I was in a library with Sophia, my friend Paula*, and her three boys.
“Tell Paula your new joke,” I goaded Sophie.
Sophie smiled, and with a twinkle in her eye, said, “Knock knock,”
“Who’s there?” asked Paula in a delighted voice--just one of the reasons she’s a fabulous preschool teacher.
“Centipede who?” Asked the unsuspecting Paula.
“CENITPEDE ON THE CHRISTMAS TREE!” Sophie shouted, euphorically.
“Remember, we’re in the library,” I reminded her. “Quiet voice, please.”
Paula’s jaw was hanging open. “Melissa!” she said, scolding me, “that is NOT funny.” I was surprised by her reaction, and, a little bit embarrassed. Was the joke that bad? Should I not be teaching Sophie toilet humor?
According to Paula, no. She explained that once her boys got going, there was no stopping them. It was inappropriate. And she didn’t want them taking it to school.
Okay. Fair enough. (But I thought it was funny.)
I know a lot of people are bothered by the toilet humor…parents, teachers, people in restaurants who suffer the misfortune of sitting too close to our table. And granted, it can be grating to hear your three-year-old say “poopy toilet butt” thirty times in a row. But, as far as I can see, it seems to be a universal developmental phase, inklings of the understanding that poop is private and something that shouldn’t be talked about in polite company. As with all things made taboo, the fact that it is forbidden gives rise to the compulsion to shout “stinky tushie” from the rooftops, or, at least the table tops.
Let’s face it. There’s just something about poop. It’s got that je ne sais quoi. Today, at the farmer’s market, two alpacas, freshly shorn, were penned next to several tables laden with alpaca wool products. One sat neatly, his front legs curled under him. The other stood ruminating a mouthful of hay. They stared placidly, with soft brown eyes, at the urchins who stared back from the other side of the fence, when suddenly, the one that was standing squeezed out a fistful of alpaca pellets.
“Look, this one is POOPING!” one kid shouted pointing at the alpaca’s rear end.
“It’s shooting out his butt!” another noted with glee.
“Mommy! Do you see the poop?” Sophie asked me. As if I could miss it with all this excitement.
“Never fails to get a laugh,” noted one parent.
“Endless entertainment,” another agreed.
“Everybody does it,” I said casually to Sophie, “What goes in, must come out.” I have a sneaking suspicion that reacting to toilet talk is the thing that encourages more toilet talk. In fact, I like to go in the other direction. I actually initiate it. I’ll sneak up on Sophie and say in her ear, “Guess what?”
“What?” Sophie asks.
“Chicken butt!” I shout, laughing and running away. I was taught this excellent joke by Jan, the then-five year-old son of my friend Emily.
“Chicken butt,” Sophie snickers. And then she moves on.
*Not her real name.