Thursday, July 20, 2017

Grown-up Words

I was sitting in committee today with the warden, captains et. al (aka muckity mucks), right after we saw a man with an exceptionally colorful vocabulary. Imagine a 12 year old using every swear word he's ever heard. "Son of a bitch mother fucker dirty c*&#..." and on and on and on. I don't really mind when inmates swear, but this was pretty excessive, even for prison. Afterwards we were recovering when my captain stated that he appreciates when people cuss and doesn't trust people who don't or who use the fake swears. I agreed emphatically. "Except kids, obviously." Gulp.

Now, back when Eli was a young lad and started speaking when he was ridiculously little (think Baby Stewie),  I tried really hard to be mindful of my language. I really, really did. That's not precious any way you spin it. And I failed spectacularly. I swear like a sailor. I drop F-bombs like they're rainbow sprinkles. I was once told, "The thing about you is you seem so sweet, but then you start talking." There was no fucking way I was going to be able to restrain myself.

After trying to convince his daycare teacher that he was saying, "Bucket" and getting an incident report (really) because Eli "Stated loudly 'Son of a *&!@# [their edits, not mine]' at a friend when their tower fell over" (which I absolutely blamed on C despite knowing full well where he learned that) we decided to take a different approach. We would let him swear with permission. That way he learned how to swear appropriately, which I believe is an underappreciated skill, and we didn't have to keep unsuccessfully censoring ourselves.

Now all three kids know that they have to ask before they can let it rip, and if the situation is appropriate we let them. Stub your toe? Let it fly. So mad you could shake? I get it. Go for it. At dinner with your grandparents? Nice try, kid. Shut your trap. And it's worked for the most part. No more sheepish apologies or looks of shock in public. No sneaky attempts to get one past us. Eli occasionally tries to use a stand-in like "Frickin" or "hella", and Averson likes to assert that "I'm old enough to say 'Shit'" but in general I am confident I can trust them around decent society.

It's also fun to see what words appeal to them. "Stupid" is a big one. None of them have ever tried to say "Shut up." "Guts" had a good run during the summer of Ramona and Beezus. Eli likes "Hell." Averson really likes "Shit." Syd banged her head the other day, asked if she could swear, and though I expected "stupid drawer!" she let fly a "FUCK!" that matched my own for tone and affect. It was a thing of beauty and I couldn't have been prouder. After I made sure that the kitchen window wasn't open, of course.

So that's my child-rearing advice, inspired by an inmate who wanted to use every word he knew. Teach your kids to swear. It's good for you. It's good for the world.