“The trouble with the family is that children grow out of childhood but parents never grow out of parenthood.” Anonymous
One day, many years ago, my son and I came back to our apartment from his babysitter’s after work. He was about a year and a half years old: an active, lovely, lively, non-verbal kind of guy.
I put him down on the kitchen floor with a few toys and proceeded to make myself lunch. When one of his building block towers fell over he let out this sigh and said “shit” (but pronounce sheet). I looked over at him baffled at what I’d just heard. Even though he loved to sing and hum, his vocabulary was not extensive. His English vocabulary was non-existent. Lovely, his first English word was shit.
Over the next ten minutes, no matter what occurred in his playing session he would let out this sigh and then say, “shit” with the nonchalance of an old sailor.
He obviously picked up this expression from his babysitter; who was known to react with the occasional swearword over proverbial and literal spilt-milk situations. It is a common practice for Germans to use the English word shit instead of the German word, Scheisse. They pronounce shit as sheet and it is suppose to be a more harmless swearword than Scheisse. Why this is so has always remained a puzzle to me.
Since my son and I were due to fly over to Grenada in two-week’s time to visit his grandparents, I wondered how they would react to a grandson whose only English word was shit. So, ever so gently, I explained to my son that it might be better to use the word darn or even, darn shoot, when his building block towers fell down or he bumped into some furniture.
The next days were wrought with subtle confrontations: my son saying, “shit” in response to practically everything happening to him, and my patient efforts to get him to use darn or darn shoot instead. I realised the absolute futility of this venture when Julien started saying darn shit after I gently reprimanded him for the hundredth time.
Desperate, I called the babysitter and explained to her my predicament. Shit is just shit in Grenada and grandparents are not used to hearing such words coming from a one-year-old’s mouth. We came up with a solution. The babysitter started saying darn and darn shoot that week. This had an astonishingly quick result. My son instantly stopped saying “shit” and changed over to darn shoot. What do you know!