When Olivia and Farrah were taking swim lessons a couple of weeks ago, Olivia was quick to report to me that her swim coach used a bad word. It was the “s” word. I was immediately alarmed, because I believe instructors for children should most certainly be careful of the language they use because of their position of influence. But again, I wasn’t so sure about what “s” word Olivia was referring to, so I asked her to spell it. I’m glad I did. The word was “stupid,” and boy was I relieved. (The swim coach wasn’t calling HER stupid; she just happened to use the word for something else.).
On a more recent occasion, Olivia reported to me that Farrah had used the “s” word. But it wasn’t the “s-t-u-p-i-d” word, Olivia was quick to add. Oh my gosh, I thought. If it wasn’t “stupid”, what other dirty “s” word has my sweet four year old picked up? And since I know she didn’t pick up any filthy words in our house, I immediately began to wonder about who / what institution she’d been recently exposed to that had begun to strip my child from her innocence.
As it turns out, the bad “s” word Farrah used was “shut up”. Talk about being relieved! Yes, it’s another word (or rather two words) that I don’t approve of the girls using, but it turns out she wasn’t talking directly to anyone when she said it. She was in her land of make-believe and making one of her stuffed animals say it to another stuffed animal. But regardless, I refused to let my relief show on my face, and I handled Olivia’s reports as seriously as I would’ve had it truly been some vulgar words.
I believe in preserving the innocence of youth for however long possible; and if I can teach them that certain words – like the REAL bad words – are taboo and innappropriate (which I haven’t had to discuss so far, thank goodness), surely I can train their minds to be as mild with their lanuguage as possible. I just don’t think those real bad words need to be in our sphere of influence right now. They’ll come along soon enough. So the “bad” words on our list include things like stupid, shut up, butt, oh my god, and stuff like that. When I was younger, there were certain words my mom didn’t approve of either – like “lie” (we had to say “story”), butt (our word was “booty”, which is actually off limits for my girls right now), “funky”, and “punk”, to name the ones that immediately come to mind. The truth is, as my girls get older they’ll undoubtedly earn the right to substitute their mild words (like “bottom”), for some less milder words (like “butt”), but it’ll be a gradual progression / right of passage type of thing. I consider it a buffer zone for getting to the real bad words, which worked out really well for my own upbringing. I’ve never been a curser/swearer, and even at age 35 I still cringe to hear people choose harsh language when there are so many other alternate words they can use.
It really is kind of amusing to watch Olivia come to me occasionally (especially during the school year) and tattle on one of her classmates for using the bad word for bottom (“butt”). Reminds me of the Ramona movie… “guts, guts, guts!” I know, I’m a bit old fashioned, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Critics would say I’m sheltering them, and that it will be bad for them in the long run. And yes, one day they will undoubtedly be at a friend’s house and their friend’s mom will pop in a totally inappropriate movie whose actors use every (truly) bad word in the book, and the girls won’t have a clue. But I guess we’ll burn that bridge when we cross it.