As a parent, there are times when I stop and think, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ Tonight was one of those times. 

After a great day when I spent every waking minute in the company of our two daughters, they were putting on their pajamas and getting ready for bed when our oldest daughter Agatha (10) called my name and said something that sounded like an expletive that rhymes with the word ‘wussy.’ I’ve lost most of my hearing in one ear, so instead of rushing into their room assuming I heard what I thought I heard, I walked in. Slowly.  

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. What did you say, darlin?” I asked, smiling and trying not to sound alarmed.

Without hesitation, she looked me square in the eyes and said, “Am I a pussy, Daddy?” 

I gulped, but kept smiling. Then I said, “I’m not sure. I don’t really know what that word means.” Stroke of genius, Jim. Deer. In. Headlights. “What’s the word again?“ 

“Pussy.” She said flatly, but with a small grin. Great. She sensed my awkwardness. Either that, or she was punking me. Either way, she had no idea what she was saying. My stunned silence caused Cozette (7) to turn and look at me like a grinning cat too. They knew something was up. Something big. 

“Well, what do you think that word means?” I asked her. 

“A girly girl.” she said. 

Agatha’s a soccer player. A good one. And one tough competitor. But she is something of a pussy when it comes to certain things. She’s the type of kid who will milk the smallest injury for everything it’s worth, whereas Cozette could break her arm and continue plowing on with whatever task was at hand. 

“Cozette said I was a pussy.” she continued.

What could I say? In that context, the word actually does mean what she thinks it means. But I didn’t have a quick answer. They were both smiling now. I half expected them to break out in a song starring the word pussy in the main chorus. 

“Well, you shouldn’t use that word.” I said. Frustration mounting. 

“But I thought you said you never heard of it before.” my clever oldest daughter added. 

“I didn’t really hear it. I thought you said something else. You should’t use it. It’s a bad word.” 

Now here’s the thing, our kids don’t curse. Whenever they say, “Oh my God” they are quick to add “sh” to make the word “gosh.” And even though they’ve no doubt heard me drop the f-bomb (not to them) in their lifetimes, I’m pretty sure I’ve never said ‘pussy.’ Ever. 

“How is it a bad word, Daddy?” Agatha asked. 

“And why is it a bad word, Daddy?” Cozette chimed in. 

Again, I didn’t have a quick answer. I felt like Custer at Little Big Horn. So I did what any responsible parent would do and blew it off. “It just is. And you shouldn’t use it again.” 

Agatha thought about this for a few seconds. I thought I was home free. But then she added, “Is it as bad as Stupid?” 

“Yes. Yes it is.” I said, relieved. “In fact, it’s worse. If you say that word, you’ll be in really big trouble. So just don’t ever do it. Ok?” 

“But why, Daddy?” Cozette pressed.

“Because I said so.” I snapped. I couldn’t believe it. 

I then turned, and walked out of their room. Stunned, shocked and more than a little embarrassed for the first time in my parenting career. Yet, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. To myself, of course. So that they wouldn’t suspect anything. 



Jim Mitchem

Helping Japan

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.