In our house, we’ve developed a little nightly tradition: the Made-Up Story. It’s hardly the most revolutionary or unique idea, although in the Jackson family the story is always about Little Mouse and his escapades with the dastardly Colin the Cat. I can’t remember quite when this started, or why the cat is called Colin – but anyway, it’s now become a happy part of our kids’ bedtime routine.
Tonight, while settling my four-year-old, I had one of those many lost-in-translation moments that occasionally occur with children. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there countless times before, no doubt: you say one thing; they hear it as another, and an entirely new phrase is then formed. The context on this particular occasion is that we’d had a fairly awful teatime, trying to eat together harmoniously as a family but ending up having to deal with a series of delightful comments along the lines of “I hate this food” (before he’d even tried it) and “give me my pudding NOW”. Nice.
So, to calm things down at the end of the day, I injected some added humour into the nightly story (it’s always hilarious, obviously, but on this occasion it was extra-funny). Little Mouse described Colin, not unfairly, as “Lanky Pants”. That got my 4-year-old laughing his little head off. By contrast, what happened next made me panic about what he might share during Carpet Time at school tomorrow.
“Dad! That’s SO funny! Wanky pants!”
Oh good grief. Did he really just say that? “No, LANKY Pants, with a ‘luh’ sound.”
“Yeah…WANKY Pants! Little Mouse said he was Wanky Pants because he stole his shoe! Wanky Pants!”
“Little Mouse called him Wanky Pants!”
Please don’t let him say this at school tomorrow. PLEASE. “He called him Lanky Pants. It means he’s tall. Lanky means tall. Not…er…it’s LANKY PANTS.”
And so it went on.
I’m never entirely sure what to do in those situations. Making a scene out of it surely only encourages a mischievous 4-year-old to shout it from the rooftops – and I’m not sure the neighbours would appreciate that.
Ultimately, it’s all very innocent at this age. There’s no need to worry about the occasional misheard word that makes Little Mouse sound a lot cruder than he actually is. What concerns me far more is what my kids will be saying once they reach secondary school. A work colleague of mine was recently confronted with the following comment from their daughter after school: “Mum…? Is c**t a rude word?” In that light, Wanky Pants could only be described as a term of endearment.