The X-Rated Three-Year-Old

My younger son Henry recently reported that his two-year-old son, who is just developing language skills, has been diagnosed with hearing problems brought on by frequent ear infections, just as Henry himself had at that age. I wasn't sure I should tell him to get ready to have an X-rated toddler. For at least a year there, I couldn't take my F-word-spouting child into polite company.

Such were Henry's speech problems that when he was three, he really couldn't pronounce many consonant blends (for example, tr, cl, th, etc.), or at least any of the important ones. Because "f" is a sound that kids can generally say easily, he tended to substitute it when he couldn't say the sound he needed, for example, "baf" for "bath," and, alas, "fuck" for "truck."

Unfortunately, Henry was also at a stage where vehicles of all varieties fascinated him. "Fuck!" he'd yell loudly, pointing whenever he saw one. I wanted to hold up a sign saying, "He really means 'truck'." There are, you should know, big fucks, red fucks, delivery fucks, and tractor-trailer fucks.

Envision standing at a construction site with your enthralled preschooler who suddenly points to a dump truck (and its driver) and excitedly shrieks, "Dumb fuck! Dumb fuck!" Many a sunny morning, I'd be out on the patio reading the paper while Henry was sitting in his sandbox with his vehicle collection happily playing "cars and fucks."

Also fascinated by elaborate time pieces, he called all such items by the generic "clock," which he pronounced "cock." For a while there, he was really into both cocks and fucks. But worst of all, when people would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, as people are wont to do with little kids, he happily informed them he wanted to be a "fuck diver" (truck driver). The visual is so... so... no, we won't even go there. It took tubes in his ears, five years of speech therapy, and lots of home practice before Henry's speech was completely normal.

Fortunately, speech and hearing deficits are diagnosed much earlier now than when Henry was a toddler so I'm hopeful history won't be repeated. Because in my sleep, I can still hear myself saying it: ter-uck, Henry, ter-uck.