Friday, September 26, 2008

Bad Language

"Dumbo!"

"What did you just say?" I admire the creativity, but I'm purposely not smiling...
Gabey, however, is smiling, with a mischievous twinkle in his brown eye.

Dumbo has turned into a bad word at our house. Sweet little, floppy-eared Dumbo. Because we love little Dumbo, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, the first time I heard Gabriel (4) call William (2) by the name. Surely, I thought, he's not using Dumbo's name as a slur! Dumbo is one of his favorite cartoons!

But then he did it again. And it was not in the tone of voice one uses to compliment. Then William picked it up, and before I knew it, it was the favored term of un-endearment around here.

Good grief! How is it that these sweet little boys can instinctively pick up a thing like this? Is it our fallen human nature? Is it a child's natural instinct for one-upsmanship? Do they think it's just fun to come up with creative insults? I don't know, but they all do it.

We went through a terrible "stupid" epidemic at our house when I was a kid, and my Mom and Dad brought out the whole arsenal of parenting weaponry to eradicate it. Soap to spanked butts. And it worked somewhat. We did stop saying it in front of them.
Mom and Dad also outlawed the phrases: "Shut up," "Sit on it," and "Oh, man" (That one just got under my Dad's skin...), and we were discouraged from saying "nerd" and the four letter word that means flatulation. But that's as bad as it got, really. It was the seventies, when the world still sheltered children somewhat. All of the families we knew made a point of it, anyway. We were only allowed to watch PBS, documentaries, and old movies on TV, and joined in the universal exclamation of horror when an eighth grader on our bus bragged that his mother let him watch All in the Family. That was racy back then; it was a scandal! We went to Catholic schools, where there were parent meetings about the appropriateness of taking the school children to go see Fantasia (Modesty issues, you know, and sorcery...). The worst word we ever heard uttered was "damn" ~ and we were horrified at that!
My parents never cursed, either, except perhaps the one mild four letter word that my Mom let slip every once in a blue moon that we didn't begrudge her. She'd usually earned the right to it, and the seven of us knew that, since we'd pushed her to it, we'd probably be the ones to answer to the Almighty for it. My Dad, on the other hand, used only creative phrases of exclamation like: "Oh, bat terds!" and "Horse hockey!" (We still giggle at these.)

But our bad words were not so much bad as just rude, I guess. Like "Dumbo." The only reason Gabe says it is to make his brother mad. Which, in a way, is worse than a curse word said out of habit, I guess. But, I'm glad that it's just a little word and one I can likely nip in the bud. I'm determined to teach him that it's an unkindness that spreads like a ripple on a pond. It spreads into other lives, like it did here, slipping into the vocabulary of his two-year-old brother, creating unhappiness.

And it digs deep down into our own characters. The habit of bad language grows and indicates a habit of unkindness and a lowness of mind. And it starts with little words like "Dumbo" and "stupid," and with unkind phrases like "shut up." All best nipped in the bud by Mom and Dad while they still have the power to create good habits of thought.

My oldest sons have an old friend who uses foul language, and they've told me that it pains them to have to avoid him because of it. It's so sad. But I'm proud of them that they understand that ripple effect and want to stay away from it. And it so pleases my parent's heart to see that one little thing we started teaching them when they were toddlers (I think the offending phrase for the big boys was "dumdum.") has come to roost in their hearts.

My boys. It almost makes me want to bite my tongue when I hear them calling each other things like "doofus" and "lunk head."
Parenting never really ends, does it?

3 comments:

SuzyQ said...

I agree with you!
We don't allow words like stupid or shut up in our house and we don't swear. Kids pick up on the smallest things. One of the reasons we don't watch TV is beacuse swearing and bad attitudes are just so prevelant. It's become part of the culture to curse and be the one with the smart answer.
We do watch movies though and Dumbo is one that my kids love. They haven't picked up on the word as of yet though. I say yet cautiously!
Great Post!

Marie said...

There was an add here where a mother is in the car with her child when her daughter says 'bl**dy idiot' the mother tells her child off. Then the next moment the mother has her head out the window screaming obscenities at another driver, she then pauses and understands her child is picking up the language from her! It's a good Add.

My biggest expression is 'Geesh Louise' though I do drop the 'Bl**dy' this and that too often.

Off topic here a bit.

I wrote a piece about Russia a few days ago and finally heard the gas pipeline mentioned in the debates. Do Americans understand the threat this Russian pipeline has towards America's own interests? Only I rarely hear it mentioned on the news?

Let me know hon if you know about the gas pipeline?

Peace and love to you:)

Marie xooxoxox

Lisa said...

Suzy ~ I know! The world is so full of bad influences, it's hard to keep them out of our house ~ as sheltered as we are here! Who'd 've thought the little guys would have thought up their own "bad word" from an innocent cartoon, though? Sheesh!

Marie ~ We've been following the news closely ~ largely through alternative sources, so have been aware of the fragile situation over in Russia, and are very nervous about it. The balance of America, though, I would bet hasn't got a clue. If you listen to the mainstream media, our biggest threat right now is the fact that Sarah Palin asked a librarian once years ago (at the request of her constituants) whether there was a process for removing books that people felt were dangerous to children. (Which I personally think is a good question...)

To be fair, though, both candidates did address the Russian problem in the debate last night, but not as an area of greatest concern. It was more of a "by the way" issue. Right now everyone is just worried if our banks will be collapsing on Monday.

Pray for us!