(WARNING: Blog Contains Explicit Language)
Did you see the pilot for “Up Al lNight” with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett? One of the bits in the new sitcom was about how they had to stop cursing in front of their baby. The opening scene had them peering down on her in her crib saying things like “She’s so f—–g beautiful” and “I can’t believe we’re f—–g parents.”
It’s pretty simple. If you don’t want your kids to swear, don’t swear. However, we all do it, and that’s when you have to do some actual parenting and explain to your children (like a billion times) why these words aren’t nice. And possibly give time outs. And take away “Cars 2: The Video Game” privileges. And hope they don’t walk into their classroom at school and say “fuck-a-doo” to their teacher like they’ve been doing at home.
And don’t forget about potty-talk like stinky-face and stinky-butt. No big deal at home, right? Well, at camp this summer, Dylan yelled “Goodbye stinky face!” to one of his friends, except there was a teacher standing between them and it looked like he said it to her. I made him apologize, but the look on her face made it clear that he was dead to her. The lesson there was that potty-talk can be as dangerous as an f-bomb.
Sometimes we just don’t want our kids to know what we’re saying. In this case, I spell. D has to get a s-h-o-t today. Or, D is going to the d-e-n-t-i-s-t tomorrow and I’m f-u-c-k-i-n-g dreading it. Or, D’s teacher asked me if he has a h-e-a-r-i-n-g p-r-o-b-l-e-m. (He doesn’t.) Spelling isn’t for everyone. It requires a high level of attention – for the speller and the listener – and might not work if the television is on, the kids are whining or your smart phone is within reaching distance. My best advice is to spell words that have less than six letters. Of course, Dylan has begun learning his letters and sounds, and he watches the “Letter Factory” non-stop, so this technique will soon be w-o-r-t-h-l-e-s-s (sorry, that was more than six letters).
I have a friend who refers to her daughter as “Sylvia” whenever she talks about her in front of her. For instance, she’ll say, “Sylvia isn’t going to so-and-so’s birthday party.” Just last weekend, Mike said something to me about Dylan but referred to him as “Derek.” I have no idea what he actually said because I was fixated on his code name choice. Personally, I would have used Declan. That’s the name I would use if I had a third child and it were a boy. But I’m not having any more kids, so it’s more likely that Declan will be a dog or a fish’s name (or if my worst pet nightmare comes true, a lizard’s name). As you can see, code names are distracting for me.
In the end, whether you spell or use pseudonyms, it’s all about doing the best you can to protect your kids from stuff they may or may not need to hear. Still, sometimes we find ourselves in difficult situations. Sometimes we end up talking, arguing and maybe even cursing or crying about our children and all of their idiosyncrasies and challenges right in front of them. With no spelling and no code names. And they hear all of it and they understand a lot of it. Then what?
I recently found myself in this unfortunate scenario and was only able to stop after Dylan yelled, “Mommy, stop talking!” What he meant was, “Stop talking about me!” I did what any Loving (and very Guilty) Mama would do. I stopped talking. I hugged my little boy as tight as I could, kissed him until he forced me to stop out of annoyance, told him how special he was and how much I loved him, and hoped I hadn’t screwed him up for good. And then I took his lead and moved on. Kids are amazingly good at not dwelling or holding grudges. And then I promised myself that I would never do anything that f—–g i-r-r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-l-e (too many letters again) in front of Declan again.