I have a dry and at times immature sense of humor. I assumed once I became a mother I’d reign this in, like if my daughter was around I wouldn’t laugh out loud at words like “hoo-hoo,” “va-jay-jay,” and Oscar Meyer Weiner. Although parents are encouraged to be silly with their kids, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to promote potty talk. Children learn bathroom lingo on their own and eagerly use it repeatedly, without any help from adults.
Most parents grasp the unspoken Golden Rule of raising kids (the one where we’re role models and must act like it). This should be enough to keep me from rewinding flatulence scenes in movies or laughing when my daughter points out, in front of her grandmother, that our male Pug’s genitalia is making yet another untimely appearance. But not only do I love these absurd moments in life. Oddly, I seek them out.
I knew the moment my daughter realized that words have power; I’d have to teach her potty talk boundaries. Most teachers, grandmothers, friends’ parents and Sunday school instructors don’t find it cute when a child points at her dog’s privates and tells him to “put his yucky lipstick away” or that she and her parents have burping contests in the car. Some might suggest this is inappropriate and in bad taste. My husband and I happen to think that bad taste, in small doses, can be pretty hilarious.
When my daughter was younger, I taught her the rules of etiquette. I explained the proper names of body parts and the polite response if she ever heard (or had) an accidental body eruption. I told her there are times to be gross, and times not to be gross. I told her The Rule: if she’s ever with anyone besides her parents, stay on the down low with the bathroom talk. Secretly I’ve never cared if she occasionally used potty talk with her friends unless after I sang “If you’re sliding into first and your shorts are about to burst….” the friend told me with a straight face, “I’m not allowed to sing the Diarrhea Song.” Suddenly I felt like I should be sitting in the time-out chair.
Some parents don’t adopt my laissez-faire attitude on this subject. I happen to feel that laughing at human physiology takes the stigma off what can quickly become a shame-soaked and starched life lesson. Too much sanitizing and we squelch what makes kids infinitely funnier than adults.
Women are supposed to be more proper than men, so for that very reason, I’m not. This is why I love Cameron Diaz, Jenny McCarthy, Drew Barrymore and Tina Fey. They don’t take themselves too seriously and move in and out of immature humor with the same acting ease as male physical comics like Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell.
There’s always the chance that humorless people, a.k.a. more mature, will think that I’m, well, a bit touched. And sadly, now that my daughter is ten, she’s developed some immunity to my brand of humor. Although she still appreciates it, she has some guidelines: her friends can’t be nearby. She’s my morality police, telling me to “tie my bathing suit top tighter,” and to stop “being disgusting.” Ten years old is when kids decide their mother is an embarrassment for one simple reason: they’re in the room.
According to my daughter, I’m allowed to make gross comments to my dog about him, (he doesn’t seem to mind) as long as there aren’t any witnesses, but I can’t make comments to humans about my dog’s parts or to humans about human parts. No more references to “that adorable baby butt” or to my “bazooms” or to grandma’s pee pot. If I slip up, she haughtily informs me that “it” isn’t funny and that “it” never, ever was (how soon they forget).
My husband feels humor is a common connector between people. The kind of dry, bantering, irreverent humor he and I share evokes disgust from the same people who, at a comedy club, laugh at the story about the waiter who dropped another meatball in the lady’s diet coke. Of course when my daughter says the word Uranus I about lose my mind laughing, so obviously my standards aren’t so high.
Although I sense my child likes that her mother is comedically immature, she’s at the age when she pretends to be outraged by me while her dad nods in mock agreement. “Scolding” me makes her feel older, wiser and more in control. There’s something unspoken and powerful about a daughter reeling in her mother, about allowing a girl, in selective moments, to use potty talk without embarrassment or shame. The taboo of these words long ago faded in our family. As long as they’re used for humor rather than harm, to amuse rather than to insult, I’m okay with it. Girls can be funny, because girls are funny. I only hope when I’m 80 and wearing something purple, I’m making off-color jokes about my Depends, prune juice and hemorrhoid cream. How else will I make my grandkids laugh before they’re too old to get the joke?
Laura Owens is a member of the Orlando, FL Chapter #216 and a freelance writer. She has been married to her husband Andy for 15 years and has a 10-year-old daughter named Tara. Laura’s childish and immature humor continues to delight and embarrass her daughter.