Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Power of Words

One of the hardest things about being a parent is actually being a parent and not a friend to your child. There is a super fine line between being the cool parent who provides advice and guidance, and a friend who lets the child do whatever he/she pleases. I know far too many people who want their children to like them no matter what, and don’t make the hard decisions and say the difficult things (like ‘no’). The line is so fine that parents are often confronted with situations in which they are tempted to make bad decisions.

My own situation started several months ago as the kids got progressively better in French. After a couple of months, they were completely fluent and far exceeded my skills in the language. For the record, it’s is incredible difficult to not throttle your child when he tells you things like “your french is terrible” and “when you speak it makes my ears bleed please stop.” Nor can you retort with such things like “listen ya little sh*t two months ago I was teaching you words so pipe down!” Such things are counter productive so one must generally remain quiet.

Boy has an extensive vocabulary including many fascinating words which he the boys at school taught him. Obviously this includes more than one inappropriate phrase. Don’t get me wrong I know all sorts of bad words in French, but he knows even more. The first time I realized it might be a problem is when I heard the kids playing outside. Something obviously wasn’t going according to his plan and Boy let out with something that was stronger than ‘merde’ or ‘sh*t. I had no idea what he actually said or what the word even meant but I knew it wasn’t good based upon the giggles and gasps from the girls.

Not passing up a chance to be a parent, I looked over and said in my biggest, mostest authoritarian voice “I don’t think that’s appropriate language for young men.” I could tell by his ashen color and fear filled features that I had guessed correctly. Boy apologized to the girls and I never heard the word again.

But, being ever curious, Boy suddenly became fascinated with curse words. He didn’t say them but he wanted to know about them. What were they? Why were certain words meaner than others? Did I know any? What made them bad? What were they? Did I know any? Could I provide an example of a curse word in English?
Notice a common question?  So after many months, and many discussions, he finally wore me down. We had spent so many hours talking about words and the power of words that I was out of nice examples. I thought we were done but Boy still wanted more. He wanted the holy grail of words. He wanted a curse word in English.

One weekend, during a family hike, I suddenly felt the need to be the cool parent. When he asked, I said ‘ok.’ Boy was astounded! He never expected me to actually give him a word. But, before giving him the word, we reviewed everything we had talked about. It’s a curse word. You can’t use it all the time. It will hurt people and so on. After many assurances that he wouldn’t use the word, and that he only wanted to know it, I told him the word.

I gave him…. Ass. That’s right, I gave him another word for derriere and heiny and butt.

He was amazed and then asked how to use it. I should have stopped but I didn’t. I said, “you say it like ‘don’t be an ass’ or ‘you’re an ass’.” Again, I reminded him that he had important knowledge and the responsibility was not to be taken lightly. He agreed and went off to walk with his sisters and I walked with Mom.

Life was good for 5 minutes until clearly echoing through the forest I heard Boy say “Don’t be an ass” to his sister.

Mom turned, looked at me, and asked “and exactly where did he learn THAT word?”
“Uummm the playground?”
“You’re an ass now go fix this!”

And off I went to yell at him for (1) using the word and (2) getting me in trouble!

1 comment:

  1. I think my kids have heard all of the "curse" words from me since they were babies. I'm of the school of thought that they're just words, usually used as a point of emphasis. Over use of them is a sign of an inability to think effectively. They're far more likely to ask me the meaning of some esoteric word I've used in conversation than what a "curse" word is about.

    When you get right down to it, there's nothing hurtful about the "curse" words (Carlin's Seven Dirty Words, anyway). It's the slurs I don't want them using. No calling women bitches casually (you know, it's fine if she really is one), no ethnic slurs. That sort of thing.