Swearing like a Sailor... at Seven?

Some rainy afternoon, a well mannered mother may come upon her children whispering conspiratorially, while listening to the Black Eyed Peas' “My Humps” on a CD she foolishly allowed them to borrow from the public library. “Shhh… here… its here! Listen!” one child says to the other and they bend their heads close to the speaker, and their eyes flicker in recognition, when they hear the lyric, “…all that ass inside those jeans...” Never mind that the song is dreadfully inappropriate for so many reasons besides the language. Never mind that this is probably not the first time they’ve heard a swear word. Never mind that the song is just really, really bad. Even annoying.

The mother recognizes her children are focused on the language and this is a “teachable moment.” Though she may be tempted to pretend she doesn’t see them, she has no excuse. The house is reasonably quiet; its not bedtime, homework time, or get-out-the-door-we’re late-for-school time. The only problem is that she’s not entirely sure how, exactly, she should address swearing.

She briefly considers confiscating the CD, disapproving loudly and continuing about her business, imagining that her children’s world is and will remain PBS kids, Raffi, and homemade cookies. Next, she considers postponing any discussions with a deft “re-direct,” and a comment like, “Oh you want to hear funny song? Have you ever heard of Weird Al Yankovic?” But she decides to save the powerful tool of Weird Al for a more desperate parenting occasion.

So she takes her mother in-law’s advice (really!) and tries to address the language issue head on. Casually as possible, she asks, “oh are you listening for the part where they say, ‘ass’?” (Yes, if your mother can say “ass,” it can’t be that cool or dangerous.) Then she explains, “Most adults find swear word offensive, especially coming from children,” adding, “I don’t care if you use those words, but I would be really disappointed if you were to use those words in front of other children and adults.” Voila! Words (hopefully) de-mystified, expectations defined. The well mannered mother can only hope that they are met. Meanwhile, she braces herself for the moment when her toddler, eavesdropping from the next room, starts swearing like a sailor.

8 comments:

Amy Fuller Boyd said...

You hit this issue and how to handle it spot on!

I love the Black Eyed Peas but their songs have caused many a tricky conversation in my house. When my daughter danced to Boom Boom Pow at her recital last year we convinced my son that the song said "spit" instead of "shit". He happy sang "Them girls go ape-spit, uh" for many a month. Of course hanging at the playground an older child corrected him of his ignorance.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Funny. Hope he wasn't upset to find out the truth. I'm not sure my kids have discovered the swearing in Boom Boom Pow.... yet.

Barefoot Liz said...

I know that kids as early as Kindergarten and 1st grade age talk about swear words at school. Many a day my child has come home spouting a colorful word, only to tell me that "_____" from school says it.
I'm guessing that the point of origin is an older sibling or parent.

Never thought I'd be saying things like "If your friend jumped off a bridge..."

Beau Dure said...

Weird Al says "ass" in "Gump," which I realized *after* I had included it on my kid-safe iPod mix.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Oh no! Guess we'll have to screen Weird Al too. Though we haven't tried it, I still think "Eat it" Will be a crowd pleaser at my house.

IL-VA-MA-TORONTO said...

I *gasp* swear in front of my children. They aren't allowed to swear in front of me and they aren't supposed to say swears at all (which, in my house, include Shut Up and Stupid - both the "S-words"). I tell them when they have jobs and their own homes, they are allowed to say whatever they want...some restraint should be shown depending on the situation and the company, of course.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Very clever to add the "S-words" At my house we might have to add the "I-word" as in "idiot!"

Beau Dure said...

I was wrong -- "Gump" doesn't have the word "ass" in it, but it does have the word "slut." Which I think is actually more difficult to explain.

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