[Warning: there are some bad words in this. Just a couple. Well, mostly just the one. Yes, that one. But it’s not gratuitous; it is essential to the story.You’ll be fine.]
Who doesn’t love to hear stories about other people’s kids?
Nobody, that’s who. We all love stories about our own kids, and we love to tell those stories over and over. And over. Our kids stories are funny and interesting and reveal profound truths. Our kids stories demonstrate just how clever and special our kids are and what a stimulating, encouraging and creative home life they enjoy. Stories other people tell about their kids are boring, almost painful, and are only worth enduring because it will justify our telling another of our own.
How can we be sure that the stories we tell about our kids aren’t just as awful as everybody else’s? Easy. What makes for a good kid story is swearing, violence or anything that demonstrates parental incompetence. People love those stories.Those are the only kind of kids stories I have.
People love it when little kids swear. The younger they start swearing the cuter they are. If you can tell a story about your child’s first word being “fuck”, well, you beat me. But not by much.
Parents don’t really want their kids to swear. It can be embarassing – in restaurants, playschool, church. If you have only one kid, it’s pretty easy to stop it. Ignore it, stop swearing yourself, pretty soon it’s gone. When you have two kids, it’s a little harder, because the older one encourages the younger. If you have three, well, your home life is pretty much out of your power to control. By the time our third guy was talking, his two brothers were in school. Forget it.
For many years, little Mister Third Child had a speech impediment which I now miss a great deal. He said his hard ‘C’ like a ‘T’ – so “cookie cutter” became “tootie tutter”. Cute? Oh my yes. Cuter still, was when he told his oldest brother to “sut my dit” and when he called his other brother a “mudder futter”. It is impossible to mask parental delight when these things come out of your baby’s angelic little face – so it escalates. Kids love to please. One evening, he lay in his bed, waiting for me to lie down with him and read him a book. Maybe the Berenstain Bears. Or The Runaway Bunny. He smiled, propped himself up on his pillow and recited “There once was a man from Nantuttit, Whose dit was so long he tould sut it.”
Sadly, he lost his impediment, and his profanity became hard and mean. Less frequent were the “hey you shoulda heard the cute thing my kid said yesterday” moments. But I still like this one. My parents were in visiting from Swift Current [yes, adding grandparents to a swearing kid story is so effective, it’s almost not fair]. They loved going to our church when they were in town. Sunday morning, all three boys were down in the basement, playing with little cars and watching NFL Countdown.
I yelled down, “Hey, who wants to go to Seven Eleven?”
This was a Great Idea, “I do, I do.”
“Okay,” I said, “But first, we have to go to church.” Groans of dismay. My parents thought this little scene was cute and funny. However, Mr. Youngest, now about four years old, was outraged.
“I hate Church,” he yelled as he stomped up the basement stairs, “It ruins my whole fucking day.”
Well, that brought a hush to the morning. My parents stopped laughing and quietly withdrew. They didn’t speak of it again that day, but within two weeks, the story had become a bit of Swift Current folklore. They had never been so popular. Finally, a doting Grandparents’ story worth hearing. They never tired of telling the story, or of people’s reactions to it.
And for the rest of us, including a wide circle of our friends and associates, we’ve found that the expression – “It ruins my whole. fucking. day.” – has limitless applications. He has enriched us all.
Eventually, they’re not just swearing. They’re swearing at you, and using swear words to describe you. That’s less charming and amusing, usually. However, one early evening in early winter, I came home through the front door and found our youngest sitting on the landing at the bottom of the stairs, which served as our young offender open custody factility. Obviously, he had done something his mother deemed deserving of punishment. Ever supportive of my wife’s disciplinary efforts, I dispensed with my usual friendly greeting and avoided eye contact with the convict. Then, he bolted. His mother yelled from the kitchen. She was busy with something and couldn’t deal with it, but the little guy had to serve more time. I pursued him successfully and placed him back on the landing to finish out his sentence. Of course, I had no idea what he had done, so I didn’t know what to say to him. I thought I should say something to underline and support our family correctional policy. So, I settled on something generic, something Ward Cleaverish: “I want you to sit there … and … ah… think about why your mother put you there.”
“Because she’s a bitch.”
Hm. How to respond.I had my back to him at the time. Good thing. That was very disrespectful. Indeed. But clever and quick. I was pleased and proud, but kept it to myself. Someday, maybe, he’ll use his genius for good. No point in stifling it or him. I pretended I hadn’t heard him.
All three boys became profane little bastards, though ever larger. Over the years, my coworkers were horrified by my amusing stories about my boys’ bad language. Many of them believed that a child should not tell his father to fuck off, or otherwise use the word “fuck” around the house. Several suggested that their kids knew that they would “kill” them if they talked that way. More than one told me I ought to smack the kids – though I knew they didn’t smack their own kids and it is not likely the threat of a smack that kept them polite. They all seemed to believe that my kids’ profanity was a result of weirdly bad parenting. [Hard to believe.]
By now, the youngest was a ten year old. He was furious one afternoon about some stupid, bad, evil thing I had done. His anger led to some disciplinary (though non-smacking) response from me, to which he responded “Fuck you Dad”.
I never once said that to either of my parents. Not Ever. Not because I was afraid that I’d be hit or otherwise punished. And probably not because I thought it would hurt their feelings. It just never occurred to me. And, had it entered my mind as a possibility, I likely would have thought it unwise. “Fuck you” is a conflict escalator if ever there was one, and I was, and am, very much a conflict avoider. So. I was mad at him and mad at myself for letting my life and my kids get completely out of control. I’d failed miserably as a parent; my most important job. I was defeated utterly. I had created anti-social monsters who wouldn’t be able to function in the world outside our crazily profane family home. So, I vented. Angrily, I told him about my coworkers’ view of his language. “You know,” I said, “they all think you talk this way because I don’t hit you enough. They all think I should kick your ass when you swear at me. What do you think of that?”
“Well,” he said, “You tell them all they can lick my nuts.”