09 June 2009

My potty mouth

I love a good curse word, either spoken, or written. It feels so satisfying rolling off the tongue, and sometimes, an obscenity is exactly the right descriptor. Shit and fuck are my favorites, but asshole comes in handily as well. (You know I am an intellectual because I when I curse, I say fucking, instead of fuckin'.)

When I hurt myself, like stub a toe, or hit my ulnar nerve bang my funny bone, I cannot help but emit a string of expletives, as in "Fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!" or "Shit, shit, shit, SHIT!"

When Sarah was about two, and engaged in some game of her own making, David and I heard her muttering the very same to herself. David looked at me, as we heard my voice coming out of our small child's mouth, and the implication was clear. For the sake of our children, I had to curb my tongue.

In the intervening years, I have gotten much, much better about watching what I say. Now, when I stub my toe, I try to just breathe through the pain (pranayama; it works!).

But as I have cleaned up my mouth around the children, Sarah, at least, has been doing her damnedest to unlock the secrets of swearing. In my experience, this is a right of passage that begins in about second grade. Just as playground games get passed through the generations, without you ever explicitly teaching them to your children, friends begin to compare notes, at recess, and on play dates, with the determined goal of pooling their collective wisdom to compile the Complete Oxford Companion to Swearing for Children. (As is so often the case, older siblings are key players in the acquisition of such knowledge.)

I remember when Sarah first made me aware of this, one night as we were snuggling before bedtime. "Mom," she confessed, "I know the s-word."

"Yes. Can I say it to you?"

Sarah is in fourth grade now, and her knowledge is considerably more accurate. In fact, I have it on good authority that she has been cursing with abandon amongst her friends at recess. I kept this knowledge under my hat for a while, but it came up in conversation at dinner one night last week, and Sarah freely admitted that yes, she is cursing up a storm!

What can I say; she is her mother's daughter.

This morning, as were hurrying out the door, things got a bit harried. I noticed that while Gabriel had put on a raincoat, he was wearing leather sandals. I told him to change his shoes; while he's outgrown his rain boots, he just got a new pair of Keen sandals which were more suitable for the rain.

He moaned, and fussed and generally gave me a hard time. His sartorial choices are something that can really push my buttons. When he needs new clothes, I let him come with me to pick things out, and then, once the new items are settled in his drawers, he will continue to wear the same two old shirts in constant rotation.

So it is with these his new Keens, which, true to form, HE HAS PROCEEDED NOT TO WEAR. And it was raining, and we were late for school, and I was frustrated. So I said, "Gabriel, I am tired of this bullshit. Put the Keens on, or you will not play any Wii for the rest of the week."

Normally, one of my kids would have called me out. Perhaps it was the threat of losing Wii, but Gabriel just nodded, changed his shoes, and off to school we went.

Or maybe, sometimes, a good curse word, really is just the right thing.

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