In my day to day life, I spend a lot of time with the four to eight year old crowd. And I have to tell you, despite what you may think about gender differences, or good parenting, or what is proper dinner conversation – poop – and all things poop and fart related, are universally funny to this age bracket.
Joey, I recently learned, is no exception.
Poop was apparently recently added to his device. When I watch Joey use new words I monitor to see if he’s using them appropriately. Is he just selecting the word to see what it says, or does he know what it will say before he selects it? Is he able to use it correctly with conversation or to answer a question? Is it a word he likes because of how it sounds but not because of what it means?
When Joey used poop for the first time with me, I’m pretty sure he knew exactly what he was saying. It was in the midst of asking him to do talk about something else. He’d answered me – begrudgingly – and then he nonchalantly said “Poop.” and grinned, as all five year olds will do when they know they are putting their toe over the line to see what happens if you cross it.
Now, in my house, I have the rule that bathroom words can be used in the bathroom, so if you feel the need to scream “poop” at the top of your lungs, you’d better do it in the bathroom. (Unless we are at dinner, in which case then you can whisper it and we’d better not be able to hear it.) My kids can also find times to whisper inappropriate words like poop and fart at times when adults aren’t around. I’ve had lunch with my daughter at school. I know the horrors of first grade lunch and the jokes they find funny.
Joey doesn’t have the luxury of whispering the word ‘poop’ to a friend and then snickering devilishly while a teacher gives him the evil eye. Yet he clearly does find it funny, and wants to giggle about it on his level.
Often, we tend to teach children with disabilities the “proper manners and social expectations of an elite society none of us actually engage in. We fail to let them have those moments of age appropriate behavior with peers.
It’s a hard balance to find because, of course, we don’t want to tell kids it’s OK to say poop and fart at random times. We don’t want them saying “poop” in church. But we also want them to know it’s OK to laugh (at appropriate times) at things they find funny.
My current solution? I’m not going to engage Joey in poop jokes, but I did find a book about a dirty dog who gets ridiculously filthy – and eludes to poop. Hopefully, it provides a safe context to laugh and explore the silliness of the word – and an opportunity to discuss when it is OK and not OK to say poop.
*The other day Joey said “nasty hears funny” to me. I’m pretty sure he was saying that nasty sounds funny since he doesn’t have the word sounds on his device. Nasty does sound funny, especially when said in a child-like robot voice.