So there I am, waiting to be offered lemonade or something delicious, when Joey comes flying up the basement stairs and into the kitchen screaming, "Noah said the F word! Noah said the F word!"
There is no question that this is probably true. There is also a good possibility Noah learned it from his mother, who may, from time to time, blurt this word out during frenzied family moments.
Still, "fart" is considered a bad word in my house and sometimes so is "fun," so I feel the need to clarify.
"Joey, which F word?"
"Oh, man. THE F word, Mom. The baddest one. You know, fuuuuuuuuu--"
"Okay, okay," I say hastily, getting up. Clearly, Noah isn't going to be voluntarily speaking up on this one.
I go down the stairs, and stop Joey just before entering Jane's basement play area. "Sweetie, are you SURE you know what the F word is?" I ask, because, hey, maybe they never noticed it being said anywhere in the universe. Or our house.
"Mom, do you WANT me to say it IN FRONT OF YOU??" Joey asks, aghast.
"Well I don't want you to say it when I'm NOT around!" I say. I lean down and cup my hands around my ear for Joey to whisper.
He hisses with whispered enthusiasm, "FUCKIN."
I scrunch my eyes closed and grimace. "Okay, don't EVER EVER EVER say it again!!!"
I move over to where Noah sits happily playing with my nieces. He knows what is coming, and has a smirk the size of Texas on his face. He glances up at me casually.
"Noah, did you say a bad word?"
"Yup," he says. His tone says, "Whatever." His eyes say, "Do something about it."
All eyes are on me. My nieces, my nephew, and my two sons.
"Okay, then," I say calmly. I take Noah by the hand and lead him toward the stairs. "I guess you have a dirty mouth then. And dirty mouths get washed out with soap."
"Okay," says Noah cheerfully. We both know I am bluffing. I do NOT want to be on the 6 o'clock news for killing my child by soap. Being on the 6 o'clock news is one of my greatest fears. It's why I am neurotic, controlling, germophobic, and overprotective.
But he is walking along beside me with such boldness I know I am going to have to at least pretend to follow through on my threat. My sister looks up from the kitchen sink where she is starting to prepare dinner. She has heard it all and is trying not to laugh.
"Noah," I say, leading him to the bathroom even though I have no idea what I'll do when I get there, "saying bad words is just not allowed. And you said a very, VERY bad one. We just don't do that, and I have to punish you." Just say sorry! I say mentally.
"Okay," he says, like I just asked if he wanted ice cream or a balloon.
I sigh, and try to hide my nerves. We stand in Jane's bathroom, a wide variety of soaps before us because she, too, is a germophobe.
I pick up a dispenser shaped like a Jack-o-Lantern. May as well be festive about it.
I turn to Noah. He smiles, and opens his mouth wide.
"Jaaane?" I call, holding the Jack-o-Lantern aloft. Stalling.
She appears at the door. She gestures to the sink, indicating I should water the soap down and go ahead with it. "I've done it," she mouths. "He'll be FINE."
I take a deep breath, and pump some soap on my hands. Noah is still open-mouthed, daring me. I am cringing inside, knowing how horrible this will be for him. I picture Ralphie from A Christmas Story, blinded and pathetic in his own traumatized fantasy. I turn the sink on, and water down the foam on my fingers, and then quickly turn and put it on Noah's extended tongue.
"Mmmmmmmmm," he says emphatically, and rubs his tummy. Then he runs off to play.