No Butts About It...It Was a Bum Rush
So the other day, I'm at the schoolyard around 3:00, waiting for the bell to ring. My younger daughter, who's four, spotted one of her friends on the tire swing, so we headed over to join them. The other mom is a good friend of mine, and so we were enjoying a nice chat while we took turns pushing the swing.
Now, let me interject here to explain about the tire swing. My kids love -- and I mean LOVE -- the tire swing. They like to be pushed fast and spinny, and their Dad is a pro at doing this. And, being a Dad, he sometimes gets a little jokey about it. On a park expedition some time ago, he started tickling the kids as they went by instead of pushing. They LOVED it. So it became a bit of a tradition. "Tickle my butt", they'd shout, and we'd oblige, eliciting a flurry of delighted giggles. Fun, right?
Now, I have to admit to having a bit of an issue with the word "butt", and I have in the past asked my children to say "bum" instead, because, well, "butt" just always sounded coarse and somehow ruder than "bum". I understand that the opposite perception exists in some circles (notably most of my American friends, who feel that the word "bum" is the rude version, and "butt" is cute and socially acceptable), however I still did try to break my own children of the "butt" habit. But over the course of the last year or so, I've begun to let it slide..."butt" just seems to have taken over, even in polite, Canadian society. You hear it everywhere; on TV, on the internet, in children's books, and in my kids' circle of friends. Heck, even my kids' grandparents are accepting the takeover of "butt" from our traditional "bum".
Okay, context established.
So...back to the playground. Friend and I are pushing our four-year olds on the tire swing and my sweetie blurts out "tickle my butt! Tickle my butt!" Smiling indulgently, I oblige, tickling her as she swings around and taking a turn tickling her little friend, too. The predictable storm of giggles and squeals ensues, and, I expect, kind and indulgent smiles from the moms. At least I was smiling indulgently at the little innocents.
Not so my friend. Without missing a beat, she asks my daughter, "is that any way for a lady to speak?" to which I respond, admittedly a bit defensively, "it is in our household." On the heels of what I intended as a conversation-stopping remark, she retorts, "you'd be tasting soap if you were in my house."
Wow. So where do you go from there?
Me, I felt a cold flush of anger mingled with shame, and said, "yeah, I don't love the word "butt"...I prefer "bum", but you know, it's everywhere. It's hard to get them to stop when everyone else says it..." No reaction. And then the bell rang, so the kids came off the swing and we headed over to pick up the big sisters. End of discussion.
The butt/bum in question...not all that much to get upset about, is there?
But for me, it wasn't the end of the issue. I felt insulted and even affronted. Okay, I get it...we all have different hot-button issues as parents, and the word "butt" (or was it even just the use of the word that set off my friend? Perhaps it was the act of a little girl inviting an adult - albeit her own mother - to tickle said part of her anatomy that was offensive?) is obviously high on my friend's list of unacceptable child behaviour. Fine. Fair enough. IF my daughter is in your home, AND I'm not there, and she says "butt", go ahead and tell her it's unacceptable. I'm cool with that.
But we were in a public space, and I was present, and obviously chose not to discipline my child. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if it really was THAT big of a deal that my friend couldn't just bite her tongue about it, wouldn't it have been better for her to have waited until the kids were gone and then said something like, "you know, that word is a really contentious issue for our family. I'm a stickler for not letting my kids use it so do you think you could discourage your children from using it around mine?" Even that would be taking it a bit far in my books: I mean, really, we're talking about "butt", not "ass" or "shit-hole" or something. But, to be fair, I would have apologized and agreed.
Instead, it was a passive-agressive comment aimed at my child, (don't we all hate when our kids are the targets of anger that would be more appropriately aimed at the responsible adult?) which came out as a veiled criticism of my parenting. I know I'm not a perfect mother. None of us are. I know I have faults as a parent, but I really, really don't think letting my kids say "butt" is one of them!
In any event, this is an otherwise great and dear friend, and I certainly won't let this little incident -- which I'm sure she has forgotten -- get in the way of our otherwise excellent relationship. We both know that we parent rather differently at times: she's more of a "traditional" parent who has washed at least one of her children's mouths out with soap in the past and who believes that the odd spanking, when properly administered, is a good parenting tool. I completely disagree on both counts, but on the other hand I know she disagrees completely with some of my more, shall we say, "hippy" parenting decisions. Until now, our differing philosophies have never caused conflict between us (likely because we don't often verbalize the disagreement to each other), so I'm going to chalk this one up to a slip of the tongue on her part -- an inadvertent lowering of the brain-mouth barrier -- and just leave it be.
Except for venting about it online, of course!
But I'm curious, so I'm going to ask...what's your opinion of the word "butt"? Take my mini-poll below and share your thoughts in the comment section below.