We’re on day 2 of 2014 and already I’ve had a valuable parenting lesson. Let me explain.
I spent January 1 at home with my husband, kids, and mom. Inspired by an organization book I’m reading (review to follow here soon), my husband and I spent over two hours in our basement, purging, recycling, and organizing. I put 15 items on our town’s Freecycle list (nearly half of them are gone 24 hours later). I then headed into our guest room/office closet and did more organizing and purging. I went through all of my purses, cleaning and consolidating. I was in Type A heaven.
In the middle of all of this getting ready for the new year, my kids played. They ran around the house, staying in their PJs until lunch. They put together LEGOs, they made up games, and they got along surprisingly well.
At one point, the kids and I were sitting at the kitchen table. My son, R, was coloring yet another Spiderman picture, and singing a made-up song that largely consisted of saying “farty, farty, farty, farty, fart.” After each line, he and his sister, G, giggled uncontrollably. (We’re in that six-year-old boys and let’s-talk-about-bodily-functions stage of life.) When I advised R against saying “farty,” he had a quick comeback.
“Ok, I’ll say f**ky.” (In an effort to keep Red Shutters clean, I’ll let you fill in the asterisks.)
“What?” I gasped.
“F**ky, f**ky, f**ky, f**ky,” he sang, with his eyes twinkling.
“R, that’s a bad word,” I said. “It’s even worse than stupid.” With that, both kids looked at me, shocked. Stupid is a prohibited word in our house, punishable by extended time outs and no television. The kids know it’s a big no-no, a not-even-to-be-repeated-when-tattling word.
“Mommy, you said stupid,” G whispered. Emboldened by my use of stupid, she repeated it—a bit too gleefully for my taste.
“Yes, I did. Both of these words are bad and not appropriate for kids,” I answered. I turned to R. “Where did you hear this word?”
“From you!” he replied, practically jumping out of his chair. “You said it once in front of us.”
“Was it in the car?” my husband called from the other side of the kitchen. That man knows me too well. I don’t always handle traffic so well, and swearing is sometimes my go-to stress reliever.
“Yes,” R said.
“OK, well, Mommy was wrong to say that, and I’m sorry for that,” I explained. “This is such a bad word; you cannot say it. R, if you say it at school, your teacher will send you to the principal’s office.”
My son is mystified by the concept of being sent to the principal’s office, so my pronouncement that f**k, or his variation of f**ky, could send him there banished the word from his vocabulary—at least for now.
I remember the moment I let f**k slip in front of the kids. We were in the car, as my husband predicted. I was trying to parallel pack on a narrow street piled high with snow. The kids were being loud. I thought—incorrectly—that I had hit another car. I was very tense, and I handled my stress poorly. But it was over a year ago. I was impressed (and horrified) that my son remembered it.
So, my lesson? Kids hear everything—especially the stuff you don’t want them to hear. And, my kids, apparently, store that stuff away to spring on me at surprising moments. If I remain calm and don’t get overexcited, hopefully, they’ll think whatever it is that they just said or did isn’t a big deal and will drop it. Or, at least I hope.
Day 1 down, 364 days to go.