My daughter came out of the womb with the innate ability to roll her eyes heavenward to indicate the contempt with which she viewed us and the rest of humanity. Since the day she was born I have been dreading her impending teenage years.
It did not occur to me to dread the pre-adolescent years of my son. He has always been a sweet boy, a people pleaser, and convinced the world is a benevolent place. He is still a sweet boy, known to make me coffee and bring it to me in the morning while I am still fighting the age-old struggle with the snooze button, and will occasionally clean his room just because he feels like it. He is a straight-A plus student with perfect behavior at school. He is unfailingly polite (to other people, which is really what matters, isn’t it?) and there are about five women out there who are vying to be his mother-in-law.
He is eleven now, and, as a result, he can’t seem to complete a sentence without using the words “butt”, “fart”, or “burp.” Occasionally, to illustrate his point, he will actually fart or burp. I suppose I should be proud that he is turning into a real guy’s guy, but in the meantime it annoys the bejeebers out of me. I have begun fining him ten cents per “butt.” This has become so profitable that I am considering quitting my job.
You wouldn’t think there would be so many sentences that would call for those words. You’d be correct. He goes far out of his way to create occasions. For example, “Please pass the ketchup. BUUUUUTTTTTTT!” Hilarity ensues. The worst part, I suppose, is that his sister finds this all very funny and laughs at him, which encourages him more than my aggravation discourages him. I think he is more interested in making the elementary school set laugh than in entertaining an old fuddyduddy grownup lady who can’t see the inherent funniness in one’s posterior.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not immune to bathroom humor. There is nothing funnier than a well-timed fart. Surprise, however, is an essential element in humor. If you know what is coming next, it is not funny. (The exceptions being early Mel Brooks movies like Young Frankenstein, the Producers, and Blazing Saddles -- the latter of which, not coincidentally, contains the funniest scenes involving flatulence in cinematic history; certain Monty Python sketches; anything written by Dave Barry; and the Princess Bride. None of those ever get old no matter how many times you experience them.) It is the unexpectedness of the well-timed fart that makes it funny. If you point out the obvious, it just ruins the joke. I mean seriously – imagine the men around the campfire in Blazing Saddles with some eleven year old boy yelling, “That’s HILARIOUS! Fart! They’re eating beans! Beans make you fart! They keep farting! HA! That’s so funny! Beans, beans, the musical fruit…..” If you have to tell me why something is funny, it either wasn’t funny in the first place, or you have completely squashed the funny with your observation.
So what do I do? The money thing isn’t working (though probably if I charged a dollar per ‘butt’ it might), and he’s otherwise a good kid. His grades quite literally could not improve and he never ever gets in trouble at school. He says please and thank you and ma’am and sir to adults. As tempting as it may be at times, it seems woefully out of proportion to beat him with a stick for using impolite but not obscene words. I know this is perfectly normal. Dav Pilkey has probably made a zillion dollars capitalizing on this with the ubiquitous “Captain Underpants” series of books. I once read an interview with Mr. Pilkey, who said that the secret to getting young boys to read is to put the word ‘underpants’ on every page. If sales volume is any indicator, he is correct. And, as for me, anything that encourages a child to read is a good thing.
The point is, I know it could be a lot worse. He could be getting into fights on the playground, refusing to do his homework, or having an obsession with certain female body parts instead of his own hind end. This is merely annoying, not the least bit harmful.
As my father always says, “This, too, shall pass.”
In the meantime, do you know how to spell the word headache? B-U-T-T. HA HA HA HA HA!!!