The Problem With Knock-Knock Jokes

by Sarah Cottrell
Originally Published: 

Of all the truisms about parenting, the one that rings the most true for my family is this: Parenting is a crapshoot. My husband and I have tried on multiple vogue parenting styles. We did the hippy-dippy natural parenting thing. We did the co-sleeping thing. We did the avoid-the-word-no thing. We even test ran spanking, time outs, and a robust incentive plan that included Hot Wheels and chocolate for good behavior.

But now we are tired. And the kids gang up on us. A lot. So we gave up trying to use parenting strategies that simply make us miserable. We don’t spank, but we do swear (sometimes…OK, all the time) and not at the kids, but in response to things that the kids have done. Enough so that if one were in earshot distance of my house any day between the hours of 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM it would not be unreasonable to draw the conclusion that I might be fervently religious.

My four-year-old son is a verbally precocious little whippersnapper. And why shouldn’t he be? He has two parents who refuse to talk to children like pets. By two he could tell you difference between May I? and Can I? His giant tool bag of words has impressed friends and family and even the pediatrician. We are so proud.

So imagine how proud I was when my burgeoning linguist beta tested this glorious version of his favorite knock-knock joke on me – in front of Grandma:

Four Year-Old: “Knock-knock”

Me: “Who is there?” Four Year-Old: “Bitch!” Me: “Whaaaaaaaaa?!” Four Year-Old: “You didn’t say knock-knock!” Me: (fighting back both tears of shock and laughter, but also DYING of curiosity) “Uh, Bitch, erm…who?” Four Year-Old: “Bitch been knocking out here all day!” Me: (befuddled horror amusement)

The original joke that my son had memorized (and told 746 times) goes like this:

Four Year-Old: Knock-knock Me: Who’s there? Four Year-Old: Ben Me: Ben who? Four Year-Old: Ben knocking out here all day!

There was more parenting shame in the dense silence that followed that feat of verbal prowess than there has been ever before or since. I’m fairly sure that Grandma was wondering what on earth goes on in our house. Lots of flustered explanations followed.

Later in the privacy of home when the dust of embarrassment settled, I retold this joke to my husband. We howled with laughter. We also learned a parenting life lesson on the importance of curbing shitty language in front of the kids. Now, we still swear like pirates but no longer in earshot of the kids. We leave it for the wine and beer hour after the wee ones have gone to bed.

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