A few weeks ago, my husband asked me to stop writing about our boys' fascination with potty humor.
"People will get the idea we're bad parents," he said. "Your blog is becoming really lowbrow."
"I thought you found my blog mildly amusing," I replied, tapping away on my laptop. At that moment, I was jotting down notes about a numeric code the boys had created. Everyone knows what it means to go "Number One" or "Number Two". My older boys had taken the phraseology to another level by coming up with a dozen rather detailed (and if I may say, unusually nuanced) permutations involving peeing, pooping and upchucking. They'd spent the better part of an afternoon quizzing each other so they would not confuse Number Seven with Number Eleven, and so forth.
"Well, it was funny at first," he continued. "I mean, the humor comes from the fact that someone like you found yourself raising boys who enjoy being crude..."
"Someone like me?" I looked up from typing.
"You know, you're kind of the, um... prim and proper type."
"Prim and proper" is the nice way of putting it. "Prudish" is probably more accurate. I'm not proud of it, but I can admit that from time to time, I am a prude.
Perhaps that is why I was given one husband and four sons who rather enjoy--no, dare I use the word revel--in breaking down my prudish sensibilities. For example, a few nights ago, the two oldest boys came running over to me, clutching their stomachs from laughing so hard.
"Mom," one of them began rather impishly, "we have a riddle for you. Are you ready for it?"
I nodded, wondering what was coming next. They were both giggling and jumping up and down in excitement.
"Even if you couldn't hear or smell it..." he continued, speaking rather slowly to draw out the suspense, "how would you see a fart?"
It was obvious they had spent a fair amount of time discussing this topic. The one who came up with the "riddle" was beaming with pride, as if he'd stumbled on a deep metaphysical quandary. I suppose this was their version of the philosophical debate about the tree that falls in the forest when no one is around to hear it.
"Take your time," the other nodded, as if to reassure me. "We want you to think about this."
"Really, guys," I replied. "I could probably think about it for an hour and not come up with the answer you're looking for."
"We'll give you a hint," they whispered. "The answer has something to do with bubbles. And water."
My first reaction was to be a prude. It's a hard disposition to correct. But I realize I've spent enough of my life being a prude, and now that I share my life with boys whose idea of an afternoon well spent involves numbering the ways one can empty his bowels... I might as well embrace the transformation.
So instead, I congratulated them on contemplating an age-old question and added that, in fact, I knew of a second method. They leaned in with the kind of palpable anticipation one would expect before hearing the truth about Roswell.
"Did you know," I began, making sure to enunciate my words slowly for dramatic effect, "that it's possible to light farts on fire?"
The boys exploded in laughter--the kind of laughter that is contagious and unstoppable and ends up either making you cry or feel sick to your stomach. They shrieked and howled like this for several minutes without coming up for air.
"No way, no way!" they screamed. "You're kidding, right, Mom?"
Finally, they calmed down and started asking questions about the mechanics of this improbable and glorious discovery. I admit that I fudged part of the explanation because I only vaguely remembered hearing in college about a guy who succeeded in this endeavor. But I spoke with confidence, as if I were an expert on the subject, because I understood the importance of this oddly momentous exchange. And when I finished answering all their questions, they looked at me in a way that only young children who belong with you can... and I realized I might as well have received the award for Best Mom of the Year in their eyes.
There is a deleted scene from the movie "Love Actually" that may be one of the funniest clips I've ever seen. It kills me that it wasn't included in the movie. If this isn't one of Emma Thompson's finest acting bits, I don't know what is. If you have three minutes, watch it. If you're a mother of a son, watch it together.
My boys and I watched the clip twice last night, as I was finishing up my writing. I don't mean to brag, but based on their riotous laughter followed by looks of utter devotion, I knew I'd clinched that Best Mom award for the second time this week. Not bad, I might add, for someone who used to be a prude.