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What Not to Do When Your Toddler Curses

Photograph by Getty Images

The first time I heard him say it, I was caught off guard. We were getting ready for our daily trip to the playground, and the twins were secured in the stroller while I took one last trip to the bathroom.

That's when a small voice rang out from the other room.

"Shut up with the fucking whining."

The voice was sweet and high-pitched ... and belonged to my 3-year-old son.

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Immediately, I rushed into the room, and my guy beamed up at me from the stroller.

"Shut up with the fucking whining," he repeated, challenging me with his signature angelic, wide-eyed look and a sly grin. It was as if he were taking a new bike out for a spin, just to see how it handled.

And oh, this ride was sweeeet.

There were plenty of things I could have done in that moment—ignored him, scolded him, explained that that's a bad word that only mommies and daddies can use when they are really, really fed up with a certain toddler's fucking whining. Instead, I did the worst possible thing: I laughed.

From that moment on, my son had a new catchphrase. He tried it out everywhere around the neighborhood—shocking old ladies, amusing caught-off-guard baristas and seriously confusing our mail carrier. It wasn't long before his twin sister joined in the fun.

"Shut up with the fucking whining!" she announced nonchalantly at the breakfast table one morning.

From that moment on, whenever a colorful expletive escaped either child's mouth, we did our best to remain stone-faced. This only caused our son to repeat the phrase over and over. Clearly dissatisfied that his A-material was no longer getting big laughs, my son was now employing the classic rules of comedy, making his delivery louder, faster, funnier.

We tried to put up an unfazed front. That is, until the preschool teacher gave me a (well-deserved) talking-to.

"It's probably something he picked up on the playground," she said, obviously trying to be kind, clearly knowing that this was not by any stretch of the imagination a phrase being bantered around the local sandbox.

I felt like a fifth-grader being called out for detention. At home that night, I vowed that we would curb our filthy language.

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We were doing great until my daughter finished a conversation on the toy phone that came with the play kitchen.

"Bye, bitch," she said with a breezy air upon hanging up.

I have absolutely no idea where she got that one.

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