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The Effort Word [sic]

From Flickr user geishaboy500

If you know me, you probably know that I have a potty mouth.

I have, intentionally, not been 100% cautious about swearing in front of Child.

Diplomacy and discretion are two skills that not enough people have.  While this is pure theory, I suspect that understanding the value of an inner life, and of recognizing that different sets of people require different sets of tactics for getting along, is tantamount to a person’s success in life.

One can accomplish almost anything if one is charming.

The Effort Word [sic]

Child was playing outside with her neighbors.  She came in and told me, solemnly, as if presenting herself to the gallows, “Mommy.  I accidentally said the effort word.”

I said, “Do you know what the effort word is?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

Her eyes got wide, and she said, “Fuck.”

Then she clapped both hands over her mouth and appeared to brace for reprimand.  She relaxed visibly when I started to laugh.

“I just said it to myself, Mommy.”

“So you said the effort word in your head?”

“Yes.”

Still chuckling, “That’s okay, Child.  Just don’t say it at school.”

“Okay, mommy.”

“You can go back outside to play.”

The end.  Or so I thought.

I was so tickled by the whole incident, that at dinner that night, I asked her to tell Fella about the effort word.

She started out differently.  First she said, “Well.  I just said it to myself.” pause.  “We were playing Monkey in the Middle, and I messed up, and I just wanted to say something.  So I said, ‘I’m a fuck!’” And again she slapped both hands over her mouth with a look of terror in her little eyes.

“Oh,” I said.  “So you said it out loud to yourself?”

“Yes.  And my friends told me that was very bad.”

“It wasn’t, Child.”  I was laughing again, Fella was silently chuckling, too.  “Like I said before.  Just be careful.  Don’t say the effort word at school.”

I felt so happy to have a kid who is thoughtful and responsible enough to want to admit to me when she said something that she thought would make me angry.  I felt like the important thing was her desire to come clean.

Instead of making me angry, the incident made me feel like a good mom of a great kid.

Another day, I’ll post about how linguistic taboos are limiting and unfortunate.  Today, I’ll let you yell at me in the comments if you want.  Or not.  What do you think?  How do you handle your kids with swearing?

Post Script

I’m a big fan of Cake.  The band, not the confection.  And I’m not one of those moms who has a CD selection of stuff that’s Just For Kids in the car.  I feel like, within reason, Child can listen to what I like.  And what Fella likes.  She’s already been exposed to more different sorts of music than I knew about until I was in college.

So she likes a few tracks from Fashion Nugget, and I generally indulge her desire to be DJ in the car because it keeps her from talking about stuff during which I space out and then she gets upset when I space back in and she has to repeat herself.  So we sing together which is good for the soul.  One of her favorite songs is, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” and after we listen to it a bunch of times, I let the next song play, and I always skip Track 11, called “Nugget” because it contains egregious use of the effort word [sic].

But on the way down to my mom’s the other week (it’s a 2-hour drive), after making up some new lyrics to The Comanche Song, officially titled “Comanche” from Motorcade of Generosity,  Child asked to listen to “Perhaps”, and after about 8 repeats, reminded me during the next track, “It’s Coming Down,” that the one after that was the one with the bad word and that I should remember to skip it.  It’d been a while since we listened to The Perhaps Song.

“Thanks for reminding me, Child.”

“But mommy.  What’s the bad word in that song?  Please tell me?”

“I can’t tell you, Child.  But you know it.  You just said it the other week.”

“Is it freakin’?”

“Nope, not that one.”

“But it’s the Eff word?” (Where’d she learn that it’s not the effort word?  Dangit!)

“Yup.”

“Just tell me, mommy.  I don’t remember.”  (See, people?  Swearing around your kids will not scar them for life)

“How about we just listen to the song.  You’ll know it when you hear it.”

“Yeah yeah yeah!”

“But before we do, what are the rules about those kinds of words?”

“I can’t say them around grandma.”

“When else?”

“At school.” She thought a minute, “And at my friends’ house, or if I’m at the mall.”

“Very good, Child.  You know why we can listen to this song  now?”

“No.”

“Because you understand when it’s not okay to say words that could get you in trouble.”

“Just play it, mommy.”

“Okay.”

Then we played the song about 12 times and it was still playing when we pulled into mom’s driveway.  Child was visibly proud of herself.  I know I didn’t do anything in my last life or this one to deserve such a great kid.

4 comments on “The Effort Word [sic]

  1. I always appreciate your fresh perspective on parenting. I’ve always been so cautious about not swearing and grew up in a household that was similar. But when I got old enough to hear swear words, I did it every time my parents weren’t around just because it was “forbidden.” I often worry that my kid will do the same. My sheltering of him can only reach so far. Very interesting approach. It seemed to work. And I love that your daughter is so aware of what’s appropriate and what is not. (Job well done, Mama!)

    • Brooke, Yeah! I developed my philosophy of swear-parenting strictly because I was sheltered/forbidden from them & the moment I could say “bad” words, I went wild on them. I still have an overfondness for the F word, and I dearly hope that Child will not be 30 years old and still cussing like a sailor or people won’t care as much if she is. I feel like we give these words too much power. Anyway. I always appreciate your thoughtful and warm comments. It’s almost as good as hanging out with you. :-)

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