It all started with Benjamin, sometime last winter. One day, he brought home a fun new word from preschool: BOOTY.
Until that fateful day, booty had not been a standard word in our house. In fact, the rump isn’t something we discuss overly much. “Move your buns,” someone might say. Or “Sit on your bum! It’s dangerous to stand in the tub.”
This is how it all started: Benjamin, a born dancer, goes through phases where he loves to get his groove on. During other periods, you can’t get him to dance AT ALL, not so much as a stray head bob, or even a finger snap. But recently, he was dancing all the time to the Fresh Beat Band (a kids’ TV show, for those of you not subjected to such things). It’s a little irritating, sure, but it allowed me to make dinner in peace. I’d put it on and he and Ellie would dance and dance, and that part was fun to watch, indeed, in large part because Ellie’s dancing is reminiscent of an injured Clydesdale on heavy narcotics.
So one day they’re dancing, and Benjamin says, “Mama, look at my booty! I’m doin’ the booty dance!” Ellie starts mimicking him, saying, “Booty, Mama, booty! Shakin’ booty! BOOTY BUTT!” Benjamin starts laughing at her, repeating, “Booty butt! Booty butt! I’m shakin’ my boooooty butt!” Soon they’re laughing so hard that they’ve collapsed on the floor, swept away by the kind of hysterics in which you can’t catch your breath, and your stomach muscles get all prickly and weak forcing you to roll on the floor and flail your limbs. (We should all do that more often, no?)
And then, because it was such a funny little scene, I made a big mistake: I laughed too.
Ellie loves nothing more than to make someone laugh. If you laugh at her for something she does or says, you can be sure that she will repeat it ad nauseam. Even at 2 1/2, she understands that if she’s going to continue to make someone laugh over the same thing, she needs to add a new twist every so often to make it novel.
The first thing she did was to start saying, “Oh no! I hurt my booty butt!” when she fell down.
When the laughs stopped coming for that, she changed it up. “Mama! I hurt my booty butt! And my booty knee. And look! My booty toe.”
Then: “I ate my booty dinner.”
“Read me this booty book?”
“Good night, Booty Mama!”
*sigh* All I could do was hope that particular nickname didn’t catch on.
Eventually, when the use of the word moved from occasional and funny to constant and irritating, we banned the use of it altogether. Anyone who said booty got an instant time out. It worked for a few days, maybe even a week. We were booty-free for some reasonable time period…and then suddenly it was back. And because it was unexpected when she finally did say it, I LAUGHED again. Because I am essentially immature and lacking in self-control.
In the end, we just gave in and now we all say it. It’s become something of a family joke, and as usually happens when you take the stigma away from something, it’s slowly fading away. “Do you want some booty soup?” I might ask, and she’ll reply, “Mama, it not booty soup. It just SOUP.”
Music to my booty ears.
I’m quite sure it’s not entirely over, though, especially when she finds a new audience. School, for example. I can just hear the conversation at our first teacher conference. “Elise is very bright and awfully funny, but…I have some concerns.”
And I’ll just nod sympathetically and say, “I already know what you’re going to say, but try not to worry about it, Mrs. Booty Butt. It’s just a booty phase. Any other relevant concerns, Booty Mama?”