Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The moment you first hear a swear word leave your child's darling mouth is nothing short of electrifying. There they are, wolfing down contraband goldfish and cheerfully playing with their dolls, and they drop the "S" bomb. It sounds so strange, hearing such a word leave the mouth of an innocent babe.

Your next thoughts are not really thoughts, but desperate questions; "Will she say this word again in front of other people? Will they judge me?"

I can answer these burning questions quite easily. To the first, she will indeed repeat the forbidden word in front of others in a situation so humbling and awkward it will seem as though it was a calculated act on the part of the child. To the second question, Absolutely. You will be judged. The kid heard it somewhere, and it was either from you, or some awful T.V program you allowed your kid to watch. BAM. Judged.

It happened to be in our case that Brad uttered the offending word while we were recklessly driving through downtown Louisville (lost! and late!) on the way to see our nephew, who was about to become also our Godson, receive the sacrament of Baptism. After thoroughly berating my husband, because of course *I* have never modeled anything but perfection for our children, I began wondering. Will she say it again?? And when?? And then a terrifying thought occurred to me. What if she repeats it at school?

Part of the anxiety of sending your child to school is wondering what it is that they do there all day, and what is it that the teachers are saying about your family. Does your kid look slovenly? Is your kid incredibly obnoxious, unbeknownst to you? Is it the talk of the school that you possess a tragic inability to arrive on time? And now that you have a swearing child, will the teachers be saying things to each other like, "Wow. Gianna's family huh. They must really be swearin' it up at home."

I tried to explain to Gianna, "We don't use that word, it's not a very nice word..." but she saw through me. As I explained she stared at me and I could see she was thinking, "Uh. Yeah. Pretty sure we do. Pretty sure I heard Daddy use it this morning." The talk was getting me nowhere. I had to do something else, something more drastic, to ensure that we stayed on the "good parent list" at school.

So. I opted for the preemptive disclosure. It's a ballsy move and involves a little bit of humility, but ultimately can make you look like parent of the year, which is what we're going for here. Pay attention, and you, too, can use this method whenever you desire to engender respect and awe from your child's teacher, whether or not you actually deserve it.

When we got to school the following Monday morning, I quietly and apologetically told the entire story to the teacher, adding humorous anecdotes and bits of human interest to lure her into a place of sympathy. Then I said, "So, I just wanted to you be aware that Gianna did repeat the swear word and she may repeat it here at school, but that we are fully aware of it, and are taking appropriate measures to handle it."

The preemptive disclosure produces a two-pronged effect. Firstly, it makes you, the parent, look at once conscientious and self-deprecating. Secondly, it lends your parenting a certain air of involvement in your child's life, regardless how much time you spend a-wastin on the Internet, that is guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of your kid's teachers and place you squarely back on the "good parent list." Easy game.

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