There’s a great brewery here in Birmingham called Back Forty Beer Company. They began a little north in Gadsden but in 2018 they built a magnificent palace to beer, burgers, pizza, sports, and outdoor fun with room for football games and fire pits.
I was there last Saturday in the late afternoon with my wife and two sons, my sister-in-law and her husband and two kids, and my mother-in-law.
We hadn’t taken the kids in a few years, and not because it was the scene of then six-year-old’s last and greatest temper tantrum – He wanted a double decker burger that was bigger than his head, much less his mouth, and he was furious that I ordered the already oversized single burger for him instead. There was flopping and screaming. We haven’t been back because we just don’t get out that much. I hear that’s not an unusual thing lately.
This time we sat outside at one of the picnic tables and that six-year-old tantrum thrower, now eight and more ready to appeal to reason, came up to the table of adults and was near tears. He’d been throwing a football around with a bunch of kids and one of them called him an idiot.
He was really upset.
“I don’t think you’re an idiot,” I told him. “And I’m pretty clever.”
“Your mom’s the smartest person I know, and I know Dandaddy, Nene, and all your aunts and uncles. They’re all really smart.” He was looking hard at us. “You don’t even know this kid and he certainly doesn’t know you if he thinks you’re an idiot,” I said. “Why do you care what he thinks?”
Everyone at the table assured him of his non-idiocy and that perked him up. He went back into the swarm of kids with footballs, baseballs, and soccer balls.
He’s a little small for his age. Not much, but a little. His cousin who’s three days older than him is a giant. My nephew’s got about four to six inches on the average eight year old and dominates the sports leagues he plays in.
We notice the two of them Hectoring some poor kid. “Why did you call me an idiot?” “Why did you call my cousin an idiot?”
The kid would run away.
They would follow. “Why did you call me an idiot?” “Why did you call my cousin an idiot?”
It was a bit much, so my wife went into the kid swarm and brought the two cousins back to the table.
In a most uncharacteristic and certainly surprising move, my mother-in-law asked my son why he didn’t just punch the kid.
Before I could calm that down and make the case that hitting is not always the best way to react my blond, blue eyed, cherubic little eight year old looks his grandmother in the eye and says “He called me an idiot. I didn’t call him an idiot back because I didn’t want to hurt his pussy feelings.”
There was a moment where everything stopped and then the five adults did exactly the wrong thing. We started laughing.
I have no idea where he got that word. It’s just not one we use around the house. I understand why, when he was three and they called a ten minute adult swim at the community center we belonged to, he told me in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to go to the fucking kiddie pool.”
Fucking is a word we use. It’s one he would have heard. Pussy came out of left field.
When my older son came back from boy scout camp he came back with a wildly expanded vocabulary and no conception that it might be improper to use it in certain circumstances so this from the younger was not our first experience with cursing.
I’m not of the opinion that cursing is inherently sinful; not without sinful intent. As I explained to my kids, in English, cursing is an effect of military mobilization and training.
In 1066 Harold Godwinson was forced to engage his usurper brother and his brother’s Nordic sponsor’s army in York. At the conclusion of that battle, Harold was victorious but battered. Then word came that the Normans had landed in Hastings. He took what little of his forces were able and at a breakneck speed trekked the one hundred and eighty or so miles south to engage the invaders. He got there in a week. You can imagine they were tired.
Pretty much all Harold had was infantry with a smattering of archers. That was okay, he must have thought. Advanced riders were assembling a second force to join his side. Unfortunately for Harold, all the riders were able to put together was an inexperienced, all-infantry force whose only training was given en route to the fight. William the Conqueror had trained infantry and plenty of archers. He also had cavalry. The battle began around nine in the morning, and the Norman’s victory came as dark was settling in. It was a slaughter.
It didn’t take but a few months for William to bring the rest of the country to heel and set up his court. Of course, he was French, so the courtly language was French. The Germanic Anglo-Saxon was out the window. As social climbers and other species of hangers on adopted the new fashion, those that held onto the old language were considered crass. The Latinate “excrement” was in. The Germanic “shit” was vulgar. That happened across the board.
So I don’t care if my children curse or know curse words as long as the meaning behind the words is not unnecessarily cruel. There’s a difference between “Damn you,” meaning I’m really mad at you and “Damn you,” meaning I genuinely hope you end up in hell.
The problem is their understanding of social situations in which cursing is okay as opposed to when it gets you sent to the principal, so they are told not to do it outside of the house. In the house though…
Ask them what the main rule is. They’ll tell you. “Don’t fuck things up.”