I’ve said before how much I like words.
A few of my favorite happen to be, “aposiopesis,” “chicanery,” and “euphamism.”
But don’t let the high-brow tongue-twisters fool you.
I like the low-brow ones too.
Sometimes there’s no other description for something other than a good, old-fashioned epithet.
And let me tell you- I have never reached for them so much as after the little people entered my life.
I thought about why their frequency increased and my only conclusion is this:
They are beautifully descriptive words of despair when I am at the very end of myself… nay, the very end of my rope that I obviously forgot to knot.
I slip helplessly down the fibers as my hands burn from the friction.
Someone drops a glass. Someone almost falls over the back of the couch. I walk into a poo-tastrophy of epic proportions.
No one ever told me that my hardest job as a parent would be keeping my mouth shut when THE THING happens and suddenly I just went from zero to ER in two seconds.
I’m the best under-the-breath curser in the West.
I’m not altogether proud of that but I’m giving myself some grace while the little ones are causing our insurance rates to go through the roof.
I recently found myself in the wandering sanctuary (Pathfinder) and picking up my oldest from school. As I recall, dad was on a staycation, which is basically his opportunity to catch up on paperwork and live the life of stay-at-home dad.
So I was alone picking up Josh. He slipped in the car after a seamless pick-up maneuver.
After initial greetings exchange (for my boys it’s usually very brief), we both fell into silence. Neither of us are huge talkers, but when Josh has something to say, it’s usually good. And now was no exception.
“Mom, what are bad words?”
Many parents may feel their veins run cold at having to explain something like this.
I on the other hand was fairly rubbing my hands together with glee.
“This is going to be a GREAT conversation,” I thought to myself. “I wonder where and how far this is going to go!!!!” I was mostly thinking about it from my own entertainment. The educational component was completely secondary.
“OK, let’s start here: What have you heard? What are your classmates saying?”
I decided to start really low level.
Me: “Have you heard ‘damn?'”
Josh: “Yes, I hear that sometimes.”
Me: “What about ‘bitch?'”
Josh: “Um… no.”
*Me to myself* great, we’re only up to “damn” in second grade.
Josh: “What’s a ‘bitch?'”
Me: “Technically it’s the name for a female dog, but people have turned it into a derogatory name for a woman.”
He thought about that for a second.
Josh: “I know a really bad word.”
*Me to myself:* Oh, here’s where it gets good.
Josh: “It’s the ‘P’ word.”
I searched my brain trying to come up with a bad “P” word.
Me: “Are you referring to another name for a kitty cat?”
Me: “You mean, ‘pussy’?”
Josh: “Yep. That’s it.”
*Me to myself:* Oh, great… all we’re working with is ‘damn’ and ‘pussy’.
I explained that ‘pussy’ is an actual name for a kitty cat, but people have come to use it as a derogatory name for female anatomy.
At that point I had to mom-splain because it’s my job.
“Josh, are ‘bad’ words necessarily sinful by themselves? God outlined certain things about our speech in the Bible. That we are to never to speak God’s name in a flippant manner. That we use our words to honor others, etc. So is saying the word itself wrong? It’s the intent behind the word and how others interpret it. We can’t control how other people interpret our words, but if there are specific words that have a very disrespectful connotation in American speech, there are plenty of other words we can pull from to use. Not to mention the fact that there is a certain rudeness attached to those words.
What I didn’t tell him is how many times I had muttered them that day.
Do as I say, child not as I do. I settled in to my fuzzy blanket of irony.
Josh: “Mom, I know a really, really bad word that you say with your hands.”
I flipped him the bird from the front seat.
Me: “Is it this? The middle finger?”
Josh: “No, it’s worse than that. But mom, what does the ‘middle finger’ mean?”
Me: “Well, my best guess is it’s a derogatory reference to sex. As we’ve talked about, sex is sacred and beautiful and any word or gesture is meant to strip it of it’s sacred nature and make it gross and meaningless.”
Josh: “Well, mine is way worse.”
*Me to myself*: Is there anything actually worse than the middle finger? Suddenly I felt the panicky reality that I actually was not smarter than a 3rd-grader.
Me: “Okkkayyyyy…. show me your hand gesture.”
I pulled up at a stoplight and turned around to see.
I muffled a laugh as I looked at my son’s upheld hand.
He was giving met the Star Trek sign for “Live Long and Prosper.”
I almost laughed until I cried.
Me: “Josh, that is not a bad gesture. At least in this country. That was invented by a character from Star Trek and actually means “Live Long and Prosper.” So, it’s not even close to a bad gesture.”
This Christmas was the first year we watched “Home Alone” as a family. As a kid, I was so used to watching the edited version on Cable TV.
Everything was going along trippingly until the scene with the mobsters on TV.
“Now get the hell out of my office.”
Shoot. I totally forgot about that one.
Maybe it will go right over their heads.
About a month later, Sammy walked down the stairs and yelled, “MOM!!! WHERE THE HELL IS MY HAIR GEL?”
He looked at me with his eyes dancing gleefully, knowing exactly what he said and waiting for my reaction.
I lowered my forehead, knitted my brow and gave him “the look” to let him know his experiment with a movie curse word was unacceptable.
But I didn’t tell him that I was pretty impressed he used it effectively and in context.
Parenting is a funny experiment of trying to lead by example and failing miserably.
But just because we know we’re going to fail, doesn’t mean we stop trying.
The wins are worth a hundred fails.
And having an open conversation about cussing will go on my list of wins.
An American humorist, writer and author. When boiling down the chicken soup of life, she finds those golden, fried nuggets of truth & writes them long after the kids go to bed.