“Little kids are sponges.”
You hear it all the time, and it’s true. My son’s vocabulary increases every day, and most of what he’s learning he gets right from Mom and Dad, such as his first “curse” word, the relatively innocuous “dammit!” Needless to say, we’ve had to become a lot more careful about the words we use. It’s a bit of a pain.
But there’s a flip side to that coin. Sure, he parrots a lot of stuff we don’t even realize we’ve said around him, or don’t necessarily want him to be saying, but we can also train him to provide some entertainment. For example…
Sports: I’ve already begun indoctrinating the kid into being a fan of my favorite sports teams. He recognizes the Red Sox logo and he says “Go Dolphins!” on command. So far so good. We live in Duke territory now, so I’ll have to work extra hard to make sure he hates them, but they’re generally pretty hate-able so it shouldn’t be too much of a struggle.
Inappropriate TV: We watch a fair amount of TV, and most of it is not suitable for Detective Munch. But that doesn’t I can’t teach him some stuff from my favorite programs. I don’t have him saying “Science, bitch!” like Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad or “Winter is coming” from Game of Thrones or “Omar comin’!” from The Wire or “I’m coming!” from Sex and the City or anything like that. Not yet, anyway (the ultimate goal is to get him to say Senator Clay Davis’ immortal catchphrase).
Appropriate TV: He hasn’t actually seen The Simpsons yet, but he will, and likely before he’s even able to understand most of the best jokes. Until then I’m teaching him the safer quotes, like the immortal “d’oh!” or the Ned Flanders equivalent, because there’s just about nothing more adorable than hearing my son say, “Whoopsiedoodle!” after he drops something. I’m pretty sure I’d be okay with him knocking over my flat-screen HDTV so long as he punctuated it with a well-placed “whoopsiedoodle!” It’s that cute.
Superheroes: He already knows and can kind of hum the Superman theme song. He also loves waving back at Spider-man when I show him the intro to the old ’70s cartoon, and if you say “na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na” to him, he’ll respond with BATMAN! So we’re good here.
Music: We listen to a lot of music around here, and my son loves all kinds, from insipid kids’ tunes (“Yo Gabba Gabba”) to insipid tween tunes (“Call Me Maybe”) to my wife’s show tunes to the good stuff I play him. He’s partial to guitars and big beats, so he may one day be the reason for a rap/rock revival (I apologize in advance). One of his early favorites was Kanye’s “All of the Lights” and he still gets excited to hear it. He even sings the song’s title exactly the way Rihanna does in the chorus. He makes it his own personal soundtrack when he’s playing with the light switches in our house. Which is constantly.
Movies: I am a walking movie quote. Remember that TV show Dream On? wherein Brian Benben’s sexual encounters always reminded him of moments from TV shows he watched as a kid? That’s me, except replace the TV scenes with movie scenes and the sexual encounters with diaper changing. Seriously. Half of my conversations with my wife include a movie reference of one kind or another, most them she doesn’t know. Which probably explains why I sleep on the couch so often. I need an ally in the house, so I’m teaching my son some of my favorites. We’ve already got him saying John McClane’s sarcastic battle cry “Yippie kay-ay!”, minus the curse word at the end, but unfortunately I have to give my brother credit for teaching him that one.
But I take full credit for teaching him this:
FACT: If you approach my son and say “Lay em down and…” he will respond with “smack ’em, yack ’em!” I might put it on my resume, as it’s my crowning achievement.
At least until I teach him John Doe’s monologue from Se7en. Which will probably be after the divorce.