It has begun. You have started speaking. At first it was just a trickle of “tata”, followed by a steady flow of “Mama” and “Papa”. And then, like a silent monk losing his religion, you broke the dam walls holding your vow of silence and drowned us in a deluge of verbal diarrhea.
Like an alien stranded on a planet far from home, you have realised that the only way to unravel the countless mysteries that surround you, is to adopt the native tongue.
How else were you going find out why you can’t drag a dog by its tail? How were you solve the puzzle of why toilet brushes aren’t for brushing your teeth and what the hell books are for, if not throwing on the floor?
First you mimicked. Soon you experimented. And then it was a short jump to realising that you can make us do pretty much anything if you open your mouth. And so the universe bowed to the emperor’s new words:
No, not the universe bowing. Just me being dismissed with the back of a tiny imperial hand and a vehement shake of the head, while his highness dotes on his loving mother. I digress.
Of course we were ecstatic at our little bundle of joy metamorphosing from tiny sentient poop bag to demanding drill-sergeant.
Except for you when you say “kak”. This is not a big deal, except it is. Let me be clear, to avoid any confusion. “Kak” is the same as “shit”. “Shit” is the same as “manure”. I’m allowed to say something is a bunch of “manure”, but I’m not allowed to say it’s “kak”. This makes no sense, but someone, somewhere, made a rule and you have to do what I tell you to. Because I said so. So there.
I have no idea where you learned this word. Your mother and I are such perfect, angelic creatures that such an atrociously naughty word would never, ever defile our lips. Although there was that one time when you were possessed of a tantrum and crying incessantly and arching your back and banging your feet and pounding your arms and flinging your body around and while I was trying to find the number for an exorcist I might have, maybe, possibly said: “Ag kak man, he’s being an asshole again!”
I might have, maybe, possibly said more, but like all traumatic events you block out the worst. Self-preservation and so forth…
But you didn’t block anything out. You took that short and sweet Afrikaans word and chewed on it for a bit. You broke it down through careful mastication, savoring how easy it rolled around in your mouth. And then, like a shiny new toy, you paraded around the house, the little emperor, proclaiming the whole world is kak.
Of course it’s frowned upon if it’s your boy who walks around the crèche with the mouth of a sailor, which is why I’m now trying to explain the hypocrisy of the world to a child that’s not quite two yet. You can’t say or do anything that I do, until you’re old enough to have a child. Then it’s your turn to tell that child that he is not allowed to do anything you’re doing.
And so it goes. But it also doesn’t help that your best efforts to pronounce fish, ends up with you walking around the aquarium shouting “Piss! Piss!” at the top of your lungs.
It’s not all shit and piss though. Your attempts at mastering the language is much like a cowboy trying to lasso a couple of bucking calves in a rodeo. Sometimes you catch them and hang on to them, and sometimes they slip away. But every time you triumph, your mother and I shout with glee and dance around like we just rediscovered ice-cream for the first time.
Of course it’s difficult to learn words in a house where you are spoken to in both English and Afrikaans, but one day you’ll be better off for it. And until then your father doesn’t really care whether you call a big bird that can’t fly an ostrich or a volstruis. They are both the same thing. A big bird that cannot fly.
I’ve also stopped trying to reason with you and tell you that kak is a naughty word. We try to be good parents. We watch our language, but it’s hard when toddlers come with a factory default designed to bring out the worst in you.
It’s just a word. Sometimes it means shit. But other times it’s just an easy sound children use to flex their verbal muscles. Soon, you’ll be old enough to know the difference and when that age arrives it will knock on the door with a backpack full of grownup problems.
So for now, I’ll take my beautiful son unwittingly calling everything manure. And anyone who has a problem with that kan maar gaan kak.