It’s Not All Mary Poppins

In which Mary discovers and unexpected thinness of skin

“Oh, my GOD!”

There was a time in my life when that phrase was offensive to me. It was taking the lord’s name in vain, invoking deity in a meaningless, frivolous way. Even though I no longer have that response, I am still far more likely to say, “Oh, good lord!” (Yes, I am aware those two are essentially identical, but the tweak in semantics works for me. Make of that what you will.)

“Oh! My! GOD!”

Though it has been known to drop from my lips, I generally avoid it for a few reasons: out of habit, out of respect for those whom it does offend, and because these days it’s so much the purview of adolescent girls — OMG! OMG!! OMGGGGG!!!!! — at their most shrieky and annoying.

So I have a pretty muted response to it, all in all. Except, I’ve just this moment discovered, when it is being broadcast from the mouths of babes.

Rory, at the front of the stroller, takes a deep breath.

“Oh. My. GOD!!” he declares, in tones of such rich satisfaction that the others are driven to echo. Grace and Jazz pick up the mantra, and now “Oh! My! GOD!!!” is bouncing around the stroller, from tot to tot, and across the road and up the street and round the city and through the province… “Oh. My. GOOoooooDDDD!”

I’m feeling a smidge self-conscious, is what I’m saying.

Rory takes a breath to start the next call-and-response. “Oh, My, G–” Before he can finish, I thrust a word into the air. “GOODNESS!” He picks it up obligingly.

“Oh, My, Goo’ness!” Grace and Jazz pick up the refrain, and I relax. Because, really. Four kids screeching irreverences up and down the street. Where did they learn that? people will wonder. Probably from that caregiver! people will assume. Why else would all those kids from different families be saying the same thing? Only stands to reason. That caregiver who looks so mild. Bet she’s just awful behind closed doors, screaming and yelling, and “oh-my-god-you-kids!”-ing.

And besides. It just tweaks those long-ago lessons. Adults can say that, doesn’t bother me at all. Little kids? It feels wrong, hell, it fells borderline offensive. Babies should not be saying this. I’m a little surprised by my response, frankly. Sunday School is more deeply ingrained in my psyche than I realized. (Train up a child, and all that. Seems I’m a case in point.) 😀

“Oh, my goo’ness!”


“Oh, my GOO’NESS!”

It’s kind of cute, really.

“Oh! My! GOD!!!”


So much for bait-and-switch. What we need is a whole different distractor. Conversation about the scenery is ineffective. Questions about their activities similarly so. How about…

“I like to eat, eat, eat…”

Grace LOVES this song! LOVES.IT.

“Appoos and ‘nanaaaaas!”

And the others join in, “I yike to eat, eat, eat, appools and ananas.”

And this one? It sticks.


July 27, 2011 - Posted by | Grace, Jazz, Rory, the things they say! | , , , ,


  1. And now I have the entire Raffi tape from my childhood stuck in my head. I know what we’ll be singing this afternoon!

    I have two full Raffi albums, and parts of others, on my iPod. All these years later, I still love his stuff.

    Comment by Samantha | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. I’m with you on this one! “Oh my goo’ness” is so much cuter…brings to mind images of Shirley Temple with all her sweet, cute curls and innocence. and no one is offended : )

    I’m amused that the instigating child is the only one from a church-going family. Those Anglicans… tsk, tsk, tsk… 😀

    Comment by Lynn | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  3. I totally understand. Growing up, I would have been in serious trouble if the lord’s name passed my lips in vain. (If my parents heard me now, they would be HORRIFIED at my language!). I didn’t realize how much I said “oh my god!” until I heard it from my daughter’s lips, at the age of 2. Suddenly it sounded like the most offensive thing possible!

    I know. Doesn’t it sound worse from a child?

    Oddly enough, my family was agnostic; none of the adults attended church. They sent we children to the little chapel around the corner, which had a large and lively (and highly evangelical) kids’ program — I think they figured it was something for the kids to do in a quiet village with little entertainment. At church, I was taught that swearing was a sin; at home I was taught it was a sign of a mental laziness. “If you need profanity to express strong feelings, you’re not using your mind.” Not that swearing never happened at home, but it wasn’t habitual, either. Was “Oh, my God” considered to be swearing at home? I honestly can’t remember. It was vulgar, though, which would have been enough to disallow children from using it!

    Comment by Tammy | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  4. I feel the same way. I don’t like to hear little kids say OMG and I not particularly religious.

    It brings up another topic: what other words don’t you let your little children use. At four, I don’t let Henry say stupid. I think its mean and lazy and its habit forming for when anything is hard, to just say its stupid and walk away. Obviously we don’t allow swearing either, but we do let him say fart and bum…words that were frowned on by my mum, when I was a little kid.

    What other words don’t you let your little ones say?

    We don’t say ‘stupid’, either, particularly when directed at another person. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the toddlers call an activity “stupid”, though my own children did when they were a bit older, and were always directed to more constructive responses to challenges!

    “Silly” is the acceptable alternative (for a person). I allow a certain amount of verbal vulgarity (pee, poo, stinkybum), with the explanation that these are okay only in the house, and not outside. (A fellow caregiver uses the concepts of private space, public space, and shared space with her somewhat older crew to explain how certain things can be okay in one place but not another.) Even then, if it gets too raucous, I pull the plug on the activity. “All right guys, you’re getting too silly,” but usually only because after a certain point the verbal slapstick ends up turning physical, and someone gets hurt!

    Comment by Tammy | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  5. We discourage our son from saying that too. We aren’t particularly religious, but also don’t want to give offense to those who are. We try to say silly things like “Oh my Gooses!”

    There are lots of things that we say that make me cringe coming from a child’s mouth. It certainly gives one perspective.

    Doesn’t it, though! Some of the things we say as adults would probably be best not uttered at all, and hearing a child parrot it certainly drives that point home! Others are genuinely all right for adults… but not for children.

    Comment by SarraJK | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  6. I dislike myself saying OMG – I don’t really mind it in other people but I started going to church eighteen months ago and I am trying to get out of the habit. Somehow I seem to have got an alternative habit of saying “Good GRIEF!” which sounds really odd to my own ears but seems to work!

    Because I’m careful not to swear around the children, I’ve developed a few alternate exclamations. “Good grief!” is one, as are “honest to pete!”, “hokey doodle!”, “goodness gracious!”, and, the silliest, “sac a dos! One of my caregiver friends says “Crackerjack!”, which we all love.

    The origins of “sac a dos”? You probably recognize it as French for “backpack”. When my daughter was ten, her fifth-grade French immersion class had discovered “tabarnac“, and their teacher gave a short lesson in that aspect of French culture while explaining why they could NOT use it. Of course, they had to cast around for an equally satisfactory alternative, and somehow chose ‘sac a dos’. When said with the right fervour “SAC a dos!!!!”, it’s just as fun to punch out there as “TAbarnac!!!” (and, to the English ear, equally meaningful…) Of course, all the kids thought it was hysterical to go around declaiming “backpack!!!!” as a swear word, and it became the in joke for M. Lethuillier’s class that year.

    And me, I thought it was funny/cute/clever enough that I adopted it for my own use. 😀

    Comment by May | July 28, 2011 | Reply

  7. My 4yo has a mental list of words that she can say and can’t say. She confused my husband by asking about them the week before she started school, because she wanted to know what she would get in trouble for.

    It always cracked me up hearing her say “Oh Man”, knowing that I told her she could say that instead of “Oh Fuck”. Thankfully she doesn’t say either very often these days.

    Comment by Ailsa/Jackie | October 22, 2014 | Reply

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