Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'm a writer, so if anything, I should have a firm command on language.  Still, there are some questions that take away my grip on English and make me grip the steering wheel really, really hard.  We are always in the car when this type of question is posed.  We are also, always without my husband. 

Invariably, it's just me sitting in the car with the kids in the back seat when the gas station attendant decides to go all Rambo Motherfucker-this and Rambo Motherfucker-that on the homeless man digging through the garbage can.  Usually the questions start as soon as I pull out into traffic.

"Mom, what does fuck mean?" 

"It's a verb that means to make love."

"What does make love mean?"

"It means sex."

"So why was the guy at the gas station telling the other guy to get his MotherSexing hands off of the garbage?  I thought you said sex was a beautiful thing between two people who love each other?  Do you think they love each other?  Are they like married daddies?  Would it be okay if I called you a MotherSexer because you're my mother and I love you?"

This is when I go very quiet because I'm trying to negotiate traffic.  I'm also engaged in the mental process of 'issue spotting'.  I learned how to issue spot in law school.  In law school, it's a good thing to be able to issue spot.  In motherhood, sometimes it's a bad thing.  Sometimes there are so many issues that the only reaction is paralysis. 

I am not a MotherSexer!

"Mom, MOM, MOMMMM, why are you not answering my question.  Can I roll down my window?  Can I have a piece of gum?  Can I call you MotherSexer?  MOM, WHY AREN'T YOU SAYING ANYTHING?"

This is the point where the careful, well-thought out explanation a career in words should provide simply disappears.  This is where I pull the car over and turn around so that I can look my children in the eyes. 

"You may not ever use THAT word."

"Which word?  MotherFucker or MotherSexer?"

"Either word.  They are very bad words and they are only used by bad, bad people.  If you use those words at school you will be sent to the principal's office.  Your friends' parents won't invite you over any more.  Those are the kinds of words people use in (dramatic pause) prison.  Do you want to wind up in prison?  Is that the way you want to spend your lives?" (voice climbs to a hysterical pitch)

Two pairs of wide eyes look at me and shake their heads.  No, they most certainly do not want to end up in prison. 

Yes, I know I'm deliberately using ambiguity to steer my children away from a certain, ahem, genre of language.  And yes, I also know I haven't heard the end of the subject.  But maybe, just maybe, I will never, ever have to hear the word MotherSexer again.  If that's the case, then I feel like my scare tactics will have been 100% justified.


Kathleen Barker said...

Love this, Johanna! Reminds me of when my son had difficulty with words that began with "tr". He substituted an "f". So whenever a fire truck went down the street, I'd cringe as he screams repeatedly, "Fire Fuck! Fire Fuck!"

Christine Murray said...

This made me laugh out loud! Kids are just fantastic, aren't they? They always find the gap in your explanations.

I'm thinking MoonStars could take a whole new twist! ;)

SBJones said...

This reminds me of an episode of Robot Chicken with Smurfs.


Anonymous said...

Johanna, that was so funny. And I know how it feels, I have two kids myself later I laugh at myself for certain answers to certain questions that I give. I loved the Rambo pic to illustrate how those words were being shot out with force by the gas attendant. I was laughing out loud while I read this.

Louisa Bacio said...

Totally hilarious! I've got a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old, and I try to be totally "open" and calm, and then it gets to the point that I BLOW! Scare tactics, oh, yes!

My older daughter said something was "gay," recently, and I was all over that. I haven't heard it since, but she wouldn't tell me where she heard it either.

Thanks for the laugh, you MotherSexer.

Johanna Garth said...

Kathleen, that's hysterical (and totally cringeworthy)!!

Christine-perish the thought!:)

SB- I have to see the smurf movie tomorrow and now I'm going to be thinking of that episode!

Eveli and Louisa- so glad I could add a little levity to your morning :)

jenny milchman said...

OMG, hysterical!! Your kids are so smart!! And so are you :) Good work, keeping them out of prison, too.

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles* Too cute. I am such a call it like I see it person. I am pretty sure our fuck talk was me saying it's a really really rude word for sex. I used all the same arguments about teachers and other parents that you do, with an addition about 'especially never use it if front of little kids' but I have teens now, and they swear. When they swear on facebook my rule is that their spelling and grammar better be accurate... one or the other--if they don't want to watch spelling and grammar, better not swear.

Connie J Jasperson said...

I used to tell my children that if they used a word it had better be in the proper context.

When (in highschool) my oldest daughter began cursing like her new friends, I asked her to explain to how her missing shoe could actually be 'F*****G'as that was an act ususally performed by drunks in parking-lots behind the bar-of-the-night. "So you have used that word in the wrong context," I told her, feeling smug.

She looked at me in total shock. "How did you know that?" she asked me in amazement."You get around a lot more than I thought!"

I decided at that moment to just let her sort her language out on her own.

Johanna Garth said...

Thanks Jenny!

Hart, I love your call it like you see it-ness. It totally plays out on your blog.

Connie, that just made me laugh!

Elliot Grace said...

...ugh! I'm dreading this conversation when it arises, but you handled it very well. I can only hope for the same composure ;)


Cheryl said...

OMG I'm totally giggling!! Mothersexer!!

I love the dramatic pause in your answer, too.

Thanks for the laugh today!!