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News & Features » April 2019 » “The Rap Song” by Alice Shi Kembel

“The Rap Song” by Alice Shi Kembel

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Alice Shi Kembel’s boys teach her their new song.

The Rap Song
by Alice Shi Kembel
Six-, four-, and two-year-old

We are driving home from dinner at a friend’s house one evening when our four-year-old, Sawyer*, who loves music, spontaneously breaks into song.

“I gotta big butt, I gotta big butt, I gotta big butt, do you have one?” he belts out.

My husband and I look at each other in astonishment. “Excuse me, where did you learn that song?” I ask.

“We made it up!” shouts six-year-old Jack* from the back seat. He joins the chorus. “I gotta big butt, I gotta big butt . . .”

Sawyer begins improvising. “I gotta gotta gotta gotta big butt,” he sings, sounding unnervingly like a rap singer.

“Those aren’t very nice words,” I say when he pauses briefly to breathe.

“But we’re singing them about ourselves!” he says. He continues, exercising even more artistic license. “I gotta big butt! I gotta big penis!”

“You know, Sawyer, ‘bottom’ is a nicer word than ‘butt,’ and ‘wiener’ is a nicer word than ‘penis!’” shouts Jack over the din in the car as our two-year-old starts chanting, “I gotta big buh! I gotta big buh!” in his sweet baby voice.

“I’ve got to record this,” I say as I pull out my phone.

“I gotta big butt! I gotta big—wait, is that a picture of a butt?” asks Sawyer as I hold the phone up towards him.

“No!” I laugh. “I’m just recording you on my phone. Keep singing!”

“I want to hold it!” screeches my two-year-old, reaching out for the phone. I have used it on many a non-child-friendly occasion to keep him quiet, so he is familiar with the magic it holds within—games, videos, photos of himself, and conversations with doting grandparents.

“Not right now, Camden*. I need it to record the song,” I explain to him. “Keep going, Sawyer!”

“I gotta big butt! I gotta big penis!” he hollers.

Ever the corrective older brother, Jack starts chiming in with “Wiener!” every time Sawyer sings the word “penis.” Camden, a very persistent child, continues to plead for my phone. The boys’ musical masterpiece begins to sound like this:

“I gotta big penis!” (“Wiener!”) “I gotta big penis!” (“Wiener!”) “I gotta big penis!” (“Wiener!”) with “I want to hold it! Hold it! Hold it! Hold it!” as background vocals.

My husband nearly drives off the road, he is shaking so hard with laughter.

I am amazed at how early potty talk has established its presence in our family. The boys have gravitated towards body parts and functions and their relative ridiculousness from a very early age, and they egg each other on when it starts flowing. There is something tantalizing for them, something risky and hilarious and edgy in the use of these words that they already sense are taboo despite our attempts to keep them neutral. After all, as parents we try to remain nonchalant, use factual words when questions of anatomy arise, and try to explain biological processes in an accurate yet developmentally appropriate manner. I am afraid that if we make a big deal out of them, the words will become even more loaded and alluring.

On the other hand, I’m afraid that if we don’t teach them what is or isn’t appropriate, I will be humiliated in public like my best friend, also a mother of three boys. One day as she shopped at Target, her son started hitting himself in the crotch and shouting, “I’m slappin’ my balls! Slappin’ my balls, Mama!” This colorful phrase originated from her husband during a diaper change and was repeated with gusto by her son in front of many innocent shoppers. My heart goes out to her, as I know it could just as easily have been me.

*These names have been changed to protect the innocent—or rather, the guilty.


ALICE SHI KEMBEL lives in Boulder, Colorado. She is the mother of three boys and is also a Speech-Language Therapist, swimmer, traveler, quilter, hiker, and fruity cocktail lover (three boys, remember?). Her writing has been featured in Patch.com, Parenting on the Peninsula, Voices of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience, U.S.A. Masters Swimming Magazine, and The Family Narrative Project. She is pursuing advanced degrees in potty humor, Nerf gun classification, and Star Wars trivia while also seeking representation for a memoir that chronicles her experiences as a mother drowning in a sea of testosterone.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 23, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,