The younger of our two nephews, the 7 year old, is going through a phase. Of late, he finds a way to introduce the concept of farting and pooping into every conversation and situation.
He doesn’t get into trouble for doing it, but I do. That’s because I find his utterances and observations hysterically funny, can’t help laughing, and ultimately, according to conventional wisdom, serve only to “encourage him.”
I can’t help it.
For example, the older boy and I were reading a book together. The book mentioned that some words are the same when they are spelled forward or backward. “Racecar” was the example.
Seizing upon the opportunity to increase knowledge, I explained to him that such words were known as palindromes. We took a short break from our reading to see how many palindromes we could think of. While in the middle of this esoteric discussion, the 7 year old came in wanting to read a story about Vikings and their strange names. To occupy him while we finished our earlier story, I suggested that he come up with a “palindromic Viking name” while he waited. We explained what a palindrome was and sent him away. I figured we wouldn’t see him for the rest of the afternoon.
He returned in two minutes and claimed he had come up with a name.
“Oh yeah?” I asked smugly, thinking he must have misunderstood the task at hand. “Tell us a palindromic Viking name.”
How, I ask you, can you maintain a decorous learning environment under such circumstances?
Then there was the time they got goldfish. Their parents know them well enough to have taken charge of the naming process so they have been given nice goldfish names like “Mr. Spots,” and “Finny.” I made the mistake of asking them how they were enjoying the goldfish. The younger boy said that he liked them but would have preferred a turtle as a pet.
“Why?” I asked, innocently.
“So I could name him Turd. Get it? Turd the Turtle!”
It is scary when you get a pang of why didn’t I think of that when you are talking to a seven year old.
And I must confess, I participated in the ensuing game to see how many times one could use the word ‘turd’ in a sentence describing the eponymous amphibian.
The boy’s parents (and my wife) are hoping that the passage of time will resolve the issue. And in a way I can’t blame them. Any word with a ‘fa sound in it can be guaranteed to be transmogrified. Poor Mrs. Farquhar is now known as “Mrs. Fartronic.”
They know that the cure for developmental issues like this is to ignore them. So I am attempting to stifle my giggles.
Although Dr. Freud is no longer mainstream in the psychology world, he would have had a lot to say about this sort of thing. According to Freud, everyone goes through these sorts of phases in childhood and if they are not adequately resolved (e.g., because of excessive parental control) you will have problems later in life as your mature superego attempts to tell you that you shouldn’t laugh at fart jokes.
Freud even came up with a description of the personality types of people like that. Say what you will about his psychology, you have to admire Freud for the terminology he came up with and he referred to the set of characteristics that these people exhibit as the “Anal Triad.”
No jokes about the Chinese mafia, please.
Anyway, the characteristics of the anal triad are orderliness, obstinacy and parsimony.
I suddenly realized that I know a lot of people like that. But what struck me the most is that a lot of modern problems have been caused because parents stifled their kids’ fart stage and those kids went on to be bankers and businessmen.
Without naming names, think back on the congressional testimony of business leaders over the past few years. They have been getting called on the carpet by Congress because they seem to have messed up the economy. Messing things up is a big no no to people who didn’t adequately resolve their fart issues. So we shouldn’t be surprised that we are hearing a lot of denial. But you’ve also got the rest of the anal triad as well:
Orderliness: “There is nothing wrong with the securities markets. The market is a self-regulating apparatus.”
Obstinancy: “We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Parsimony: “Last year’s bonus of ten million wasn’t enough. I need more.”
Just think. If parents of old had been more tolerant about fart jokes, the economy might still be booming.
A lot of parents have a lot to answer for!