Repeat After Me
By: Ann Brown
I need a couple of volunteers. I have a few theories I want to test.
I have a tendency towards the letters “f” and “s” and “asshole” in conversation and I did not clean up my language when I had kids. Oh, I tried but, honestly, when you walk by your four-year-old’s bedroom and see him with the dog’s tail in one hand and a greased up thermometer in the other, the only suitable response is, “what the FUCK is going on in here????” And when your four-year-old says to you, “the dog has a little fever but she still has to go to school today”, which means that – for one thing – you are never, ever, ever going to use that thermometer again, any response other than, “are you fucking SHITTING me?” is not going to cut it. And when he tells you that he’s been taking the dog’s temperature every day for the past week and you know for a fact that you put that thermometer in your mouth, IN YOUR MOUTH, only yesterday because you wanted to find out just how hot, exactly, a menopausal hot flash was, well, there aren’t enough “fuck”s and “goddamn”s and “holy shit”s in the dictionary to express your concern.
So my kids were raised in an “R” rated home, language-wise. Well, also nudity-wise, I guess, since we are not a bathrobe kind of family but that worked itself out once my sons were old enough to realize that they’d rather poke their eyeballs out with blunt ice picks than catch a glimpse of me darting nekked from the bathroom to the bedroom.
I averaged about two dozen bad words a day when my kids were little. They were mortified by the descriptive language I used. One year, when my older son was in college he brought a girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner and after hearing me tell a story that was basically a Mad Libs of bad words with the occasional verb and noun thrown in, he said to his girlfriend, “so, judging by their language, guess which parent is the construction worker and which one is the preschool teacher?”
My children preferred the King’s English to potty talk. That cannot be coincidence.
So here’s my theory:
If one raises children in a home full of naughty words, the children will grow up to avoid that kind of language. I believe the reverse corollary is true, as well, because I have this one anecdote to support me.
The harshest thing my friend Alicia says in front of her kids is, “Holy Crackers!” and her three-year-old came up with “oh, for fuck’s sake” when faced with a particularly challenging puzzle at preschool last year. I rest my case.
My theory worked with my own two kids but I need more data. So if any of you have children under the age of, say, two, I could use a favor. Please use at least two dozen bad words a day with them. Begin today and get back to me in twenty years.
I have a really good feeling about this.