We have hit new chapter in child-rearing. E is 9. When you are 9 and go to school on a bus or tram you find yourself surrounded by full-fledged teenagers. And those teenagers tend to let some curse words fly.
It makes me cringe every time I hear a high schooler drop some “colorful metaphors” (as the late, great Leonard Nimoy called them in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). I always look at my children to see if they are listening. And once I even admonished an American girl who seemed incapable of finishing a sentence unless every other word was “fuck.” (To her credit she did look mortified that she was dropping the f-bomb with a 5yo sitting right in front of her.)
My friends from my youth are now totally laughing at me. My language was so peppered with f-bombs, damns, hells, and s-shots that it is amazing I developed any other vocabulary. But over the years I matured (somewhat) and found great joy in finding much more creative ways of expressing myself.
E and I were on the tram when he confided in me that on of his friends tricked him into saying a “bad word.”
I braced for disaster. When I brace for disaster I go into a bird mode. My neck goes straight up; my head cocks to the side; and my shoulders jerk back. I look like a deranged chicken.
“OH?” I said, my voice pitched high enough to make dogs howl, “What word would that be?” Glass threatened to crack as I amended my request to, “Let’s talk about this when we get home, okay?”
Putting him off also gave me time to think about how I was going to handle this. I was unprepared and I certainly wasn’t going to discuss English curse words with H, the 5 year old, within earshot. Plus I really wanted Mark there. If I was going to have to go through this then he was, too.
I wasn’t completely unprepared. The minute your child is born there are certain talks that you know you’re going to have. They are, in order of deranged chicken reaction (from lowest to highest):
Drugs and Alcohol / Peer Pressure
Where did I come from?
Clearly this is just the first of many tricky conversations that we would be having with E. My friends call them Milestone Conversations. And I kind of felt like this was going to set the tone for all of the other 4 Milestones. No pressure.
Mark had gotten home a bit late. We had already started dinner and there was no way to warn him about what was coming, but I broached the topic again after dinner. H was done and had gone downstairs to play. As calmly as I could I asked, “So, E. Is there something you wanted to talk to us about?” And E said, “Yes. So, I’ve heard the word ‘bitch’ and I wanted to know what it meant.”
Mark dropped his fork.
Since I’d had time to think about it I took the lead and gave Mark a moment to get over his shock.
Unblinkingly I explained the nice and not-so-nice definitions for ‘bitch’ and then let him throw out a few more that he wanted defined. I kept it all calm and very matter-of-fact. To Mark’s horror, I also added a few more that I was sure would come up eventually.
Then he asked me Why. Why would people want to curse and swear? What was the point?
While his apparently lack of interest in swearing made me feel amazingly good as a parent, explaining why people use them was tougher and more uncomfortable than simply defining the words. I theorized that since one heard adults and older teens using the words that younger kids would feel older if they used them. Mark, finally recovering, threw in that they were shocking and some kids liked the feeling of being shocking. We concluded the discussion that there were better words, and often funnier words, to use for expressing one’s self.
So, he is convinced that, for now, cursing is for the unimaginative. And we can check that particular conversation off the list.
Next up, God help me, will be where did I come from. And I will be using the book of same name that my mom used with me. I distinctly remember this book. When she got to the part of the pregnancy where the baby flips downward I passed out and smacked my head on the metal table leg. Let’s hope my attempt with E goes better than that.