Thursday, December 6, 2012

Children and Profanity

By Blake Friis

Parenthood is loaded with challenges on both micro and macro levels.  On the day-to-day front you have diaper-changes and feeding, while the big picture provides worry about the changing world and how on Earth you can possibly equip a child with the tools necessary to survive, let alone thrive in it.

But what concerns me most is that I can’t seem to stop saying ‘fuck’ in front of my son.

The importance of watching my language in front of our son is not lost on me.  I am fully aware that, while it may not seem like it now, before I know it he will be a sponge and I will have created the most foul-mouthed parrot who ever roamed the Greater Dallas Area daycare scene.  But the more I attempt to reel myself in, the more the goddamn Bears blow consecutive leads at home to Pete-Scumbag-Carroll and the Seattle-Fucking-Seahawks.

Sometimes it just feels like the world is conspiring against you.  Actually, most of the time when you root for Chicago sports teams.

Parenthood is also loaded with lessons, and you never quite know where they are going to come from.  When a couple of kids from our neighborhood knocked on our door Sunday afternoon to ask if they could play with Gabe, I gained a whole new perspective on the value of squashing my free-cursing nature.

The dynamic of suburban neighborhoods is not a complicated code to crack.  There are adults and there are kids, and if you can only befriend one, choose the kids.  They’re a pleasant source of entertainment and, more importantly, very forthcoming with the dirty laundry of the neighborhood grown-ups.

I no longer focus on the curse words my child may one day repeat, I maintain awareness of everything he might report.  I used to fear a potential one-off parrot, but as the sweet little girl from down the street launched into an unprovoked monologue about her parents’ delinquent rent payments, I realized we are not dealing with parrots, we’re dealing with little journalists who unapologetically report “off the record” observations.

Because we are the youngest couple on the block, and because every little girl on the block wants to be Summer when they grow up, our house has become a relatively high-traffic area.  The annoyance of having other people’s children hanging around would be trying if they weren’t so damn good at inflating our egos.

“Blake, can you teach me how to make the football spiral like that?”
“Summer, I knew you were good at sports because you’re skinny and you run a lot.”

They should run for office.  I would literally vote for them tomorrow.

The compliments took on a new meaning when they shifted from our remarkable athletic prowess to the vibe within our home.  The kids were quick to acknowledge how laid back we are and how well we seem to get along, which is apparently not always the case with their folks.  The kids talked about hearing their parents fight over money.  One of them openly talked about the age gap between his dad and stepmother, a viewpoint that – given his age – has almost assuredly been cultivated by his mother.

Getting the inside story on some of our neighbors’ personal business is definitely the kind of stuff you would like to unhear, but the kids spilling the beans have no idea they are crossing a line.  We find ourselves uncomfortably attempting to steer them back to the story about their older brother pissing his pants while watching the SEC Championship.

Dropping F-bombs in the presence of my son was something I decided I better work on.  After learning how kids openly talk about their parents, good or bad, I am scaling those efforts well beyond cursing.  The adult issues we deal with have to remain between adults, so our kids can enjoy being kids.

Parenthood is loaded with heavy shit like that.

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