If I give my kid a BB gun, I can’t claim to be surprised when the squirrels around the neighborhood are seen limping. Of course I’d tell my little ones to shoot only tin cans or targets, but the accountability for following the rules in my absence belongs to my kid.
Although I’d never actually give my kids a BB gun, I’ve learned a similar lesson recently regarding cussing near my kids.
I’m not foul-mouthed but I’ll let swear words fly to more emphatically make a point or to make clear the level of my frustrations. I typically would not hold back even if my ten little ears are listening – especially in the car.
Given that I tend to swear too often, I was not shocked when my 10 and 8 year-olds used the “f” and “s” words while describing a recent experience.
“Dad, why did you call that guy a (insert favorite insult here)?”
Yosef had no interest in the answer to the question, he simply wanted to be able to (a) repeat the bad word he heard and to (b) confirm the fact that he understood its meaning.
I reacted by saying, “Yosef, I should not have said that and neither should you. I was mad and those are bad words that only adults can say.”
Lynden’s maiden voyage in story-swearing came a few days later when using multiple “f-bombs” to recount a story of an intense soccer game. The amount of detail he used to tell the story was Harry Potter-like – J.K. Rowling would have been proud. The lavish descriptions were strategically done so that he could use this forbidden word repeatedly with full immunity.
Again, I reacted as you might expect, saying, “Lynden, you know those are bad words. Even if the soccer guys were using them, you can tell me the story without doing so.”
I secretly respect my sons’ efforts to mix in swears in forgivable contexts – certainly clever.
More seriously, though, these two anecdotes forced my hand to address swearing head-on with my older boys. In my typical Good-Bad Dad fashion, I decided to come to a compromise.
Instead of employing the “I better not ever catch you using those words again” strategy, I felt compelled to provide more kid-friendly, light swears that would make appropriate substitutes. These were caveat-ed by saying that I’d prefer that none were used – that they could make the same point with other, cleaner words.
These substitutes included: shoot, stinks, crap, butt, frickin’ and all close derivatives of each. These pseudo-swears are the “BB Gun” I’ve now gifted to my children – the “gun” that is now accosting imaginary neighborhood rodents.
I’ve realized this was a poor strategy at the intersection of two events:
- My 3 year-old beginning to use the word “butt-crack” as often as he eats his boogers to describe just about anything, and,
- A driveway basketball game that ended with my 8 year-old telling 10 year-old that he was “full of frickin’ crap.”
If I provided the BB gun, I need to provide the ointment for the resulting welts – but how?
The truth is, I have no frickin’ idea how to handle this “real” parenting crap. It stinks and is a pain in the butt.
For now, I’ll file it in the GBD “it could be worse” category and cringe at the latest “Dad Test” I’ve failed.