I have three children.
I can echo the sentiments of many a parent who came before me in saying that bringing up children is one of the hardest jobs in the world. A lot of people (most likely due to a combination of guilt for calling it ‘the hardest job in the world’ and a keen desire not to have their children write a cripplingly embarrassing memoir about them later in life) immediately follow that particular statement up with, “It is also one of the most rewarding jobs in the world”.
I mean, I’m sure that is true on certain days (like when they nap), but when kids are little, the exhaustion-reward ratio is tilted precariously in their favor. I’m not kidding. When you slouch up the stairs after a hard day and the only positive thing you can mumble to your spouse (because you can’t talk, because in a championship-level feat of parenting skill and determination, you have left it all out on the field) is “He sure is cute when he’s asleep”, I am here to tell you that you have not had a balanced day.
I’m also of the mindset that the best invention ever for ensuring the sanity of today’s parents (and the continuation of our species as a whole) is the digital camera. Because you can just run to that camera, on a moment’s notice, and scroll through a bazillion happy-faced photos of your child any time you need a jolt of balance against the snot-nosed, crayon-wielding demon spawn you just locked in the bathroom. Back when my kids were little, if we needed to remind ourselves that our kids were indeed capable of being cute and cherubic, we had to wait a whole week to get photographic proof back from Target.
Many a parent arrived at that red laminated counter on their hands and knees, reaching out with a shaking hand, to grasp their envelope of photos.
Some. Well, some just never made it.
But I digress.
So I have three children and today two (First Born Mac – short for Mackenzie – and Number One Son Sam) are in college (Whierd.)
Side note: (We Dingles always pronounce the ‘h’ that was never there in the word, ‘whierd’. Ever since the Brian and Stewie scene from Family Guy in which (wHich) Stewie asks for Cool Whip with his piece of pie (That has hair in it. Don’t ask.) As a matter of fact, ‘wHat’, ‘wHich’, and “wHether” also fall into our pronunciation melee.” (In case you have no idea what I’m talking about: Stewie and Cool Whip)
Anyway, it is whierd that we have kids in college. And we also have Gabe, the Self-Proclaimed Perfect Child, who is still home with us as he meanders his way through high school. Poor kid. He has to handle all the parental love and attention that we are capable of pouring into him all by himself. He’s really tall, so there’s a lot of room in that body, but we’re pretty sure he’ll burst by about the middle of his senior year. I’m not sure he’ll make it to college (having exploded and all). But, in the esteemed words of Meatloaf, ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’.
So bringing up children presents many challenges and sometimes you just have to create the rewards for yourself or, lets face it, they may never come. There really is no owner’s manual – wait, I am so old and dated at this point – there’s no app for that. There is no app for bringing up your kid (I just looked, I am correct on this). I mean, sure, there are a lot of parenting magazines and books. And, yes, there are way too many self-righteous – er – assured people who can help you out in a pinch. But I’m here to tell you, they are all just wingin’ it (just like you). So we – my nearly perfect husband and I – figured that if we were going to gamble with our childrens’ futures (another way to say ‘wing it’), we were going to have some fun along the way.
That brings me to today’s topic.
(Yes, we just got from child rearing to expletives in one transitional line. C’mon people. This isn’t your first Just Ponderin’ rodeo. You can handle it.)
In real life, as well as in the writing world, I have heard that I have a reputation for never getting mad (false). I also understand from being told once too often that my reputation also includes the fact that I do not swear. This is also patently untrue.
I swear it.
The other day, I used ‘sh**’ three times in a post. I mean, sure, it was not remotely gratuitous and had true value in the scene (and I did apologize for it), but I used it. I also believe it added an edginess and maturity necessary to allow me to break out of the child-star mold that was holding me back from expressing my true self.
A little like the Miley Cyrus performance at the MTV Music Video Awards a few weeks back.
Minus the creepy teddy bears and weird leotard.
And awkward dancing we now know as ‘twerking’.
Oh! And the wheirded-out audience.
Okay, it’s nothing like Miley Cyrus.
Anyway, being a parent – and requiring creativity to continue some semblance of life as I once knew it (and ensuring I have something to yell when I hit my thumb with a hammer (or Monty mistakes my fingers for cheese, or Fred eats another remote, or Marshal Dillon Dingle knocks over my computer by leaping onto the sofa safe zone beside me because he woke Blaze up again and she’s gonna murder him)) – I had to get creative. In this vein, I utilized the following innocent terms at regular intervals throughout my day, as necessary, to avoid phone calls from teachers, principals, and/or irate parents:
“JJJJJJJJJJJiminy CRICKET!” (apologies to Walt Disney for ruining a perfectly innocent (and helpful) cricket character).
“Freakin'” (“You’ve got to be FREAKIN’ kidding me!” is still one of my most popular expletive-laced sentences).
“Gosh” (I admit it. I do use it. It sounds ridiculously innocent and sweet, but the lapsed Catholic in me feels very guilty about using it, because deep down I know I’m really substituting ‘gosh’ for “God’ (as in ‘Oh my gosh’ or ‘Gosh darn it’). When I write it, I even accidentally capitalize “Gosh” when it isn’t the first word of a sentence, proving out loud that I am substituting it for ‘God’. Yep. It is a thinly veiled attempt not to take the Lord’s name in vain, as described to me by Father McCue long ago. And God knows it, even if spell check catches it.
I am livin’ on the edge here, people.
And the list goes on.
So as my kids got older, they began to understand that I was using substitute swear words for the real things. It was getting harder and harder to fool those little monkeys. And I knew that, one day, I was going to slip in a big way. So to avoid shock and awe, I theorized that I should introduce them to the reality of forbidden words slowly. And, in this spirit, came the first lesson in separating the “really bad words” from the “sort of bad words”. And the place I chose for this exercise in stellar child rearing? A place where innocence goes to die.
During a Yankees game.
The kids were about 12, 10, and 7. We’d won four tickets to one of the Red Sox/Yankees games, which happened to be during the last series of the season. Mac opted to have a sleep over at a friend’s house, so it was John, the boys and I heading to Fenway.
We had watched the games and standings for weeks leading up to the last series of the season, between the Red Sox and Yankees. By the time we headed to Fenway Park (“P-ah-K”), the outcome of the series would determine both the Division and the Wild Card. The place was going to be a mad house.
On Monday of Game Week, our whole family happened to be at the breakfast table at the same time, when I got a stellar idea.
“You know, ” I said, with a really good evil gleam in my eye (the kids recognized this gleam from about 50 paces by that time, so they got all excited when they saw it.) “You guys haven’t ever been to a Yankees game before…”
They leaned in really close.
“It’s awesome,” I continued. “The place will be shaking with yelling and stomping. Everyone joins in the chanting and singing…”
Sam bit first, “What do they chant?”
Me: “Well, lots of things.”
Gabe (youngest): “Like what?”
Me: “Well, let’s see. There’s (sing-song voice) “Let’s go Red Sox!” (clap clap, clapclapclap).
Nearly Perfect Husband: “And they sing ‘Sweet Caroline’ in the eighth inning.”
Sam: “Dad, they always sing that. Not just for Yankees games. (pause) Oh, wait! They yell other things too!” (Bingo.)
Gabe: “Like what?”
Sam (all conspiratorial-like because he was older and so much wiser): Like, Yankees ‘S'”
Gabe (wide-eyed): “Yankees ‘S-H’ word?”
Sam (eye-roll): No, Gabe. The other ‘S’ word. The ‘suh’ one.”
(Mac is just watching from her high-big sister perch. It wasn’t physically higher. Just psychologically. As first-born, she gets that seat for life.)
Me: “Yep. And you know what?”
Gabe and Sam: “What?”
Me: “You can say it too.”
Much excitement ensued.
Sam and Gabe: “REALLY?!”
Me: “Yep. But only in Fenway Park.”
Gabe: “What about when we’re riding there?”
Me: “Nope. Only in the Park.”
Mac (who had opted not to go to the game) “Can I say it?”
John and Me: “No!”
Gabe: “So we can say “Yankee’s ‘S'” when we get there?”
Me: “Yep. And you can even yell it if you want.”
Whoa. You would have thought I’d given them the key to Toys R Us.
The whole week they talked about it. Gabe even told his bestfriendMitchellWheeler about it, but was sure to tell me that – when he told Mitchell – that he “only said ‘S’ and not the whole word”.
When we got to Fenway Park, I sat next to Gabe. He was more excited about the permission to say the ‘S’ word than the game itself. All night, he would turn to me every couple of minutes and say, very quietly, “They suck.” or, when a Yankee player got up to bat, Gabe would ask, “Does he suck?” (always saying ‘suck’ in a whisper). He never did yell “Yankees Suck!” out loud. Neither did Sam (though he sang the audience parts of ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the top of his lungs).
But, ah, they were still young. And Jeter is still playing (“Jeter, you SUCK!” is a biggie at Fenway. He doesn’t suck, like, at all. But that’s most of the fun.), so there’s time.
Now, I’m sure that some of you out there are horrified by this. But I swear to you, I didn’t hear the ‘S’ word come out of their mouths for a really long time after that. I think even Gabe, who is approaching 16 now, may have let it slip only a couple of times (and only very recently) and, even then, corrects himself to ‘stink’ when I give him the eye. I got no calls from irate teachers or concerned parents of friends after the Yankees game. As a matter of fact, after we had left the stadium (the Red Sox won), and were about five minutes up Yawkey way, Gabe looked up at me and said, “They really did ‘S’, didn’t they Mom?”
‘Suck’ was already vocabulary history. We were back to ‘S’.
I said, “They sure did buddy.”
I had not created a hoodlum yet.
You can only say the ‘S’ word in Fenway Park during a Yankees game. That one has become a family classic. In the mean time, I’ve stuck (mostly) to “JJJJJJiminy Cricket”, “Gosh darn it” (capital G in ‘Gosh’), Geez Lou-eeeeeeze” and the occasional ‘Freakin'”.
And I’m pretty happy with my street cred.
Miley Cyrus’ advisors can eat their twerkin’ hearts out.
Thanks for readin’.