“Mama, what are ‘boobies’?”
I was standing in line with my seven-year-old daughter in a crowded shop at Bellevue Square. It was the last few days of the holiday shopping season, so the whole place was packed with people, and all I really wanted to do was head home (and maybe buy a Cinnabon). The line to pay for the items we were buying was moving really slowly, so my daughter was examining all the impulse buys on offer at the counter. She was holding a stack of rubber bracelets that said “I heart boobies.” These were some sort of fundraising item for breast cancer research. Unfortunately, she didn’t understand a certain word.
“Mama, what are ‘boobies’?”
Her voice was much louder now. I think she assumed the reason I hadn’t immediately answered her first question was because I hadn’t heard her. I definitely had. The two young women in line ahead of us were now snorting, which told me they definitely had, too. My daughter didn’t notice that people were looking at us with smirks on their faces, which is good, because if she had, she would have hammed it up and probably started tap dancing as she asked the question repeatedly. She is a performer at heart.
I bit my lip as I thought about what to do in that split-second. My first thought was, ‘How on earth does a second-grader not know what boobies are?’ I chalk this up to something lacking in the public schools. There should be some kind of real world skills class for kids that covers slang or something. (Or maybe she just forgot. It’s probably that.)
My next thought was on how to answer. You know that annoying mom who always uses medically-accurate terms to describe body parts? That’s me. I am that annoying mom. I will say the name of any body part. I will sing it! I am not afraid, even of parts that start with the letter P and end with the letter S: PANCREAS! I SAID IT! So talking about the human body is no big thing for me. I don’t even mind most slang words (although there are some that will get you the evil eye from me, so be careful). I don’t care if my daughter uses the word ‘boobies’ at all. It is not a big deal. But if I start down the road of explaining to her what it means, she will start asking more questions and it will turn into a huge discussion of body parts and word origins and listen to how funny it sounds when I say ten times fast.
So I just didn’t want to get into it. I was willing to let that teachable moment pass. So when I heard her take a deep breath to ask the question again even LOUDER, I gave her a motherly shove forward in line so she was no longer looking at the bracelets. PHEW! I’m so good at parenting!
But guess what the next thing on the counter was? A box of fake computer keys that you could slip over your keyboard to turn the DELETE button into an OOPS! button. Cute! But then she started using her impeccable second grade reading skills to sound out what they all said. (Darn you, public schools, teaching my kid phonics!)
“OH SH*T. Mama, what does OH SH*T mean?”
I gasped and closed the box so she couldn’t read the rest of them (DAMN IT, F*CK!, you get the picture). I nudged her forward again.
“Mama, what were those things?”
“They were joke keys to put on your keyboard so it looks like your computer can type funny things.”
“Ah. What does OH SH*T mean?”
“I think it said OH SHIFT. The shift button makes little letters into capital letters. I think that’s what it said.” (Yes, I actually said that. On December 21 at 4pm in the middle of Bellevue Square, with sore feet and dreaming of cinnamon rolls, I actually said that.)
She looked a little confused. “That’s not very funny,” she noted.
“No,” I agreed. “It really isn’t.”
As we left the store, we passed a small child who was singing a Christmas song off-key at the top of her lungs.
“Did you hear that girl? She was so loud! Everyone could hear her! Now, that’s funny!”
“Yes,” I agreed. “It really is. Let’s go get a Cinnabon.”