cute things children say

swearing in cartoon

Image via Wikipedia

BIL taught his now six year old son to swear and because he is a man, he tried to hide it from my sister, DNOS. But, as is nearly always the case, his son let the cat off his tongue one day when another driver cut them off in traffic and he hollered out, “Dumb-ass!” DNOS professed shock but I think that is only because he beat her to it. Road rage is part, albeit small, of the glue that holds her marriage to BIL so firmly. After a bit of questioning, she was able to ascertain that her son did indeed learn the offensive word from his dad, and that he was well versed in the lexicon of the profane. When I told Rob this story the first time, he laughed, “Of course he needs to swear. He’ll be a man someday.” And when the subject came up again this last week he made a remark to the effect that swearing is a man thing and perfectly acceptable.

I really don’t swear very much anymore. I made a conscious effort to give it up when I took my first teaching job twenty years ago. My colorful expressions run the gamut of g-rated Disneyesque phrases that convey the intent without offense in addition to making me look like someone’s born-again spinster aunt. Though I occasionally swear, more since Will’s illness and death, I really don’t see the need to swear.

I listen to profanity all day long. I work in a high school after all, and the casual use of the word “fuck” is omnipresent from first bell to last. It never fails to send shivers up my back akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. Though it is a multi-functioning word, as far as usage goes, it always makes me wonder what kind of trailer the person who uttered it was raised in, single or doublewide? And I know exactly how unkind and judgmental a statement that is, but I simply haven’t much faith that someone who can’t come up with a synonym or witty figurative phrase to use in its place is worth the time or effort to educate further.

Canadians, I am told, are pretty foul-mouthed. When I wondered aloud if perhaps this was overstating the fact, I was assured that it wasn’t. Since I have a tendency to adopt the speech patterns of those I hear most (I have acquired quite the drawl since coming to south-central Iowa in fact) I am a bit worried that I might revert to the vocabulary of my younger self.

It’s not that “fuck” is a limited term. It can be used as a noun as in “What the fuck?”. It is a verb. “Stop fucking around and get to work.” An adjective. “Who is that fucking moron?” And an adverb. “I fucking did it all myself.” It can express a strong emotion like anger, “Fuck you!” or a tender romantic one as in “I really want to fuck you.” But, it still just conjures up images of the chain smoking, tattooed parents of the students I first taught on the east side of Des Moines. People who never made it out of middle school themselves and so their greatest ambition for their own children ….graduating the eighth grade….manifested in limos and prom-like attire for the twenty minute ceremony and the cookies and punch reception that followed in a makeshift cafeteria that doubled as the auditorium.

Profanity is really the hallmark of three things: stupidity, laziness and a tendency to be dramatic, and not in a good way. When we give into the casual use of obscene language, we are sanctioning these things.

I must confess that I have carelessly taught my own child a “bad word”. She says “dang-it”. Only very quick and clever damage control after a burst of frustration with a recalcitrant computer one afternoon prevented her from the regular use of a quite similar expression. She says “dang-it” when she is angry or frustrated, and objects that make her angry or frustrated are “dang-it things”. For example “Mommy, these dang-it shoes won’t tie.”

Language can elevate or bury us. So it is my humble opinion that we use care and consideration when speaking and do our best not to be dumb-asses about it.


Image by tanya_little via Flickr

All the world and just about every piece of furniture in the house is an opportunity to practice great feats of acrobatic daring and skill. This is according to my daughter. Because though she is afraid to walk down a flight of stairs without gripping the railing or resorting to scooting on her bum, she thinks nothing of hurling herself through the air as she leaps from love seat to ottoman to recliner where she will dive arms out-stretched into the cushioned seat flipping her legs over the high back and catching herself securely with her slightly crooked knees. Once in this decidedly upside down position, she will rock the lazy-boy with such force that it comes very near to losing its balance and spilling her onto the floor behind it.


Tonight as I was working on the hyperlinks for the new photo albums, and frustrating myself far more than was necessary since I could have just read the directions again, she called me into our furniture-lite living room to watch her perform her “acrobends”.


“They are very hard and sometimes they hurt.”


Although she usually adheres genetically to her late father’s theory that “if there is pain; there isn’t much of use to be gained”, this doesn’t apply to the twisty contortions only a preschooler is physically capable of performing. The more painful or potentially injurious it looks, the more it appeals.


I watched her for a few minutes before she tired of her cartwheel attempts and began to demonstrate her ballet moves which include “peelays” and something that looks like a top spinning out of control.


Later, after she had moved on to the swings in the backyard that she doesn’t yet grasp we will have to leave behind when we move, I sat at the keyboard and recalled some of the new vocabulary and facts she has acquired in preschool this year in addition to her growing agility.


January was an enlightening month. I was solemnly informed of the importance of “Dr. Luther King” for the entire week preceding and following his holiday.


“He died, Mommy. He got a shot in the park.”


February was packed. There were valentines and the Chinese New Year.


She was intrigued by the idea that years could be animals.


“What year were you born?”


I told her I was a rabbit and that daddy had been an ox, which made her laugh. She was born in the year of the horse, I told her, like Frankie. The Chinese despair of a daughter who is born in the year of the horse. I never did find out why though being a mother to a little horse for nearly five years now, I have a pretty good idea.


Presidents loomed large in February.


“We learned about presidents today, Mommy.”


“Which ones?


“George Washington and Hammerman Lincoln.”


“Are you sure it’s not Abraham?”


“No, Mommy, it’s Hammerman.”


She speaks slowly to me at times like these and in a tone that makes it clear I am not as smart as she is though,


“I really want to be wrong sometimes, Mommy, so you can be right.”


I have a feeling she won’t remember that conversation in ten years, but for now I will accept the sentiment behind it and wish myself a Happy Mother’s Day in advance.