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My precious little agnostic atheist heathen

Yesterday Jon and I got called in for a Parent and Teacher Conference. For Persistence. Age 3.

The main point of the conference was to say we have a really bright, creative, independent, social, and cute kid.

But then the teacher---who, by the way, is an incredible teacher---got around to what she really needed to talk to us about.

That would be the incident between Persistence and the Priest.

As you may or may not know, we've been lucky to send our kids to Catholic preschool. It's a wonderful, small, sweet, connected, caring, loving, welcoming church. The attached preschool is the same. (If you knew me, you'd know what a serious whiplash-like change in opinion this is for me. In Texas I learned to be very, very afraid of anything claiming to be remotely connected to religion. The mere mention of "God" or "Jesus" sent chills down my spine. And I am someone who always felt very connected to church, believed, had faith, so forth. I hesitate to even use the word religious because, well, it sort of had taken on the tone of a Republican saying liberal, in my mind. The Catholic Church has been a welcome open-minded relief.)

Let me give a little back story here (wavy lines wavy lines wavy lines...)...

When we moved here from Massachusetts we ran into a major communication problem. Texas uses the same words and language as Massachusetts but they mean something else entirely.

For example:
In Massachusetts, "bless you" is rarely used and means "sorry you sneezed."

In Texas, "bless you" is frequently used and means either (a) I hope God takes as much pity on you as I do or (b) SUCKER! or alternatively LOSER! I have found that when people mean well, they don't offer the blessing directly from them, they offer it instead directly from God, as in "May God bless you."

In Massachusetts, "Montessori preschool" means a school that emphasizes a child's self-directed learning with loving guidance but largely observation from the "teacher." You can count on a classroom that stresses adapting the child's learning environment to her developmental level, and using physical activity to help the child absorb academic concepts and practical skills. We are very convinced by the Montessori approach to education. In fact, we set up the children's playroom with Montessori principles in mind. I did the same, believe it or not, in grown-up rooms the children use, such as the kitchen, too.

In Texas, "Montessori preschool" means academically severe bootcamp for tots.

You see the language problem here?

So you can understand why---when we moved here---we enrolled Patience in a nearby Montessori preschool when they fed us all the right words, even if they meant them differently. You can also understand why we immediately unenrolled her (two months later) when the mistakes dawned us, largely through Patience having hysterics every single day.

My new neighbor---now a best friend, and someone who happens, by coincidence, to be from Massachusetts, versus just lived there for a while like we did---dragged me to her kids' preschool. She said the magic words, "Really laid back...very loving and caring teachers...think it's a good fit for you...we just hang out...oh yeah and the moms socialize, a lot..."

I signed up pronto and found a great school that was just what we needed: an open learning opportunity for kids, with emphasis on love and care and socializing. The director's daughter became our favorite babysitter, I joined the mom's group, made neat friends, had fun on the playground three days a week and life was good.

Most importantly, my kids loved it there. Loved. It.

This is all why the opinion of the school and this marvelous teacher matter to us. Persistence, of course, means more to us than anything other than her sister.

That's why we were so distressed to hear of The Incident.

If you've been reading my blog, you've gotten the idea that Persistence is a fairly gregarious, attention-hound with a huge streak of smart and creative. Excellent qualities in a child. Unless you are her parent. Or teacher. Or, apparently, her priest.

I'm stalling. Look at this. I'm rambling, offering excuses, rationalization, even backstories for goodness' sake.

Okay. Deep breath. Here's what happened.

In the kids' interview, I admitted my children have a problem with potty mouth, or as the school calls it, inappropriate potty humor. We work on it, I swear (now...defensive).

Apparently, Persistence has discovered two new superpowers: the power of Class Clown and the power of potty humor, inappropriately.

She has apparently employed these powers inappropriately during mass and prayer, with a possible calling of the priest a "pooty butt head."

It is not appreciated, as I'm sure you can understand, to have a three year old holler out "poop" and "pooty butt head" and "GOD HAS POOP" and whatever else her vibrant mind can manufacture during mass and prayers. And let me assure you: she has a neon technicolor vibrant mind.

It's bad enough on its own, but it's a virus that manifests in two ways: mimicry and laughter.

Jon and I had two reactions: horror and hysterics.

I mean, it's wrong, we know it's wrong, oh it is so wrong.

But we couldn't help it: it's FUNNY!

We laughed. We giggled all the way home. We laughed at random points during the day when it popped into our heads, usually when Persistence reminded us about it by, you know, sharing what I've begun calling the Fortune Cookie Addition. This is whereby you take a regular thing you'd normally say and add "butt" or potty words at the end.

For example:

Meal-time prayer: God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our poop. Amen. (Said by persistence, unprompted, at lunch.)

You tell would not laugh? Not even a little? I mean, it even fits in, slightly rhyming.

We hid our laughter. We buried our faces. We ran into other rooms.

So she does this at school. It is not well-favored, looked upon kindly (albeit indulgently and with understanding), or appreciated.

We need to stop it.

How does one stop a runaway freight train, anyway?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Melissa said…
Sorry. I am of no help here whatsoever. It's funny, and you just can't mess with that.

I can however share a story about my best friend's kid....

It was "f" day in kindergarten. Guess what two words he volunteered when asked "What starts with "f"?"
Fart and the f-bomb. It was the first of many phone calls she got that year....
I'm totally laughing here...I'd be useless to you. She really is precious, your little girl!

Heidi :)
Gwen said…
OMG! Maybe the priest should get a sense of humor? lol

And you know, really, some days you should thank god for your poop.

Oh, it was advice you wanted? Huh. Nope. Got nothing. Lucy is a hellion at home, loves to put potty humor into everything, but apparently, at school, she is jesus christ in the flesh. Or so says her teacher who may be more charmed by her than she should be.
Sunshine said…
OMG, this is funny. Did you read my mooning story about Zach the other day?

Anyway, three of my four employ full force potty humor, but NOBODY has made a correlation between God and poop, that is a new one!!
Magpie said…
You made my morning.

Funny that "bless you" thing - mostly in NY it's the sneeze reaction, but once in a while someone uses it in that deprecating Texas way.

My boss claims to have been thrown out of yeshiva at age 6 or 7 for calling the rabbi a "f*ck".
Anonymous said…
I don't think I could make it in Texas, especially coming from MA. We laugh at our kid's potty jokes, and that is the worse thing you can do because they then think it is OK. But we do try to put on our stern serious parent face and say that those are inappropriate things to say. And hopefully, they will grow out of it (I'm still working on it for the 7-year-old)...
Robert said…
My wife and I often discuss the language differences between the West and the South. Southerners hate saying no to people, for instance, so the have a terrible habit of suggesting they will some day do something with you, but what they mean is that some day will never come. There are also plenty around here who use double-negatives constantly, which makes it difficult to teach your child not to use them when people in positions of authority use them constantly. Throw in the super-thick accents that make you feel like you're in a foreign country that just learned English in the last several generations, and it has been quite interesting to learn to communicate with some people down here. The irony of all of that? I grew up in Atlanta. I've just come to understand that Atlanta is NOT a Southern city. Moving to South Georgia, I realized how true that was.

Anyway, kids will be kids. The potty humor stuff would be funny, but it is probably best to help her learn that there are times when such things need to be withheld. I probably would have had to avoid laughing, though.
Julie Pippert said…
Sunshine, I did, your kids (your kid stories) regularly crack me up. I mean that in a good way. Your kids are wicked cute and awesome.

Gwen and Sunshine...OMG it's TOTALLY MY FAULT. I made the correlation between God and poop. We have experienced some poop issues and I may have inadvertently thoughtlessly thanked God for Miralax and its success. Holy crap. (OMG ALSO MY FAULT... HOLY CRAP...associating poop and religion AGAIN!)

Well well well it seems the apples do not fall far from the tree.

Angela, I say if we can make it here we can make it anywhere. :)

Melissa, did he say "f-bomb" or actually use the f-bomb? Either way, creative employment of actual f words!

Also, I totally helped Patience (selfishly) recover "damage" from "damn it" the other day. That's GOOD PARENTING people!

Another Persistence funny: she says YOUS GUYS! instead of ya'll (which we don't use, and rarely if ever hear around here) which I blame on the PA cousins, perhaps unfairly.

Magpie, from your boss stories I am going to assume he was being deliberate in his use of that word. ;)

Heidi, glad to give you a giggle.

Robert, recently a really nice guy told me and my husband it'd be cool to get together. I ABSOLUTELY did not believe him, assumed he meant it in that "this was nice, have a good life" sort of Southern way. I thought that until he followed up two more times and told us he was from NEW YORK. Then and only then did I believe him.

My brief time in Atlanta, it seemed pretty Southern to me and had a pretty thick accent I thought. I picked it up. The guy I was best friend with was at school in NYC at the time and we talked nearly daily. He was vastly amused by my assumed accent.

I'm trying to help her see okay and not okay times and so are the teachers.

The thing about Persistence is that she's a "better to beg forgiveness than ask permission sort" and she's so charming about it.

Anonymous said…
Well at least potty mouth is one mess you won't have to clean off the floor :-) I love stories about your girls. I just can't get enough of how differently they relate to the world.
Anonymous said…
OMG, did I need this story today! So funny!

"The thing about Persistence is that she's a "better to beg forgiveness than ask permission sort" and she's so charming about it." I used to be the rule following sort and now have adopted Persistence's MO instead, because it is so much more effective!
Anonymous said…
I think you're in for the duration. Anything you do or say about it will just reinforce it.

Potty mouth passed over Fiona, so now her horrified reactions to Lorenzo's gleeful potty (or more often, mucus) references are perfectly scripted.

Superpowers. Bwahhahah.
painted maypole said…
i have no poopy idea. MQ has gratefully missed the potty mouth thing.
Kat said…
I think she is completely right. We SHOULD thank God for our poop! Can you imagine if you didn't poop? Ouch! From now on I will thank God for my poop. Just maybe not at the dinner table.
Good luck on this one. I have zero advice. ;)
Anonymous said…
LOL! Funny is as funny does.

Having survived 3 kids into preteen and adulthood, I can tell you they grow out of it.
thordora said…

This will be our child, but the word won't be poopy.
Mad said…
I particularly loved your language comparisons of Mass and Texas. Can you sell the Priest on the idea that in Mass. pooty means divinity?

Worth a shot.

Yesterday in the grocery store, Miss M pulled up her shirt thus exposing the great white whale and shouted at the top of her lungs for, oh, about 15 minutes, "NUDIE ON THE LAMB! NUDIE ON THE LAMB!" Oy.
atypical said…
I haven't read any of the other comments yet, but I had to tell you that I am not going to be much good on the advice side of the coin. We attend a charismatic church, and my youngest son used to sit under the table and hiss while saying, "God doesn't exist!" When they tried to get him to join in group activities. I could just see him surrounded by a circle of people convinced he needed his demons exorcised (when I knew he was really just going for the biggest reaction possible).

Anyway, um, there's always duct tape.


this said it couldn't be processed, so if it posts twice, I am sorry
You wrote this just to make me smile, didn't you?

Is it ok with you if I ask her to guest-blog at my place?
Julie Pippert said…

And then I would have to start paying for my amusement. I think not. ;)


Mad, You know, this priest...English is not his first language.

Anyway, I am not entirely sure he grasped what she said...only that she interrupted him and caused mass hysteria (no pun intended).

Don't they just crack you up, kids?


Thordora, I just decided to thank my lucky stars it is ONLY poopy she relays and not my more colorful crap (again, no pun intended).


Authormom, I don't know. I know a few adults (present self not per se excluded) who just never quite got over it. What factors give hope that one grows out of it?


Kathryn, and you with boys!


PM, lucky duck. Be happy, very happy.


De, babe, from her POV? Oh yeah, superpowers. And yes, Pers does not distinguish attention. In her world, there is NO bad publicity.


Kim, you are not alone in coming to that conclusion LOL


Yolanda, like night and day. And hmm,not a mess to clean off the floor, true, just a harder mess to clean LOL.
Space Mom said…
Should I tell you now that in Judaism, there is a prayer for a successful bowel movement?

That Preist needs a sense of humor. For goodness sakes, it's a 3 year old! If you really want to make poop old shit, (heh) just go into the boring parts "yes, poop is what is left of the food we don't need from our bodies...if we don't poop, think about how yucky that would be" (of course, I did try that with my girls and then we had thoughts of people exploding because they couldn't poop!)
Karen Jensen said…
God has us, we has poop, therefore god has poop! It is a perfect syllogism! She would make St. Augustine proud.
Liv said…
Wow. That's pretty little for the potty mouth, huh? I wonder who she's listening to.

The priest may need a sense of humor, but it's really not nice for anyone to call someone including the words "pooty" or "butt."

I wonder what would happen if someone called P that?
dharmamama said…
Seth's prayer when it was his turn to pray before dinner: peepee poopoo firetruck Power Rangers house We figured it was a gratitude list, and let it go. (Prayers are personal things!) It was his prayer for a good year or more; he was 2 & 3. He was OK with it, we were OK with it. My Mom had already written us off as crazy irresponsible parents, so she looked shocked when she heard it, but didn't say a word.

I'd'a laughed, too.

Bless her little heart. ;)
Robert said…
I know Atlanta has some Southerners in it (it's the place where so many of them like to move when they get out of college), but it is not a very Southern city. You want a Southern city, check out Charlotte, which has rocking chairs in the airport (no joke).

I want to write a longer response to this, so I've decided to post it on my blog. Check for it in a little while.
Kyla said…
"GOD HAS POOP!" LMAO, for real. She is one funny kiddo.

If it was one of our kids, I'd be trying to fix it and Josh would be giggling behind my back. That's how we roll. (and then Y laugh hysterically, too)
Anonymous said…
Har! Sad to say, you may still have a poop-loving girl at age 6; we do. That's "poop" as a word, not "poop" as an object--we are at the point where she sternly admonishes us to NOT LOOK AT HER POOP! We oblige. Thankfully.

Anyway, P will learn that there are places where it's appropriate and places it's not. I like Spacemom's idea: make it boring.
Robert said…
Okay, Atlanta post is up. Also, I can completely empathize with the way you easily ignore someone saying "we should do" whatever because it is so meaningless to most Southerners. I spent the first year here with my wife
"translating" various phrases and conversations. We both have trouble with some of the Walmart employees here, I must say, but that has as much to do with thick accents and/or different language as confusing niceties.
flutter said…
Oh that is too funny!
SciFi Dad said…
Stopping a runaway freight train is difficult when you're not the driver of said train, so perhaps instead of stopping it, you can using track switching to control the path of its destruction.

Being educated in the (Ontario) Catholic system for 14 years, I have learned a thing or two about "in church/school" and "not in church/school" behaviour. I was young (probably as young as Persistence) when my parents started teaching me that certain actions were OK at home, but not at other places. Maybe you just need to draw a line for her? Make an analogy to something concrete: for example, she can watch Nick Jr. at home, but not at school, right? Well she can make poop jokes at home but not school too. Or, there are certain toys or activities that are school-only, so poop jokes are home-only.

Just some thoughts.
Robert said…
Excellent suggestion from ScifiDad. My mother lives nearby and keeps toys at her house for her grandchildren. We often deal with the "no, those are Grandma's toys. You have to leave them here" or "No, we don't take our toys to Grandma's house so we don't lose them". We certainly deal with "No, you can't take your doll/toy/book into the store/restaurant/whatever" so those are good ideas about separating where things are okay are not. We also have things to help our daughter stay quiet in church, and she knows she is supposed to only talk in whispers during the service there. You can pull it off.
we_be_toys said…
Awwww, poor kid! You know, maybe she has a true vocation for stand-up, and here they are, suppressing her innate talents. She can come hang out with me any time - I like her style!

I SO like your girls - they are obviously NOT prissy, and its very refreshing.
I'm laughing right now, reading this, because BOTH of our kids are into the potty humor right now. "Poop" and "fart" — to name a few — are frequently inserted into songs and conversation.

Anyway, I have no advice. But I would have reacted the same way you did — with laughter.
Anonymous said…
Aw, bless her. (I couldn't resist.) That phrase is used similarly here in the UK, too.

I, too, have found that "Montessori" can actually be a cover for a really bad preschool. It just depends upon the place and the school.

Now. How to stop your runaway train? You have two options -- make a big deal of it or ignore it.
Anonymous said…
Aw, bless her. (I couldn't resist.) That phrase is used similarly here in the UK, too.

I, too, have found that "Montessori" can actually be a cover for a really bad preschool. It just depends upon the place and the school.

Now. How to stop your runaway train? You have two options -- make a big deal of it or ignore it.
Annie said…
That gave me such a chuckle! I can just picture all the little shoulders going up and down in half muted giggles in the pew!

The 'Bless You' and the 'Montessori' language thing has to be a Southern issue - it's exactly the same here in Florida. There is no way I'd have my kids in Montessori here.
slow panic said…
i am laughing very hard and trying not to tell my nine year old, who is sitting here doing homework and would love this story. if i tell him he won't get any homework done.

and that would be different...... ok, maybe i'll just read the good parts to him.
Emily said…
Hmmm. I have no advice for you whatsoever. But, since it's your kid and not mine, THAT IS HILLARIOUS! I love her little neon technicolor mind.

She is individual and confident and happy and loves to make others laugh. Those are really amazing qualities to have. I hope the priest and the teachers can appreciate the grander aspects of her personality for what they are, and let the potty humor slide. She IS three, after all.
le35 said…
The attention thing is hard. If she's doing it for attention, then giving her attention for it either way may be the worst thing. One thing that has been working at my house when Jackie says things she shouldn't is when I say, "I can't understand you when you talk that way." And then I just repeat that until she starts talking. Or you can do what pne of my sisters does and tell her that if she wants to talk like that, but it's potty language, so she has to do it in the bathroom. I don't know that it will help with the outbursts during mass, but maybe curing it in other places will cure it in mass, too?
Jennifer S said…
Oh, I'm laughing. I'm afraid there's not much you can do other than explain when it's okay to use those words and when it's not. Then just sit back and wait for it to pass. (Yeah, pun intended.)

At our house, my daughter went through a "dumbass" phase (almost twice, but the 2nd one never gained traction). She was five at the time, and fortunately she never said it outside the house. Don't know where she learned the word. Okay, probably from me, talking to other drivers. Oops.
Robert said…
Kinda like my wife's friend wondering where her daughter learned to swear, but her comment came out something like "I don't know where the f--- she learned to say such s---"

Tape recording yourself can be very enlightening at times, when you wonder where your child learned certain language.

My Dad taught me never to swear (as a child) by agreeing to let me charge him a dollar if he swore in my presence, and he got to charge me a dollar if I swore. I made good money for a while.
ewe are here said…
I'm too busy laughing to help.
Robert said…
Julie, my apologies for having a brain fart and not connecting you were the Julie chatting on Melissa's live blog tonight.
That post made me giggle!
Christine said…


ok sorry.

my daughter never really had a potty mouth but my son is no delighting in the glee of singing songs with "poop" in them.

It will pass.


Running on empty
Terrible. Simply terrible.

But absolutely hysterical.

You can't change that kind of awesomeness. Give up now.

PS. God has poop.
PunditMom said…
Excellent meal-time prayer!
Lawyer Mama said…
It's just friggin hilarious!

Seriously, we have the same problem here. Hollis is obsessed with potty humor right now. It must be a 3 year old thing. He does it everywhere. In public, at preschool, at daycare, on an airplane perfectly timed to embarrass Mommy....

I have a hard time not laughing at the inappropriate stuff too. I mean, yeah, we should work on it. But we even watch stupid TV shows with potty humor and laugh. It *is* funny. Kids know that.

As we tell Hollis all the time, everybody poops. Even God and his preschool teacher.
Lawyer Mama said…
Oh yeah, Louisiana women have yet another meaning for "bless you." It means f--- you. I can't tell you how many times I heard "bless you" or "bless his heart" about some a-hole while growing up.

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