-year old asked. I hesitated, wondering if I was going to regret where this conversation was headed.
"Not everyone has a penis."
"What?!? " my 3-year old gasped.
"Only boys have them, so girls might not necessarily appreciate you talking in front of them about penises."
"You don't have a penis?" he replied in utter disbelief.
"No," I answered slowly, "I'm not a boy... so therefore, I don't have a penis." He thought about it for a moment.
"How do you pee?"
"You know," I continued, "we can talk about this more when you're older. But for now, just try not to say the word 'penis' in public."
Once boys know there is something taboo about a word, then all of a sudden it becomes a riot to say it. So the following day, as I was standing in the checkout line of our grocery store, my 3-year old blurted out: "Mommy, you must have a penis!" He erupted in giggles.
I glanced nervously at the clerk bagging my groceries, and pretended not to hear him. If I ignore him, I thought, maybe he will just stop talking on his own. Wishful thinking.
"Mom," he repeated, even louder, "I said... you have a penis!"
"We talked about this last night," I whispered, hushing him. "You know perfectly well that I don't."
"Mommy doesn't have a penis!" he exclaimed with glee, as loudly as he could. I could tell the clerk was also pretending not to notice now. My son, on the other hand, knew he had a captive audience. Rather pleased with himself, he repeated the word at least another five times before we finally made it out of the grocery store.
Between "penis" and "butt crack", I suppose I prefer the latter. But I'm still hoping this latest phase will blow over on its own, and the comedy duo will come up with some new material soon. Maybe, just maybe... if I work on my poker face a bit more, they'll stop trying to embarrass me in public.