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Am I done with the language development series? Honest answer, I don’t know if I will be done with any of the series posts I do. As the children grow, I find something interesting to add. But this post has been in my mind for a long time now and potty humor is one of the important stages of language development and humor development in children, so I have to record it.

Some time around two, children realize that words are not just sounds that come out of us, but they are powerful tools. They realize that what they say, and at times what they don’t say, can affect the environment around them. You hear your child using the word NO a gazillion times? That is the indicator that the child has made this connection in her brain.

Some time around four, at least that is what some books say, but I started noticing this phenomenon in our household when Chula was 3 years, may be because of the mixed age school setting….where was I? Yes, some time around four, children notice that some words cause unusual behavior in others. These are called impact words. A child says these words and the environment does not respond, but it reacts. The young child senses the unrest and unease these words cause. Even if she gets the literal meaning, she has no clue why in the world the adults are making such a big deal of fuss about it. Some example of impact words are poo-poo, pee-pee, other potty related words, words that signify private body parts, words related to death and violence etc.

3 year old Chula used to say poo-poo or pee-pee and she would burst in a fit of giggles. This was the girl who still couldn’t differentiate between a good smell and a disgusting smell. So she must be clearly copying the older kids at school. By four years and a few months, she totally got the concept of disgusting/offensive/unpleasant, so I was hoping that she would outgrow this phase by 4.5 years or so.

But I did not take in to account Mieja, who is 18 months younger to Chula. When Chula entered this phase, Mieja was 1.5. She echoed her sister and giggled. She being the clown that she is purposefully repeated potty words to get her older sister to giggle. Now Chula who is supposed to have outgrown this phase, is still locked down to this phase because Mieja is smack in the middle of that phase. The girls feed off of each other and there is perpetual giggling going on.

I did what is sensible. I was mildly amused at first and ignored it later. I do not want to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but if your children sat in a restaurant and sang a top pitch chorus, to the tune of Old McDonald had a farm

“Maran thatha poo-poo paar,
pee-pee, poo-poo-pee.
Avar pannayil yirukkum pasuvinai paar
pee-pee, poo-poo-pee.
Ange poo-poo, yinge pee-pee…”

Won’t you be embarrassed? We are talking about the Saravana Bhanvan in the Bay Area and almost every one knows Tamil.

(The poem roughly translates to, “Look at Maran grandpa’s poo-poo, look at the cow in his farm, look at the poo-poo, there is poop there and pee here….” Now, I would like to say that we do not know or have a Maran grandpa. He is a fictitious character and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. In their Tamil school, to inspire the children they have a set of Tamil rhymes to the tune of catchy English rhymes. And yes the rhyme has affected them deeply.)

So ground rule#1 was quickly concocted by the parents and was thrown out, ‘No potty talk at the dining table’, which was closely followed by rule#2 ‘No potty talk in front of company’. Now, as a parent, it is a tough job to set limits and ground rules. Because one must not over react and make a rule of everything, then your child will not follow any rule. Or if you try ignoring everything, then once again you will be faced with the scenario of your child not following any rule. So one has to make rules only when you know that the rule will fly and you will never know if a rule will fly unless you make a rule of it. Complicated stuff, I say! Potty talk = offensive talk = socially unacceptable being purely an adult concept, is not very successful at home, I have to admit. So currently, the adults are the only ones who follow it at home.

One bright sunny day, Chula very properly told me, ‘Amma, I understand that poo-poo and pee-pee talk upsets you. So Mieja and me will not do that any more.’ I was in seventh heaven, naturally, not because potty talk was abandoned, but because of the sincerity with which she approached me and the maturity she portrayed, but I was duly grounded when she finished her statement with, “We have a new word. FART.” And ran off singing, ‘FART, FART, FART, FART, FART, F, F….’ of course to the tune of A,B,C,D,E,F,G….

Mieja: Amma, AG says they call it gusu in their house.
{Yes, there is a whole army of tomorrow’s good citizens out there discussing such important stuff.}
Chula: R says gas. Gas is a English word Mieja. What language is gusu?
Mieja: Well, AG speaks Tamil. So gusu must be Tamil.
Chula: Really amma? {She stops mid sentence, because she instantly recognizes the look on my face. So turns and whispers to her sister}, We will ask our Tamil teachers in Tamil school.
Mieja: Yes, teachers know everything. We can ask M what it is in Spanish and J what it is in Chinese.

Mieja even made observations like, ‘When children make gas we make a sound ‘pa-da-pa-da’ and we all laugh. Then we say ‘excuse me’. When adults do it, we can’t hear it, but we can smell it. They do not say excuse me.’

So unless you are prepared to face the question,‘So….. how do you say fart in your language?’ avoid our house for the next few years.

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