Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From poopy to elbow in one day: Replacing the offensive with the merely annoying.

Around here, I'm celebrating any small parenting success I can get.

A few days ago, we achieved a minor improvement in our home life: I tricked my three-year-old into replacing poopy with elbow* as his go-to funny word. Ezekiel had been saying "poopy" all day, every day. It was his all-purpose joke, good for any occasion, guaranteed to produce results.

Ezekiel's philosophy of stand-up comedy went something like this:

In every sentence, replace one key word with the word "poopy." For example, instead of asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, say peanut butter and  . . . poopy. Hilarious, right? Alternatively, skip all the extra words and go for the essence of funny. Just say poopy repeatedly. Poopy, poopy, poopy. 

I had, on many occasions, very calmly and seriously told both children that we don't say that word unless we need to talk about using the bathroom. I had tried ignoring Ezekiel's gratuitous poopy jokes, knowing that what he most wanted from me was amusement or shock. I was a smart enough parent to know that if I mostly ignored his potty jokes, they would go away. But they didn't go away. As much as I tried to communicate boredom and matter-of-fact disapproval to my three-year-old, his older brother gave him more than enough attention to make up for it. Occasionally, Johnny would feign shocked indignation ("Mommy, Ezekiel just said poopy again!"), but most of the time his two-part response was hysterical laughter and delivery of his own poopy jokes.

Last week, I had the crazy idea that I would mimic their primitive brand of humor, but with a different, less offensive word. I tried elbow. As in, "Everyone, it's time to brush your elbows and go to bed," or, "Would you like some elbow in your oatmeal?"

I couldn't believe how well this worked. The boys found it so very, very funny. In my glee, I hammed it up, laughing loudly at any elbow joke they came up with on their own. They were thrilled. Mom was participating in their favorite kind of comedy routine! Elbow was the new poopy.

My boys have not uttered poopy, except as necessity requires, in nearly a week. They've said elbow, with great comic success, a hundred times. I'm praying that this will last, for a while at least. Is this new crop of jokes repetitive? Yes. Banal? Yes. At some point, I would like them to move beyond their primitive sense of humor. But for now, we've replaced the incessant offensive potty humor with something merely annoying. That's progress.

*Last night, it occurred to me that I should check an online Urban Slang dictionary in case elbow had a naughty slang meaning that I was not aware of. To my disappointment, I learned that it may be used to denote a pound of marijuana. Yikes! Had I known, I would have come up with a different poopy replacement. On a brighter note, I expect the elbow jokes to run their course long before my sons could get in serious trouble with their attempts at humor.