Friday, May 11, 2012

The Magic of Swearing

Abe has discovered bad words. Everyone has to stumble upon them at some point in life.

The other day when the iPad went dead he asked "Where is the damn charger?"

I calmly asked him to not say damn and stated firmly "We don't say damn."

He was totally confused. "Yes. We do say damn. I just said damn."

He had a point. Nonetheless, I held my ground. "I don't like hearing the word damn. Please don't say it."

At this point I was mentally making a list of things that I should probably eliminate from my vocabulary for at least the next fifteen years or so. The last thing in the world I want to do is to try and enforce rules I won't keep myself. Nagging kids is enough work already.

I know that Jack is well versed in all of the swear words but not because I can recall a time when he used them. Only the times he expressed his outrage at hearing them and demanded justice for the offender. He is a hangin' judge. He expects to live in a house where the law is enforced and he will resort to vigilante tactics if it comes to that.

Abe on the other hand just wants to be entertained. Being a normal four year old he experiments with naughtiness on a regular basis. He is good natured and easy going and all he really wants is to get a laugh. To him the only thing more worthwhile than getting a laugh is getting a tantrum of angry outrage. I'm sure you can see where the plot of this movie is headed and it is R-rated. For language and violence.

So a swearing four year old does not really intimidate me. I have read enough parenting guide books and child discipline research to have my strategy well established. But like every child rearing issue, reality is always just a little bit more complicated than the books can prepare you for. In this case, Abe didn't just come right out and say the bad words, he strategically said them only when he was very sure I couldn't hear and Jack could. So the scene that played out over and over today was two kids playiing nicely interrupted by Jack screaming and shouting and flipping out. He would spew out every harsh word he could think of in response stopping just short of actually swearing himself. His face would turn red and he would flail his arms in total outrage. So what should a good parent do when presented with an alleged potty mouth and a verified tantrum thrower? I don't have any idea. If you know any good parents please ask them.

I am far more inclined to punish a kid for freaking out than I am for bad language and I have been known to use the latter in response to the former.Needless to say, Jack was miffed every time when he ended up getting sent to his room and Abe walked free. We were headed for full blown revolution.

The next time it happened I did my best to ignore Jack completely. Focusing on Abe I said "Abe, even though I haven't heard you myself I know that you have been using bad words and I want to talk to you about it. It is not okay to use bad words. You must stop right now. There are some words that we should never never say because they will hurt people's feelings. You may have heard me say these words before and I want to apologize to you for ever saying them. It was wrong of me and I am sorry. I'm going to try my best to only use nice words from now on. Will you please do that with me?"

He looked me in the eye and said "So you say bad words, Mom?"

As luck would have it, he didn't learn these bad words from his mother and he was a little shocked by the news that I ever used them.

"Oh, me? Use bad words? Hell no. I mean, I may have said certain things in the past that could possibly be considered crude but mostly I stick to nice words. That confession you just heard? That was total bullshit. NO! It was bull crap. No! I don't even swear. Well, very rarely. And even then it is only at very selective times and it is usually only to be funny. Or to make uptight people uncomfortable, but only because making uptight people uncomfortable is generally pretty funny. Obviously you know what I'm talking about here. Never mind. Where did you learn those words, anyway?"

As if he could accurately account for where he heard a few words that wouldn't even get censored from prime time television. Its not like he was dropping F bombs. If you believe Jack's side of the story, Abe likes to alternate between A-S-S and B-I-T-C-H. Points to Jack for spelling accuracy and best dramatic performance in theatrical production. Thats my boy.

Anyway, I learned the hard way why you should never testify against yourself. If you are smart you will plead the Fifth Amendment. If you are on trial, do not take the stand. It is almost always a losing strategy and there is a reason why the Fifth Amendment exists. Incidentally there is a reason that the First Amendment exists too and while I don't condone the use of bad words I recognize that people have died in battle to protect my right to use them.

On an unrelated note, if you are ever outsmarted by a four year old when attempting to scold him for something you are totally guilty of, my advice is to begin a long disjointed lecture about The Bill of Rights.


kristencgartner said...

It always starts with some form of "Damn." When Emma was younger than Abe, she said "Dammit!" When I explained to her that "We don't say dammit," she looked at me quizzically and pronounced emphatically, "No mom, people say dammit!" The main problem is that bad words are especially shocking, yet hilarious, coming from a four year old. I also must add that of course he had to have heard some cussing from you! I was not a cusser until I was in my 30's and started living next door to you. Also, it's funny. Just sayin.

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