Friday, October 28, 2016

The F-Word

Don't take my effing picture, Mom!

“Mama, what’s the f-word that isn’t fart?” Purvis asked at dinner. 

“Uh,” I fumbled, “why do you ask?”

“At School of Rock, the teacher asked who our favorite band was and I said Tacocat and we were going to do ‘I Hate the Weekend’ but she said we couldn’t because of the f-word.”

“Oh, yeah.  So when you and I sing it, we sing another word for the f-word.”

“What?” She asked.

“Purvis’ teacher’s band is opening up for Tacocat tonight,” Josh interjected, using the time-tested misdirection technique.

“How cool!” I said.

“No, Tacocat is opening up for them,” Purvis said.

Several times we tried to correct her.  Tacocat was definitely the main event.  But she wouldn’t hear of it.  I’m not sure if she thinks the opening band is the main event or if her teacher’s band is bigger than Tacocat.  The issue became a sore one and wasn’t worth the disagreement.  Also, it steered us a satisfactory distance away from the f-word topic.  “Look over there!” saves the day once again.

On Saturday, Purvis and I packed into the car to go to acro-class. 

“I Hate the Weekend!” Purvis called out once she was buckled into her booster seat.

“Okay, okay,” I said, taking a moment to appreciate that she is no longer demanding the Wizard of Oz soundtrack or the now-disavowed “Let It Go.”  (“I never liked Frozen,” Purvis claims.  I have a pile of Elsa stuffies that tell a different tale.)

“At the end of every week/they pull into our streets/homogenized and oh-so-weak,” Purvis and I belted out along with Tacocat.

Got a hall pass from your job/just to act like a buckin' slob,” we sang, me doing a quick-check in the rearview mirror to see if any recognition fluttered over her face.

During our early sing-a-longs I omitted the “fuckin’” from “fuckin’ slob” and kept going.  One day Purvis insisted it was “buckin’” so I went with it.  Sure, buckin’ slob works.

She paused her singing.  “That’s the word, isn’t it,” she said.

“We sing buckin’,” I said.  “Buckin’ slob.”  I enunciated like I was teaching her a new word.

“But what is it really?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you.  Ask one of your older friends what the f-word is.”  I said, hoping it was the last time I refer Purvis to the playground to acquire a piece of grown-up knowledge. 

“It’s fart, isn’t it,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s fart.” I said.


Purvis’ search for the truth about the f-word continued.  She knows it isn’t fart.  She scoured the playground for information, asking older kids and know-it-all peers, and none of them could enlighten her. 

“Tell me, Mama,” she begged.

“Sorry, I can’t.”

I pondered the issue.  I want her to come to me with burning questions.  I want her to trust me to give her the information she needs to negotiate this house-on-fire we call life.  But still.  Does this include providing her with a list of curse words?  Is it time to introduce her to George Carlin?

Somehow I’ve managed to negotiate the whole Donald Trump “grab ‘em by the pussy” ordeal without exposing the other meaning of the p-word.  All she knows is that Donald Trump kisses women without their consent and that is not okay.  Also that Donald Trump is a disaster of a man who wants to build a wall keeping people out of this country.  (The playground scuttlebutt on the Donald is all negative in Southeast Portland.)

I checked in with Josh.  “Should I tell her what the f-word is?”

“No, you should not.  She isn’t ready for it.”

When she’s frustrated, she “Jesus Christs” all over the place.  We’ve told her that she can’t Jesus Christ in public, but I know it’s only a matter of time.  I can’t help laughing when she “What in Jesus Christs?” something.  What in Jesus Christ indeed.  Something about her dropping f-bombs seems to be taking it too far. 

My parents had a no-tolerance policy towards curse words.  Neighborhood kids could "shit" and "bitch" within earshot, but if we uttered even a "piss," our mom dragged us aside for a stern talking-to.  When I was in college, I OD-ed on them.  Fuck this and fuck that, fucking fuckety fuck.  "They're just words," I smirked.   During my brief tenure as a substitute teacher, I didn't jump all over kids for cursing in class at first.  As long as they don't demean me or their peers, I don't care, I told myself.  Then, in the line of high-schooler fire, I changed my tune quickly.  Curse words were the canary in the coal mine they tossed out to see what the sub was made of.  This sub was equal parts unresolved high school issues and not wanting to get fired.  So I endured.  I kept it in the room.  I tried not to care when they no longer though of me as "the cool sub."  (For more details on my adventures in substitute teaching, check out "The Cool Bad Sub" in Crudbucket 4: The Happy Childhood Issue.)
As Purvis and I lay in bed, she again made a case for f-word enlightenment.  “Please tell me.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you.  It’s fart.”  I said.

“No, it isn’t.”

“It’s Frankenweenie,” I blurted.



You know, the Tim Burton movie about a boy who brings a dog back to life a la Frankenstein?  I haven’t seen it either, but somebody did their marketing right since that is the word that popped into my head.

She was satisfied for the moment. 

Sunday we piled in the car and turned up the Tacocat for the drive to swimming class.

“I Hate the Weekend,” she implored.


I forwarded to the track.  I pumped up the volume.  I sang along at the top of my lungs.  Purvis was suspiciously quiet.  At the end of the song she said, “I can’t hear it.”

I turned it up another notch.  “It’s pretty loud already,” I said.

“I didn’t hear Frankenweenie.”

“Oh, right. Sometimes they just say ‘frank,’” I said.  “Like frankin’ slob.  But I like buckin’ slob better.’

Good cover.  Or at least a cover. 

The secret of the f-word remains safe for another day. 

Friday, May 27, 2016


Sunday mornings.  What is it about Sunday mornings that trigger the volcano of emotions that erupt from young Purvis?  A few Sundays ago, she was moved to write multiple copies of a note on scrap paper: I Hate Mom.  Previously she had written two notes in quick succession:  No Mama I Hat (sic) you. Love, Purvis then I Love you.  Love, Purvis. 

No “Love, Purvis” this time, just straight up hate.  This Sunday I was treated to a more elaborate variation on the I Hate Mom theme.  It’s becoming its own hashtag: #MomHate or #IhateSundayMoms.

Some background. 

I woke early Sunday and, after some mild insomnia, moved to the couch, my magical get-back-to-sleep place.  What felt like a few minutes after I finally fell back asleep, I heard the banging. 

Most Saturdays and Sundays Purvis signals that she is awake and ready for action by banging on the wall.  Josh says she starts out quiet.  “But you never hear that because you sleep with a pillow on your head.”

True.  I gotta be me.  And me needs a pillow squashed atop her noggin to sleep.

Most Sundays if the hour is near 7:00 a.m., I pull myself out of bed and go to the young lady’s room before her calls get too angry and urgent and we often have a sweet, giggly early morning snuggle before getting on with the ritual making of pancakes and drinking of coffee.  How I miss the days when it was the pitter-patter of her feet and the whooshing of our bedroom door that woke me.  The wall-banging and barked, “Mommy, get in here!” is no replacement.  I’m not sure what turned her from a toddler ready to burst into her parents’ room to wake them up and a kid unwilling to leave her bedroom solo, but I hope it wasn’t a fear I implanted.  I already regret my talk to Purvis about sneaker waves.  The young lady will go no closer to the Pacific Ocean than sand dunes for fear of getting washed out to sea. 

This Sunday in my half-asleep fog I crafted a “strategy” to deal with her calls.  Maybe we can get her to come to us once and for all.  I’ll let her know that I’m out on the couch, feet away from her bedroom door.  This time she can come to me.  Plus the thought of lifting myself from the couch sounded like hauling bricks across a football field.  The blankets were so cozy and warm. 

“I’m out here, honey.  Come snuggle with me on the couch.”  I called.

“Noooo!”  From the angry urgency in her voice, I could tell I’d missed a few steps on her way from just-awake wall taps and all-out Sunday morning battle cries.

“I’m not getting up,” I called and pulled the pillow tighter on my head.

“Mommy!  Get in here NOWWWWW!”

She did finally emerge from her bedroom to tell me that I needed to get in her room now and the couch was too small to snuggle and finally, I was stupid.

“This is your last warning, you know you aren’t supposed to say that word.”

“You’re the stupidest,” she spat.

“Okay. That’s it.  You lost your treat.”

She started to wail.  “Noooo!  I want my treat!”  Josh emerged from the bedroom to carry her kicking and screaming back to her room.  He then returned to bed enveloped in a cloud of pissed-off. 

“What a great way to start the day,” I muttered.  I hauled myself off the couch and went to her room, curling up in her bed and inviting her back in bed with me to snuggle.  A Sunday morning do-over.  She was having none of it.  She begged for her treat back. 

“No, sweetie.  That’s not happening,” I said. 

Then, admittedly, I laid it on too thick.  “I’m not sure why you thought losing your treat on a Sunday when Gammie is in town was a good idea.  I guess we can’t go get ice cream.”

Her wailing intensified.  “I want ice cream!!!”

Ugh.  I was feeling pissed off myself, my plans of afternoon tea and tarts at Pix now dead unless I wanted to backpedal on the treat loss.  And I did not.  She really needs to stop calling us stupid or her new go-to “the stupidest.”  But I should probably have left well enough alone.  Let the loss of the holy grail of treats, the weekend treat while Gammie is in town, be enough of a punishment. 

Needless to say, no snuggling was to be had this Sunday. 

We reluctantly charged into the morning, hope eternal that the day would improve.  That I would shed my title as “the stupidest” with due haste.

Breakfast went relatively smoothly except that Gammie didn’t make it in time to eat with the rest of the family.

“Why is she not here yet?”

“Because she likes to sleep in late.  Don’t worry, she’ll be here soon.”

And she was, happily munching her blueberry pancakes when Purvis spiraled back into anger. The source: my confirmation that no matter what she did, the treat was gone.  “That’s not how it works,” I said.

She ran to her room, slammed the door then soon emerged with a sign she handed to me: I hate you Mom.

“Okay,” I said.  “I’m sorry you feel that way.  Can you not use the good paper when you write this?”

She stormed back to her room and remained for a few minutes.  Then she returned to the living room, her disdainful chin in the air.  “I want you to come see something.”

“Are there more signs about how you hate me? Because I don’t really like looking at those.  They hurt my feelings.”

“Please come in here,” she said, conjuring her most polite voice.

I followed her.  Her bed was covered in signs.  A long banner of five pieces of paper taped together lengthwise read I HATE MOM.  She gave me a tour of the other signs, her reasons for hating me (misspellings preserved):

·      Is stikey (translator’s note: stinky)
·      Duz not play with me
·      Razes her vows (t/n: raises her voice)
·      Duz not bie me stuff (t/n: does not buy me stuff, specifically the hot pink shorts she picked out at the Columbia Store, which she would never in a million years actually wear outside the dressing room)
·      Is mene (t/n: mean)
·      Likes to take stuff away

That about sums it up.  She did soften while I was in the room and crossed out the banner by laying a gray shoelace atop her sign.  I HATE MOM.  But she looked up at me with sympathy like, sorry friend, the rest is still true.

I defended myself.  “Oh, I never buy you stuff like the tickets to the symphony that we’re going to see today.  And the hat you liked at the Columbia Store.”

She was unmoved.

“I play with you all the time.”  I added.  Although I couldn’t come up with a specific instance of playing since our lives together are one big game of pretend.  Aren’t I Minerva McGonagall?

She did have a point—I do take stuff away.  I can’t speak to the stinky part although I do bathe more than she does.  And I always use soap.  (So there.) 

The day did improve.  It became clear that her behavior was coming from somewhere.  She was tired from staying up late the previous night, a little mad at us for going out without her, and sad that Gammie was leaving the next day. 

I am glad that she is able to express herself, that she doesn’t let the emotions fester inside of her.  Sure, she may be displacing (or misplacing) her sadness at one thing, i.e. her beloved grandmother departing after a short visit, onto another, i.e. moi, but at least it’s not eating an ulcer in her stomach.  Her kindergarten teacher’s words came to mind, “You don’t have to wonder how Purvis is feeling.”  Nope, not at all. 

Sunday night as we were cleaning up dinner, she carried the crumpled up remains of the signs to the dining room, made sure I was watching, then dumped them in the recycling box. 

“You don’t hate me anymore?”

“No, Mom.  I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie.”

As soon as she rounded the corner, I fished them out, ironed them with my hand and added them to my stash of Purvis art.  I may need to start an “I hate mom” folder to go with my hashtag.