Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's Not The Words

*CRASH* Enter Daddy, to find Jackson (age 2) standing over a bowl of Cheerios scattered all over the living room floor, immediately followed by the sweetest voice in the world shouting, “God Damn It!”

Excuse me?!? (And now I’m thinking, “OH Shit, it begins”)

I suppose I should watch my language around my son, but why? Why do we expect kids to be different then us? Are we just trying to correct our own faults through our babies like some slob mother who imposes her dream of pageantry on her baby by parading her on makeshift stages at the mall dressed like a sailor’s dock whore?

We tell our children not to use certain words; words, that mean nothing when spoken in Bulgaria. And on the flip side, if a Bulgarian child told me to “lizhi ciganska sperma govnarche” I would not know that I should be offended. Unless…

…we know the context. It’s not so much the actual words that are the problem. I propose that the heart of the issue is how we use our words. Take the following two examples for consideration. Think about what is truly more offensive.

Scenario #1: You are sitting on your porch, which happens to be in front of a bus stop. A 7-year-old child is running at top speed to catch his bus, which pulls away at the last second, and the child exclaims, “Shit! I’m going to miss my math exam!”

Scenario #2: You are sitting on your porch. Another 7-year-old gets off the bus, litters in front of your house, and when you confront him, he says, “Pick it up yourself, bitch!”

Now, bitch is barely even a curse, right? Female dog and all. But, it’s clearly more offensive because of the context. While on the other hand “Shit” is still not allowed to be spoken on TV even though it’s just another way to express the word “feces.” We can say “Sugar” or “Shamrock” or “Snot” but not “Shit” because that’s the word that will corrupt our precious youth. (I know what you are thinking right now, “This son-of-a-bitch knows his shit!)

It’s not what we say, but how we say it. Isn’t that the mantra that we tell ourselves when our kids are just little babies? Then why do we forget that so fast when they get a little older? We are so overly concerned about the words our kids use, but we allow them to see us fight hurtfully with each other. We tell them to not use certain words, but neglect the instruction of being polite to all people, strangers included. Worst of all, we tell them to do what we say, but not as we do, and then we are surprised when they don’t live up to that standard.

Personally, I don’t really mind if my son uses some off-color words, as long as the swears are not used as a sword against others. I may utter “God Damn It” every once in a while over spilled Cheerios too, but it is never directed at a slow waitress or in disrespect to another person.

If we focused more on the context of our actions, we could stop pretending that words corrupt our children, and recognize that true corruption is more likely to be achieved with a toddler in a tiara.

(This post is dedicated to my guru who still inspires me to this day, George Carlin…and in case you don’t speak Bulgarian, “lick gypsy sperm you shithead”).


Loreen said...

I am totally on the same page as you with this. Not sure if that makes you want to change your mind now ;)

boopoopadoop said...

I am with you - but I have to say for me with my old school momma I couldn't say stuff like "sugar" when growing up as she didn't even allow for what she called word substitutions. She said those things lead to poor communication & instead I was supposed to say things like "this upsets me" or "I am so disappointed (angry, sad, frustrated, etc)". Now she gives me grief because my 3yr old's favorite cuss is "poop dangit!" LOL I should say though that his first real cuss was an F bomb at just over a year old. After me harping on others (like daddy) to PLEASE watch what they say (as I RARELY cuss) particularly miserable day...I ha an awful day at work, wit a long commute in nasty winter weather, came home to quickly feed my son & then a mad dash to get groceries. The store went badly, my son was not happy there, etc & at the end I treated myself to a Coke slush. Upon arriving home, I was hurrying into the house, hands full with toddler, diaper bag, grocery bags, etc. I tried not to take 2 trips because it was sleeting & because my son was very upset, so in my hurry I overloaded myself with all of that & the slushie of course...well as you can imagine, as we got inside, my son was wiggly & I dropped the shush all over the carpet. Nice. My reaction? A huge defeated sigh & mumbling F*** under my breath. My sweet one year old still in my arms turns & hugs me & pats my back saying softly while nodding yes "f*** momma, f***". I could have died. LOL

ILLardScott said...


okay I am somewhat in agreement with you. Its not about the words but how you use them that matters. However what I am asking myself is, how does one teach his kids to deal with emotions? Words are a verbal form of expression and in your two scenarios you chose anger as the example. I grew up hearing my mother praise God and curse him in the same sentence; ["God Dammit, Lord forgive me"] and it wasn't so much the words that she used but the way my mother handled anger and frustration that affected me.

You might be ok with your son swearing or using "off-words" as long as they are not done maliciously towards others but does that include the harm done to yourself by getting worked up over nothing? I think the important thing here is to teach our kids how to manage stress and frustration with out using words as catalysts to stress. If you say "sugar snaps" as opposed to "shit" you may find that you are not that mad or upset. Try it sometime....

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