By now it probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I have no aversion to profanity -- or, as Patrick Star would call it, fancy sentence enhancers. And since I've mentioned that I swear like a sailor in front of my kids, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Ethan occasionally stands in the middle of the kitchen yelling, "Who the hell left the door open?" (In his defense, it is really annoying.) Ethan also points at things he doesn't recognize and asks, "What the hell is that thing?" So inquisitive.
Now, surely my parents would have injured themselves in their haste to get me to a priest had I said anything remotely as profane when I was 5. But I just can't get past thinking it's the cutest thing I've ever seen. Which I do. Because it is.
Know what's not so cute, though? Having to figure a way to teach where the line is drawn (yes, even I acknowledge there's a line). For instance, "hell" and "damn" are almost always cute -- especially when delivered in that innocent Pebbles Flintstone voice that all kids have. Relative to its context, "shit" starts to push the boundaries of acceptability and "fuck" should really only be trotted out on special occasions, otherwise you risk cheapening it. These are rules and they're relatively easy to teach because the words themselves are the triggers. What's not so easy to teach is the subtle bundling of ordinary non-swear words to create something almost unspeakably profane. For example, let's say -- oh, I don't know -- Jack Black's withdrawal-induced plea to be freed in exchange for oral sex in Tropic Thunder: "I'll cradle the balls, stroke the shaft, work the pipe and swallow the gravy." Now call me crazy, but I'd rather have my kids run around going "Fuckety fuck fuck" all day in front of a flock of nuns than to say that line even once.
Bet you know what's coming, don't you.
The other night I couldn't sleep and went downstairs to watch TV. Lucky me, HBO was playing Tropic Thunder which happens to be one of my favorite movies ever, so I watched it. When it was over I went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up and went downstairs to do my morning chores—get everyone's stuff ready for the day. I turned on the TV to keep me company and to try to catch the weather. A few minutes later the kids came down for breakfast. Ethan, wanting to watch SpongeBob, hit the "previous channel" button (surprise, most nights our TV is tuned to Nickelodeon when we turn it off). Guess what the last channel was this time. Right, HBO from last night's insomniac theater. Guess what was playing. Right, Tropic Thunder. Guess what scene was on? Right, the "work the pipe" speech -- and I mean the timing of this was so precise that it would have made a Swiss watchmaker take notice. It sounded a little like this: "...today, highs in the mid- to upper-60s with plenty of sun—FSSHHT—cradle the balls, ..."
So here's me in the kitchen, pulse instantly nearing quadruple digits, sprinting to grab the remote from Ethan's hands, which I realize after the fact is probably the wrong thing to do. Because now he realizes that he's just heard something he shouldn't have, which, to him, is his cue to memorize it. And repeat it. Often. So for the next half hour or so until the bus comes Ethan is in my face parroting these lines to best of his abilities: "Ladle the malls, broke the chaff, work the pie and swallow the gravy." He even does that little "vvv vvv vvv" thing Jack Black does afterward. Which CREEPS. ME. THEFUCK. OUT!
But I downplay it, knowing that acknowledgment is reinforcement. And I try to change the subject after each utterance, but to no avail. Not even me actually turning the TV to SpongeBob is drawing his attention from this. He is focused. He knows this tweaks me. He just doesn't know why. But he apparently doesn't need to. "Daddy, daddy, daddy. Ladle the malls, ladle the malls, ladle the malls." Christ, he's written a song about it already.
Oh well, here's hoping a few things: 1) he doesn't repeat this at school, as we surely don't need any more notes home (within the first 14 days of school we had no fewer than 10 notes between them -- none of which were profanity-related, thankyouverymuch), and 2) enough stuff happens to him today that he forgets about this by the time he gets home.
Fortunately, both wishes came true. Well, at least we didn't get any notes home about our son propositioning anybody with offers of oral sex. Or indecipherable cooking instructions or whatever the hell he said. And as for me, all I can say is "Universe? Message received loud and clear: Tomorrow I learn how to use that fucking channel blocking fucking function!"
"Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer." —Mark Twain
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