Upon stubbing one’s toe it is natural, and purportedly even helpful, to exclaim loudly, if not curse outright. When a small child is present, however, it is best to modify one’s language. So it was one Saturday morning that I stubbed my toe on the door jamb. I was aware of Mister Baby in the bedroom I had just exited; he was the very reason I was awake and in search of coffee. In a superb display of self-control, I hissed “For fuck’s sake!” in what I deemed a whisper.
Five minutes later, Mister Baby comes waltzing into the kitchen singsonging “for fuck’s sake, for fuck’s sake, for fuck’s sake.” The Pater followed. “We’re ignoring that, “I said neutrally to his upraised eyebrows. This recommended tactic of glossing over unattractive behavior seemed to work and we heard no more of the F word.
It is also natural to raise one’s voice when your child’s life is imperiled. I was vindicated in my pleasure at Mister Baby’s only crawling until 16 months because as soon as he walked, he ran, usually away from me. Several days after the ugly toe incident Mister Baby had escaped from the buggy and was running wildly ahead of me. I wasn’t too worried as we only had one more street to cross before home. He actually stopped at the zebra crossing and waited for me and I took the opportunity to grab his hand as we started across. We were crossing the far side when we both spotted the Mini bearing down on us. Not only was it not stopping, it was unmistakably speeding up. “Jesus Christ!” I bellowed. “For fuck’s sake!” shouted Mister Baby and continued to yell it all the way down the street. My slight embarrassment was tempered by pride in his appropriate usage.
Since then, there have been further slips of the F word from my lips. One notable incident was a very hung-over and sleep deprived morning at the airport when the Pater had thrown my bag at my feet spilling the passports onto the floor. Once I gathered them, I instructed Mister Baby: “Go tell your father to fuck himself.” This is the one instance I can recall that my instructions were followed without hesitation or argument.
There was also the matter of the of the cloth shopping bag that a friend sent from New York that read: I need some fucking groceries. “Wow, what great sounding out! Groceries is a big word,” I said as I shoved it in the back of the drawer behind the shoe polish.
The Pater recently decided that the time to put aside childish theater had come and got tickets for Jack Rosenthal’s Smash with Tom Conti and Richard Schiff. Despite Mister Baby’s refusal to go to the bathroom before the start, he behaved beautifully during the first act. He was entranced by the idea that the food on the buffet was real and that real steam was rising from the cups of coffee – the magic of live theater. There was enough rude language and slapstick to keep him entertained. A few audience members complimented us on his good behavior and we were feeling more than a little smug. Act two continued the theme of slapstick and shouting until the very crescendo was reached and the actress projected: “Why don’t we get in a circle, take our clothes off and FUCK!” CLOSE CURTAIN.