Words are worth exactly the thought and the sentiment put into them.
I’m not sure if it is because I was an English Major or because etymology is my hobby or even because I think the art of rhetoric is fascinating. I am just not hung up on the individual words themselves. I generally say exactly what I mean and mean exactly what I say. It’s all about context.
This is why Chris Rock can call Kanye West a "niggah" but George Bush can't.
This is also why I have never had a problem with Little Dog using words which many (or most) consider to be inappropriate. He can say shit, damn, piss, and even fuck. I truly do not care. I do, however, care about words and phrases like: “Shut up!” or “Hate” or “Retarded.”
I mean, words can hurt, and the damage can extend further than to just the person you are saying them to. Using certain words can perpetuate stereotypes; dissuade compassion and even waste energy. Have you ever though of the energy it takes to “hate?”
Yup. Hate is a mighty strong word. In fact, I canot think of anyone, or even any thing I truly hate. When little dog first uttered “I hate this!’ I stopped him in his tracks and made him think hard about whether or not “this” (whatever it was) was really worth that kind of intense emotion. He agreed it probably was not and the word is not a part of his regular vocabulary today.
I may be a lot of things, but I am not a hypocrite. I would never tell my child he could not use a word he not only learned from me, but hears me use on a daily basis. I am, however, a realist, and I know I am not going to erase curse words from my vocabulary any time in the near future. “Fuck” has little literal meaning to me. I use it more as a punctuation term. I think it has replaced the frequent valley girl-esque use of “like.”
Therefore, the day Little Dog uttered his first curse word does not stand out in my mind as an event. I do chuckle at memories of him, at two years old, referring to his father as “Dammit Daddy” because he heard me utter the phrase so many times.
I also remember the day his kindergarten teacher pulled me aside at pickup time to deliver what, judging by her expression, looked to be some very sobering news.
“Little Dog said a ‘bad’ word today.” Miss Kirk told me in a whispered voice. “He said,” and here she lowered her voice to a barely audible whisper, “Ass.”
“And…” I thought, but out loud I said, “In what context did he say it?”
She looked at me as if I were crazy.
But I had a point. If he had told a classmate, in anger, that he was “gonna kick your ass!” that would be a problem to me. Likewise, if he had objectified someone by telling them they had a “fat ass” or even a “nice ass” I would have a problem.
“We were doing puzzles and his group was racing against another group and he said, ‘we’re gonna kick ass!’ ” Again, she lowered her voice to a whisper to say the offending word.
Okay, so my kid was overzealous in his puzzle working confidence. BFD. I did what any parent would do in the same circumstance.
I sold my kid out.
I think I said something like, “I am so sorry, I don’t know where he picked that up. I will definitely have a talk with him tonight.”
I mean, really, what was I going to say? She was obviously appalled and offended. I was not ready to become the outcast mommy who has no morals and pack that baggage in my son’s childhood experience. I had no choice.
Little Dog cried on the way home. He told me the whole story of how his beloved Miss Kirk was mad at him. He was truly worried she would not like him any more. I very calmly explained that, while we did not find those words to be offensive, other people often did. So, we decided it would probably be a good idea if he did not use certain words anywhere but at home. It was like how daddy wore his boxers around the house, but not in front of anyone but us. Some things, you just should not do/show/say to the world. I made sure Little Dog did not feel as if he had done something wrong – but rather, that he had accidentally done something inappropriate.
When RB got home I told him about the incident. “Where the fuck did he learn that shit?” RB mockingly asked.
He reiterated my lesson to Little Dog, who decided he wanted to call Miss Kirk and apologise before he went to bed.
I dialed the number as he anxiously held the phone. When she answered he said, “Miss Kirk? This is Little Dog. I wanted to say I am sorry that I offended you. I will not ever use that word around you again.”
Notice how he never actually apologised for saying “ass,” but only for offending her? I think he instinctively knew the whole “say what you mean/mean what you say thing!”
When he hung up we asked him if he felt better.
He told us that he felt “Damned good” about the whole thing and that he “Sure as hell would not talk that shit in class again.”
Not really, but you know, I am pretty sure that is probably what he was thinking.