My one-month-shy-of-eight-year-old is now, on occasion, allowed to say “crap.” My husband and I talked about it. She’s always been very good about not ever swearing. She’s fully respected our rule about it. Even though we do swear around her, sometimes a wee bit more than I’d like, depending on the situation. But if you think about it, she lives with three adults. There are bound to be times when she hears less than savory language.
Every once in a long while, over the past year, if she pulled a heavy toe-stub or had a big bag of garbage split halfway between here and the curb, I’d let her know it was ok, just once, to swear. She usually chose “crap.” Once she chose the lowest form of “crap,” but we don’t talk about that.
Because she has shown this level of respect for her dad’s and my rules, she’s earned the right to judge the moment when “crap” is appropriate. You have to picture this.
“Honey, we really think ‘crap’ is ok. We think you’ve earned the right to decide when to say it.”
(eyes look puzzled)
“You mean I can say… (pondering look)… (sudden awareness)… (evil grin)… crap?”
(Daddy trying to hide amusement)
“But Honey, we expect you to not overuse it and be a very grown-up young lady when choosing to use it.”
(not paying attention… pondering anew, the multiple uses for “crap”)
“Listen Sweetie, Daddy and I expect you to be responsible. If you abuse it, you won’t be allowed to use it again until you prove you’re responsible.”
“Ok, Mommy. Can I say it now?”
“Do you have a reason to say it now?”
(truly puzzled look)
“Don’t I get to try it out? Like when the monsters in Diablo II (current family video craze) drop stuff I can’t use, is it… CRAP?”
(Mommy collapsing on the sofa, snorting hysterically)
(Daddy takes over)
“Ok, you said it once. Enough, ok?”
“But Daddy, that doesn’t count. I wasn’t ready. I want to be ready.”
(renewed snorts of laughter from the sofa)
(Daddy takes the easy way out)
“Let’s get it over with then. Say it. Go ahead.”
(grin and a mustering of child courage, not actually believing this freedom)
“Ok, Honey, that’s enough. Just remember what we said.”
She ran and told her sister about her new privilege. I can imagine it got a pretty big laugh. But her sister would recover her composure in time to congratulate the “crap” kid on her latest responsible achievement. She was raised by me. She knows the score.
Do we ever know if we’ve made the right choices in our parenting methods? I only have experience to go on. I allowed my eldest certain freedoms at certain ages. She never broke curfew, didn’t insist on weird changes to her appearance, and respects me. What more could a parent ask?
I returned to work at the computer, and my husband sat down to watch a movie. Ten minutes later, she was watching as her sister’s boyfriend battled monsters in Diablo. The main bad guy dropped nothing.
“See, he never drops anything good. Just… junk.”
Sometimes being free to do something means you choose not to. I’ll keep you posted.