The Puppy Dog and the Bad Word
Our neighborhood has a lot of quiet residential streets where we can ride our bicycles. Last weekend I went out with my sons in their little pull behind trailer. Riding in the trailer can lull my babies to sleep for a much needed nap. The whole trailer apparatus, complete with sons, weighs around 70 lbs so my humble fitness goals can be met even though there are no steep hills on which to train.
Coasting down a slight incline that I now consider a hill, at the narrowest point on our route, I encountered a car approaching from the opposite direction. The car was moving slowly, seemed to be slowing down more and more, and also drifting left of center. As we drew nearer I saw that it was an older model fancy-car (like a Lincoln or Cadillac) with a lot of dents and dings on the front. I started to wonder if the driver had poor vision or poor reflexes and also if he was able to see me. I moved off the road and stopped to allow him to pass. Immediately I realized he was drifting left to swing wide into his driveway.
Coming out to greet the driver was a cute black and white dog that looked like some kind of bull dog, about knee high. It noticed us and started barking. Cute dog or not, I was unnerved to see that it was rushing toward my ankle and also taking interest in my pull behind trailer where my children were riding at about eye-level with him. They were unnerved too. For a split second I wasn’t sure if I was going to have time to ride away or if I should try to defend us from this onslaught by kicking and yelling.
The driver of the car now proved himself to have excellent vision and reflexes, and also to be a man of chivalry, as he leaped from the car. He had seen my plight with the small fearful children and the terrifying pup and was moved to action.
“Get the f**k back in the yard!” He shouted at the dog, with very clear enunciation, swatting at it, and then turned to apologize kindly to me for its behavior.
I thanked him for chasing away the dog and got back in the saddle. One son was crying from his fright and the other one was repeating over and over “F**k. F**k. F**k. F**k. Puppy. F**k. Puppy. F**k. Puppy” as he sorted out the scene he had just witnessed.
[I should say here that we recently moved from a not-so-nice apartment complex where I often cringed at the vocabulary of passersby. I was afraid my kids would learn these words and I was happy when we moved away from all that. Oh, the irony.]
I pedaled on for about a minute or two before I stopped to speak to my sons about the incident. Safely around the corner on the next block I lifted my fearful son out of the trailer and gave him a hug and told him everything was alright. Then I spoke to the other son. The one with the new word… that he was still practicing.
To me it is unusual to hear a bad word spoken without animosity and in a sweet childish voice. The incongruity made me smile, but I wasn’t sure how to respond. I thought my son might not understand that some words are better left unsaid. Of course I didn’t want to try to forbid the word because that would lend it power. My two-year-olds are just now learning the power of speech and communication and I love seeing them begin to understand what words can do.
I fixed the situation, I think. I told him “That man was very angry with his dog for scaring us. That’s why he was yelling at it.” Then I corrected his pronunciation: “Truck! Puppy! Truck!” It wasn’t my intent to deceive him, but as his parent I chose to interpret the dialogue for him. I hope I did the right thing.
If you think about it, it makes much more sense to “Get the truck back in the yard!” and that’s the interpretation we’re going with.
“Truck… puppy…” he repeated a couple of times. With a better understanding of the exchange, he soon gave up the phrase and forgot (I hope) about the whole thing as we went along our way to the library.