My swear words and yours
Last weekend, I played Frisbee with my kids at a playground where a mom and a toddler sat nearby watching the action. I made a bad toss and muttered, “Wow, that was a sucky throw – I’m sorry!” Stroller Mom made a “huff” sound, stood up, gave me That Look, huffed a little more, and then rolled her tot to the other end of the playground to watch another family in action. Whoops, I thought, perhaps “sucky” isn’t a word that she wants her toddler to hear. I felt bad because I’ve been in Stroller Mom’s shoes, even if I haven’t had a huffy-fit about it. There are words that I don’t want my kids to hear, like “hate,” “can’t” and “stupid.” Unlike the questionable “sucky,” though, the words I consider to be swears are bandied about everyday by grown-ups who think they’re being responsible about swearing.
Think about it: how often over election season (or over the past eight years) did we all hear “I hate Bush!” Might it have been better said that we prefer a Democratic ticket or hope that Obama/Biden wins? Might it have been better to discuss the problems with Bush’s decisionmaking and to suggest alternative outcomes? I know a whole lot of kids here on the Left Coast who echo their parents’ political sentiments without an iota of reasoning to back it up. “I hate” doesn’t encourage much discussion, but it does encourage a world view that is very black-and-white — and final. I would much rather that my children have an opinion based on something and offer their reasoning for it. For example, I proudly supported Obama/Biden, but I do not hate former President Bush. I disagreed with many of his decisions. I took the time to explain why to my third-grader, who was very bothered by the hateful rhetoric surrounding the last year of Bush’s presidency. The end result was the heightening of her political awareness. She also knows now why her father and I disapprove of “hate speech” in any context, and she knows that we believe that you can dislike someone’s actions without disliking the person. Those are very different things.Continued on the next page