A Dog Named Bullsh*t

Once upon a time, my daughter was two.

Now that she’s 16, she looks like this:

photo 1 (69)

But when she was 2, she looked like this:

standing grin

 

And when she looked like that, with chubby cheeks and overalls, wispy hair and a funny run, she couldn’t talk.

I mean, she tried to talk, and she had all the usual words like “mama” and “birdie,” “look” and “MINE,” but she had a hard time with bigger words. 

Some kids talk and talk and talk and talk. From the womb, nearly, they put together complex sentences and until age 15, when they stop communicating in anything other than histrionics, they bless their parents with a running commentary on All of Life. The world. The weather. Their wants. Their will. The wild. The weird. The wonder. These are the people who, well, don’t quit until they become bloggers and impose their thoughts on others.

Then there are kids like Abby who are slower to speak. Quieter and, OK, calmer, Abby didn’t seem to have a huge need to use words. When she wanted food, she toddled to the refrigerator. When she wanted me to read a book, she brought me one. When she was frustrated with the other kids in the Sunday School nursery, she lifted the heaviest thing she could find and clocked the other kids over the head with it — THUD! They cried and quit bugging her, and – bonus – her mommy stopped leaving her there. She’s always been a problem solver, that kid.

But there comes a day, sooner or later, in all our lives when words are our only hope to communicate our heart’s desire. And so came such a day with Abby.

She was strapped into her highchair, busy eating Spaghetti-O’s – by which I mean merrily flinging those not already in her hair, down her shirt and glued to her face, onto the floor and to the walls and into the curtains. In other words, it was a veritable tornado of Spaghetti-O’s, and I, parent of one child at the time (psst… one kid is a lot of kids, too!), hadn’t yet learned to ban red sauce from my lunch repertoire. Attempting to distract her from redecorating the house, I said, “Let’s put on a video! You like to watch videos!”

And Abby, bless her heart, clapped her wet hands, spraying sauce in her face, smiled and enthusiastically said, “BULLSHIT!”

Kid you not.

Clear as a bell.

And then she reiterated. “Bullshit, Mama! Bullshit!” Grinning all the way.

Well, obviously she wasn’t saying bullshit. I mean, she was TWO and she wasn’t good with words so even though it was technically within the realm of possibility that I’d said it in front of her, the likelihood of her picking it up was low. 

I set about finding out what she really meant.

“Push it, Abby?” I inquired. “Do you want me to push the video in? Push it?”

“NO, Mama,” she replied. “BULLSHIT.”

Okaaay, then.

“Smoosh it, Abby? Are you smooshing your lunch?”

“NO, Mama. BULLSHIT.” Her smile was faltering a little. Clearly, I wasn’t getting it. She balled her fists and smacked them on her highchair tray. “BULLSHIT, Mama. BULLSHIT.” 

“Punch it, Abby?” I asked. “Are you punching your Spaghetti-O’s?”

“NO, Mama. BULLSHIT,” she cried. 

And I, in desperation and not with a little bit of dread, said, “Are you saying… bullshit, sweetheart?” Thinking, maybe she IS saying bullshit. Maybe I DID teach it to her. UGH.

She burst into tears of frustration, whimpering, “NO, Mama! Bullshit, Mama. Bullshit!

Which… THANK GOD, you know? I’m NOT the mommy who taught her baby girl to say bullshit! PHEW! and HOORAY! and WHAT A RELIEF! I mean, I eventually became the mommy who taught her kids to say, “you have got to be fucking kidding me,” but this was my FIRST TIME AS A MOMMY, guys; I wasn’t ready yet to abandon every standard, and the idea of teaching my baby to swear was GHASTLY. 

So, at a loss for how to continue, I stuck a video in the machine.

Abby calmed down.

I relaxed and chalked it up as one of those things, fairly certain it was a quirk of learning to speak and that was the end of it.

That was not the end of it.

Over the next several weeks, Abby continued to say bullshit, and at the oddest times.

While watching TV.

Before bed.

At the public library. 

And when we were alone, I continued to question her. Trying, trying, trying to figure out what she was saying.

Every time it was the same. 

I’d guess what she meant. She’d cry, “NO, Mama. BULLSHIT!” And eventually we’d both exhaust ourselves, and I’d quit and plug in a video or read a book.

Until the day we went to the mall.

Abby, me, and her stroller.

We went to the mall to kill time. To pine away at the cute Baby Gap clothes we couldn’t afford. To eat at the food court. To wander through the book store. To make it to the car by naptime. The usual distractions with a toddler to entertain.

This time, though, we arrived at the food cart and Abby went rigid in her stroller. All her muscles tensed at once, ’til she was standing on the foot rest and pushing her body back into her chair. Totally still. Totally attentive. Totally focused. Slowly, she raised her arm in front of her, pointed straight ahead, and, like an army commander ready to give the signal to FIRE — to CHARGE THE ENEMY — in the middle of the food cart full of mommies and babies and impressionable children, Abby bellowed, “BULLLLSHIIIIIIIT!”

She turned her head to be sure I was paying attention, then faced forward again with pointer finger aimed true, and yelled, “BULLLLSHIIIIIIIT, MAMA! BULLLLSHIIIIIIIT!” 

I, after weeks and weeks of my baby saying bullshit realized that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to CATCH this bullshit if we hurried. So I, like a properly prepared army cadet, ready to follow my commanding officer into battle and the hell beyond, yelled, “WHERE, ABBY? WHERE IS IT?” and started to drive that stroller like a tank with single-minded determination to PURSUE OUR TARGET wherever my officer led.

We ran through the whole food court. Abby with rapid fire BULLSHITs and me with staccato WHEREs on repeat and at high volume.

“BULLSHIT!”

“WHERE?”

“BULLSHIT!”

“WHERE?”

Until we arrived at our usual bookstore. 

The one flanking the food court.

The one with the big children’s section.

The one with giant cut-outs from beloved children’s books decorating the walls.

The one with Clifford the Big Red Dog smiling and waving at us, which is where we stopped. In front of Clifford, with my daughter pointing to his face, and cheerfully yelling, “BULLSHIT, Mama! See?? BULLSHIT!”

Clifford, honey?” I said.

And she sagged in relief. “Yes, Mama. Yes. Bullshit.”

Which makes no sense at all because Clifford sounds nothing like Bullshit, but it’s what she’d been trying to say all along. 

And that’s why, at our house, we call him Bullshit, the Big, Red Dog.

……….

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
50 comments
  1. Ah ha ha ha ha. Thanks for the laugh Abbey!

  2. My daughter, when she was 2 learned all about booby traps from her big brother…she was a slow talker as well. For weeks all we heard about was how her bubby made a “poopy crap!” Being 7, He of course thought this was HILARIOUS (who am I kidding, it was hilarious!) So he would tell her to say booby trap a thousand times a day…poopy crap, poopy crap….all.day.long.

  3. I, too, have a very spirited, almost 3yo baby girl with a knack for sending me on “WHAT did she just say?!” missions. There was this one day this past summer.. I was getting her dressed after her bath, and made the mistake of asking her what she’d like to wear that day.
    “Ready corn, Mamma! READY CORN!”
    Umm. Sorry.. what??
    “Yes, Mamma! Ready corn! Can I? I want ready corn on my bum-bum and ‘gina!”
    Ok. Now, I’m panicking. Wtf is “ready corn”? And she wants it to go… WHERE?! My mind starts frantically scanning through every TV show, song lyric, online video, conversation, every EVERYTHING she could possibly have heard something she shouldn’t have, coming up empty at every thought. 2 hours of the “do you mean______?” game with my stark-naked increasingly annoyed toddler later, it hits me: her new big-girl undies! My Little Pony big-girl undies, to be exact. The ones with the cute little Unicorns printed all over them. RARITY, the Unicorn. Naturally. OBVIOUSLY. DUH, Mamma! I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved at a solved puzzle IN. MY. ENTIRE. LIFE.

    So later on that day, we ran into a friend, in the middle of Walmart of all places, who happens to be trying for a baby of her own. She mentioned how badly she wanted a girl, and so being the helpful, full-of-advice, experienced mommy that I am, I counter with how my morning with MY sweet little Princess had gone. I didn’t even NOTICE the awkward expression change on her face until I heard the little voice behind me..
    “See? Ready corn! See, SEE?”. I swear, I felt the blood rushing to my face. Sure enough, I turn to find my daughter, standing with her pants around her ankles and shirt pulled up to her eyeballs, proud as a little Peacock, showing the world her “Ready Corn” covered bum-bum and gina.

    Aaaah, yes. The JOYS of parenthood!

  4. My recently 3yo son still calls oatmeal “opanope”. I love it!
    My oldest at 18ms yelled out on a very full airplane “Puck you mama puck you.” I still suspect to this day she was actually intending to swear at us!

  5. When my daughter was two, I asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween. “Ba,” she replied. “Bat?” I asked. “Ba. BA!” she repeated. “You want to be a BAT,” I said again. Hesitantly, she shook her head. Fast forward a few days later as I’m laying out the black fabric on the floor, cutting it into bat wings. She sees me and bursts into tears. “No mommy, Ba. BA,” she runs up into her room and returns with (you guessed it) a stuffed sheep. Of course I ran out to the store that minute and bought the fluffiest white fabric I could find and she was the cutest little Baaaa ever!

  6. I am at work trying not to laugh out loud!!! I have similar stories.

    My oldest twin son at age 2 kept pointing and saying ‘Shit’. It took Dad and I a few days to finally figure out he was trying to say ‘See it’.

    My daughter at 3 had troubles saying some words. So we got a cat from the humane society and his name was Baxter. But after a few days at the house we had to change his name because she kept calling him Bastard.

    Same daughter same age loved her Aunt’s cat named Snickers. But she kept calling the cat Niggers. So she went around talking about Bastard and Niggers. I was so glad when she could talk better!!

    Oh the good ole days. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. That… is quite possibly the best thing I’ve read all day. LMAO!

    When Babygirl was 3, we adopted two kittens. I made the mistake of allowing her to name them. Tit and Tat. Cute, right?

    Ok, picture this. Indoor kittens. Mischievous little turds.. and one day one got outside. Babygirl was devastated. Completely heartbroken. Convinced that if her kitten wasn’t promptly rescued from the dangers of the great outdoors, we’d lose him forever. She was inconsolable.

    And that, my friend, is how I found myself wandering around the yard, and then down the street, calling “HERE TIT! HERE KITTY KITTY! COME ON TIT! TIME TO COME HOME, TIT!”

    The looks I got from the neighbors…

    #MomProblems.

  8. When our youngest, little Mack, was about two (he’s 8 now) he had a real talent for identifying vehicles. All sorts: Jeeps, PT Cruisers, Hummers, and so forth. And he would yell their identify happily every time we were out, which was fun and pride-enhancing, having a little one who could identify the makes of vehicles so easily. And then. He started identifying loudly the types of vehicles: Car! Van! Truck! Big Truck, Mommy! Except that he couldn’t say the sound “Tr” and instead used the easier-to-say sound “F”. Every time. Look Mommy, *uck! BIG *uck! Yittle *uck! One *uck! Two *ucks! Oh my, how I cringed, especially when Grandma and Grandpa were in the car with us. Or when we were in the store. Or walking on the sidewalk with other people whose 2-year-olds did not, in fact, swear like the proverbial sailor.

    1. When my nephew was young, he had the same pronunciation for truck. His dad is a truck driver, so, much to the delight of his wife (yes, that is sarcasm you smell lol), he taught he son to tell everyone that is daddy was the best truck who ever trucked in the history of trucking.

  9. While taking our daughter for a walk, we pass by a fenced yard with a very small dog. The dog ALWAYS runs to the fence to bark at people walking by, and one day, my husband overheard the owner call the dog by name. Our daughter heard as well, and from then on, would always say hi to the dog by name, or if he wasn’t outside, ask where he was. Loudly. Only, she thought the dog’s name was bigot. The dog’s name is Tempest. NO idea how she got ‘bigot’ from ‘tempest’, but I think some of the neighbors got a kick out of my tiny little girl yelling “HEY BIGOT!” every time she saw that dog.

  10. Thanks for this–so funny I’m crying, as I’m waiting for my 13 y/o daughter to get dressed for school–which makes me SO ANNOYING AND LEAVE ME ALONE AND GET OUT OF MY ROOM! Sigh. I miss those days when she was so happy to point out the aminals and wanted to eat monkey cheese and read Cwippoos the big red dog.

  11. Okay, that was brilliant! I was having such anxiety until I read the end and it all made sense. Clifford, of course! Love your writing.
    C.

  12. I have tears rolling down my cheeks! This was EXACTLY what I needed after a long weekend of trying to communicate with a frustrated, grunting 19 month old. A sweet woman, after watching my husband and me sweat through another Church service/wrestling match, gently encouraged us, “These are the small trials, hug him a little tighter today because it will all be over too soon”. Thank you for your stories!!

  13. My daughter was 1.5 when she said her first sentence. We were driving down the highway, in the middle of nowhere, TX, and she was babbling and singing to herself in the back seat. Suddenly, silence!

    We looked back at her. She was staring out the window, every little muscle in her body tense and straining. She stared fixedly at a pair of Golden Arches, stranded on the access road beside a small Shell station and flanked by yet more fields of cows and cotton.

    Her head turned ever so slowly, the rest of her body rigid, as we passed the exit by. She stared after the sight as it receded into the distance, then slowly slumped in utter dejection. Studying her hands as they lay despondent in her lap, she uttered, mournfully, the two saddest words known to child:

    “No fries….”

    (Yes. We did. We got off at the next exit, four miles down the road, turned around, and drove back. Who could resist that little face of sorrow??!!)

    1. I love this so much!!! Who could resist? Of course she got her fries. Yesterday I bought by 7 year old his own iced coffee (his first ever) because we were on a mommy/son date and I just wanted to make him happy. 🙂

  14. Fantastic! I was laughing so much, especially at the army officer part.

  15. Not to be a Debby Downer, but the wonderful Norman Bridwell died in December. Emily Elizabeth is named after his daughter.

  16. my 2 year old grandson , also a slow talker , was naming his aunties when he came to his mother’s eldest sisters she asked him what her name was , without skipping a beat he announced “bubbles”

  17. Oh, this so reminds me of when my son was that age!!! He was obsessed with trucks, except his “tr” always came out as “f”… we saw a lot of “f*cks” driving down the road. He also couldn’t say the word craft… so anytime we went to Michaels, he would announce “This the crap store ?!?” Lol. Stories to laugh at for years to come.

    1. We also had a tr=f child. “Mama! See my f**k!”

    2. My brother’s boy said the f*ck thing too. So my sister and brother-in-law, who haven’t been able to have children bought him as many trucks as they possibly could.

  18. My 2 year old was playing with he stitch toy and staying her version of “Stitch.” My oldest boy says “it sounds like she’s saying a bad word.” Our middle boy says “yeah mom, it sounds like she’s saying b!+(h!” Gee son, I couldn’t figure that out on my own. 🙂

  19. LOL. When we had daughter #2 our oldest (who was 2) called her “Tiger” and somehow this was her way of saying “Claire.” And now my youngest(who is 2) asks for a fork sometimes at dinner and I can’t help think of what it sounds like………

    1. When my mom’s youngest brother was little he called her Loweye (her name’s Shirley). Well my Mom’s almost 72 and he’s just turned 60, and he still calls her that.

  20. Awesome. I love mispronunciations !!
    We had a student named Kaushik, and every other kindergartner called him Cowshit.

  21. Wonderful! Thanks for sending this smile to me!

  22. Oh wow, my daughter just called him ‘Clipper’
    She did however once tell me about this show with a horse called ‘sperm’
    ensuing freak out until I watched and realized the horse was called ‘tadpole’
    near enough. and serves me right for trying to tell her where babies come from.

  23. …you just gave me a reason to get up tomorrow and do it (life) all over again… Thanks for your incredible grace and humor!

  24. OMG, I love this story so much. I’m so happy you shared tonight!! <3

  25. This is the best learning to talk story I have EVER heard!!!!
    Thank You!!!

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