Suburban Snapshots

To Profanity and Beyond

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If you follow my Facebook posts at all, you know that Anna's been experimenting with some colorful language lately. It's not the first time she's spouted obscenities, but at three she's got the context down too, so that when, in the middle of a crowded sporting goods store on a recent Saturday she dropped an entire bag of pretzels, her, "Oh that freakin' CRAP!" was delivered with the inflection and emphasis of a fifty-year-old construction worker.

And what's amazing is how she picks up on the exact wrong word in any given sentence when she barely hears the phrases I've got on perpetual repeat, like, "Don't get in the dog's face," or, "Please take the macaroni out of your underpants." In a single hour I deliver any number of non-expletives, but the second I trip over a dog begging at my feet and mutter, "Dammit, Henry," the house fills with tiny, little dammits from door to door.

I joke that it's my electrician husband who's at the root of all the R-rated turns of phrase in our house, but we're both really careful about dropping those big swears. Mostly it's me, tossing PG grenades at annoying situations; a broken glass, poop in the house, slamming the funny bone I didn't know existed near the knee cap into a table (this totally deserved a giant, screaming, "FUCK," but I exercised  restraint). Finger nails bent too far backward get furrowed, "Oh, crap"s. Jars sealed shut by solidified jelly are usually "freaking pain"s.

We don't want to raise a foul-mouthed kid, and the folks who've commented on my status updates suggest guiding her in her use of expletives rather than disciplining her. I get the philosophy behind that, but also remember an ex-boyfriend who frequently called his mother a bitch, and I wonder if maybe that had been her method for dealing with his preschool potty-mouth and it backfired completely in his teen years.

Admittedly it's almost impossible not to laugh when she says matter-of-factly that the melting of her ice cream sucks, or shouts, "Oh, mandammit!" in frustration. Usually I hide my convulsive laughter and try to ignore the offending word, distracting her into something else.

I know some of you have teenagers, I wonder if you had a strategy for this or whether you just let it work itself out. Were there bars of soap? Wooden spoons? Time outs? Did you use different levels of discipline according to the volatility of the four letters in question? If you've been here or are currently stifling your own laughter, I'd love to hear from you.

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