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.





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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50 responses to “A Dog Named Bullsh*t”

  1. I love your blog! My son couldn’t say words starting with g very well. grass was ass, grasshopper was asshopper. We laughed so hard, he loves bugs so he said it a lot!

  2. Love your blog. So real. Not a Pinterest moment anywhere. I think A Dog Named B**** S*** is awesome. My favorite tale in kind is that my granddaughter Marley always called my ex, her grandpa, Tampon. So perfect. I never corrected her, I would just laugh my head off. Shame she outgrew that.

  3. Oh my goodness, I’m not a mum but this story is making me cry from laughter, I just LOVE toddlers !
    Glad to have discovered your blog, I’m laughing non-stop !

  4. my daughter used to say bullsh*t for “blue shirt” – does clifford ever wear a blue shirt? She also said dammit for “diamond” and f*ck for “frog.”

  5. I’m so happy I happened upon your blog! As a mother of a 17 year old brain surgeon and a 5 year old, that really is smart, I am always delighted and amused by the way other people, the ones with brains and a sense of humor, describe their interactions with their children. I read “I pooped in the closet” last night, but my sides hurt too bad from laughing so I didn’t comment. However, it was a great read! Thank you for letting all of the mothers out here know that we aren’t the only ones! Good luck to you and keep the laughs coming our way!!

  6. My oldest, when he was one and a half, learned to say “thank you.” Except it wasn’t really “thank you.” And it wasn’t “Fank you.” No, it came out, very clearly “F-ck you!” So, he’d go around and every time someone did something nice for you, he’d shout “F-ck you!” “F-ck you, Gamma” “F-ck you, Daddy!” And so on. It never got old. I never stopped laughing at it.

  7. This was awesome.

    My 3 year-old currently asks, “Can I shit on your lap, mommy?” And my husband and I are like, “I certainly hope not.”

  8. I had a 1st grade student years ago who insisted every day that he was some different character or another. One day he was Batman, the next day he was Barney, and still the next he would insist that he was The Hulk. He was also a runner, and most of the teachers, secretaries and admins were wearing down. A RULE was made. Only real names. A few days later, this student went to the office to ask for something or other. The school secretary, who knew all about the RULE asked our fun loving student what his name was. He said Clifford. She said, “No, your real name.” He insisted it was Clifford.” She tried again, saying “you know the rule! What is your REAL name???” He started wailing “IT’S CLIFFORD!!!!” She tried again even as tears rolled down his face, “YOU ARE NOT A BIG RED DOG! WHAT IS YOUR REAL NAME HONEY???” and that was when another teacher walked by and said, “Oh! His name is Clifford.”

    • This is so going to be my son someday. He loves to run (does laps around the playground before playing on the equipment), and he is a different character every day(it used to be every five minutes!). He’s four now, and he’s getting better about being in “real name mode” (I had to install an imaginary button on his arm when he was two), but it’s exhausting keeping up with him.

      Especially when he changes character mid-play. “No, Mommy, I’m not Batman now! I’m Katerina Kitty Cat!” (from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) in this super exasperated tone. Because of course I should know that he’s switched characters without him needing to tell me.

      He goes to pre-k next year, and I hope his teachers have a lot of patience with him. I’m running out 😛

  9. Ahh… The toddler talking stage. My sweet little boy (currently 2.5) often shouts, “My ass!!” as he climbs into his little play house and, “Sit on bitch.” when sitting on the bench to put his shoes on. We’re working on those “H” and “N” sounds, but darn, are they tough!

  10. This was great. Thanks for the laugh. And by the way, your daughter looks so much like my pediatrician. When I first saw the top picture I first thought “how does Beth know Dr Quan?” 🙂

  11. I never this blog existed…….and Now I will proceed to read it all. Why? Because HILARITY! Tears running down my face. However, as a child, I was very verbal at an early age…….. and I used the word Bullshit not for my childhood idol (Clifford!) but for its ACTUAL use. I have a rare immunodeficiency and as a child of course spent an inordinate amount of time at hospitals. My mother assured me there are no needles………..only to have 4 zillion vials of blood drawn. To which I informed the entire hospital “BULLLSHITT!” “THIS IS BULLSHIT!” “NO NEEDLES BULLSHIT”. Apparently my mother became a champion sprinter as she raced to get us out of our very gossipy small town hospital.

  12. I read this story the other day when it first came out and laughed, but I gotta tell you that for some unknown reason I just read it again and I *still* laughed out loud, even though I already knew the punchline. Sign of a truly funny story, for sure. You have a gift, my friend. And we love Clifford in our house, too, but thank god he’s just called Clifford. 😉

  13. LOL! Our oldest son went through a period where I wasn’t sure he was really going to talk…and we added sign language to help him out. At one point, he wanted something in a package, and we prompted him in sign, and verbally, to “Open” it. And he replied in kind with “MEENO”. I repeated “open”, and he shot back with “meeno”. We said it faster, and he said “meeno” faster. Saying it slower produced “meeno” slowly from our little boy. All the while he looked at us as if we were morons, because he clearly was saying what we were saying! Duh!

    Kids! Gotta love ’em. Gotta tell stories on ’em!

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