Last week I read a couple of really good posts about parenting. For real. You may have seen them too because they went viral. The first is “Your Children Want You.” It made me cry because it’s so sweet. The other two aren’t as weepy, but they’re insightful. Read “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls” and “Motherhood 101.” I’m going to save the Teenage Girl guide for my daughter to read in a few years, and it’s too bad the new mom post didn’t exist back when I needed it.
I wish I could write something inspirational and tender, but that’s just not my style. Occasionally I have mushy thoughts inside my head, but they come out all wonky, kind of like my dancing. All my moves seem awesome when they start in my brain, but the execution is poor and the whole scene becomes downright humiliating for both me and innocent onlookers.
Also, I have no special qualifications to write parenting advice — I’m not a teacher, psychologist, or a mother of five. My kids are happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, but they are easy children. I’m not saying a monkey could do it — I’m proud of my mothering — but we haven’t faced the challenges that many families deal with, unless you count the several instances of Legos stuck in various orifices.
As a result of my inability to be serious and my lack of qualifications, you won’t hear much realistic life advice from me. However, this is kinda real: Tell your kids exactly what bad words mean ‘cause they’ll be shamed out of ever cursing again.
Yesterday my daughter and I were out in the yard smelling roses, and one bush had been stripped of half of its flower petals. My daughter asked why, and I explained that the sprinkler system had hit the plant with a powerful stream and knocked the petals off. My sweet, thoughtful, somewhat sheltered 10-year-old daughter replied loudly and with conviction, “Sprinkler systems are dou***bags!”
It rhymes with smooshbags.
I was half-horrified and half about to laugh. I gasped and gently replied that we cannot say that word. It’s impolite. It’s gross. Oh. My. Gosh.
She had no idea that it was so inapropro. (I use inappropriate so much that I gave it a nickname.) I was immediately suspicious of a certain television show, but she said she read the word in a book she got from school. Authors. Pshaw.
I was afraid that she might say it again sometime if I simply told her it was a bad word. She might still think it sounded cool. So I took all the coolness out of it: I gave her the real, graphic definition. She was immediately blushing, mortified and grossed out. And very apologetic. Score! And then we had a good laugh.
We agreed that bad words, especially that one, are not ladylike. My daughter felt a little flattered that I gave her an accurate explanation and trusted her to keep it to herself. With great power comes great responsibility. Now that she knows the meaning of the word, I’m 99.9% positive she will avoid saying it out of pure embarrassment. I admit that I’m not always proper — my last post was about fruit flies doing the deed — but I’m not ten-years-old, either. And I’m making a conscious decision to write such things, so I won’t be surprised when nobody wants me to be President of the United States or the next Miss Manners. (Though I might cry if I stop getting invited to parties, and that’ll teach me.) My daughter should at least start out ladylike, and then she can go downhill from there if she so chooses.
Also, as a woman, I resent feminine hygiene products being used as an insult — I guess that’s why this word in particular offends me so much. It seems degrading to women. (I had more commentary about this but then decided that I would for sure lose party invitations.) As an alternative, if you need to demean a sprinkler system, call it a tardy-gaited miscreant or another combination found on this Shakespearean list.
Anyway, I think bad words are much less appealing to kids when shock factor is replaced with embarrassment and disgust at the real meaning. So here’s my parenting advice in a nutshell: Tell your kids what smooshbag means if it ever comes up.
***Disclaimer: This strategy should not be used with kids who have poor impulse control, those of a rebellious nature, or on children who are too young to know about puberty. Also, I didn’t look up the definition of tardy-gaited miscreant, so I apologize if I offended those of you who are, in fact, tardy-gaited or miscreants.***
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