What does a girl do when a lovely summer day dawns? She packs up her work and heads to the beach.

After a one year break from teaching, I’m heading back to the classroom this fall to teach seventh grade literature. I will be juggling two part-time jobs this year so I’m feeling the pressure of being ready as both jobs begin in earnest next week. I decided that my reading and quiz-writing could happen just as easily at the beach (if not better) as it could at home so I packed a lunch, my work, some sunscreen, and headed out.

People-watching happens naturally and easily at the beach. Surrounded by people of all ages, I enjoy hearing the snippets of conversation from my fellow beachgoers. Today, I was enlightened by a group of four preschool-aged children on the finer points of appropriate language.

I noticed this group of children as soon as I arrived because they reminded me of the days when I would head to the pool with my kids and meet up with other mom friends. Us moms would chat while the kids swam and everyone was happy. The moms in this group looked like they had been friends for a while and the kids enjoyed each other’s company too. Also in abundance at the beach were seagulls. Today they seemed particularly feisty as they tried to snatch stray crackers or crumbs of cookies.

At one point in the afternoon, all four kids took a snack break at their “camp.” The seagulls must have sensed their young age and moved in close for a hopeful cracker. The lone boy out of the bunch decided that yelling at the seagulls was the only way to scare the birds. In a loud, pre-schoolish voice, I heard, “Get away BUTT-HOLE!” There was some giggling and then an even younger female voice (I don’t think she was 2) joined the chorus yelling, “Butt-Hole, Butt-Hole, Butt-Hole!”

I’m so glad the moms were still in the water and didn’t hear the “b-h” yelling (I’m assuming they didn’t hear!) because I would have missed the following explanation. Once the young girl starting her yelling, the boy quickly tried to hush her by saying, “You shouldn’t say that.” At this point, another girl (about the same age as the boy) aptly stated, “But you said it.” Undeterred, the boy said it was okay for him to yell “B-H” because he was older. This led to a group decision that the three oldest of the group were allowed to yell “B-H” as they were old enough, but the younger girl was not allowed to yell “B-H” at the seagulls. I laughed to myself as I watched one of the girls use her finger to point at her friends as she said, “You, you, and me can say it, but she can’t because she’s too little.”

I could spend some time reflecting on how this episode provides glimpses of real-life—who’s in and who’s out or why above mentioned preschoolers already know the word “B-H”—but I won’t this time. The moment made me laugh. It will be awhile, however, before I look at a seagull and not think of the words “****-****.”

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