Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bad Words

Well, Scotty did a spot about the most functional English word right after Jeanie asked the question "What does your family say 'when the wheels begin to wobble'?" I'd like to say that, as a good God fearing Christian woman who goes to church every Sunday (out of choice, not obligation), that when I am annoyed, 'when the wheels begin to wobble', I say, "Drat." or "Oh, bother!" or maybe "Phooey." The sad truth of the matter is I come from a long line of cussing people. If I'm really pissed, I tend to say that. In those words. I'm better than I was pre-God, better than I was when I was in the Army surrounded by men, where I discovered that the best defense was being just one of the guys, better than I was when I was in my very angry family, and yelling was the best way to be sure that your point was made. Still, I imagine that God is not going to be happy with some of my exclamations during times of duress, and I imagine that I'll be wriggling with embarrassment when I stand before Him. I do try to watch my mouth, but, forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. More than usual lately, what with work and all.
I guess I don't guard my tongue nearly as much as I used to, when my kidlets were small. I was pretty good back then. Let me tell you why. One day, when Cara was, oh, say, between 2 and 3, a cute curly headed little blonde haired moppet who looked like an angel, I was driving my Honda Accord to pick up her brother from pre-school. We lived out in the country in Midland, Michigan, and I was driving into the town. I came to an intersection, and even though the light was green, I slowed down. I don't know why, to this very day, but I'm sure glad that I did, because a car ran that red light at a very high speed. If I had not slowed, he'd have broadsided me. It was close, one of those heart stopping moments, where you're aware of the child strapped in her little car seat, and how close you all came to serious, serious damage/injury, but there is no excuse at all for what popped out of my mouth. None. "Stupid m------f-----!" Understand, this is one of those phrases which is so vulgar that no mother would dream of popping out with it. It certainly was not a phrase I used. AT ALL. I had however grown up with that sort of language. I'd been in the Army, and heard it, plenty. I just didn't talk like that. Seriously. Anyhow, I went on about my business, and forgot the whole incident.
Fast forward. The following Sunday, we are headed to church. I'm a licensed Lay Minister, and the priest was not going to be there. I was doing the service, and nervous about it, trying to go over all the things in my head, afraid I'd forget something. My ex-husband was driving, and he was angry about something -who knows what?- and ranting. "Please," I said, "Can't this wait until after church? I'm nervous, and I need some quiet time." and "Brian, please, quit yelling. I am asking you please, please stop." and "I really can't do this now." He was really mad though, about whatever it was, and by the time that we got into town, he was screaming. Three children sat quietly in the backseat. Until Cara spoke up. In her piping little angelic voice, she said, "Mommy? Is Daddy a stupid m------f------?" I got my quiet time. Oh gees. The man of wrath was shocked speechless. When he did get words to speak again, the rant was taken to a whole new level, because now he was in the car with a hypocrite and a liar and he was quite sure that I should not be in a church at all, deceiving the people there, and he began threatening to turn around and take us all home, afraid as he was that I would embarrass him in front of God and God's people. It was not a glorious moment to hear your ugliest words burst from the lips of your sweet baby. I might go to hell for my language, but hopefully God will see how hard I tried. When Cara asked her question, I did not, as was my first impulse, turn to her and say, "Yes, darling. Why, yes, he is." Seems like God should factor that in, don't you think?


Pencil Writer said...

Ooooooooooooooooohhhhhh! Our children, I've often said, are little mini-recorders that will go off when you least expect them to.

I'm with you on the "words" that come out of our mouths. Though I've never come close to that phrase you mentioned, I have shocked my own children with a hell or damn on occasion.

Those were the only cuss words I ever remember hearing my father use, and him being in the Army and then me working civil service on an Air Force Air Station with some "real men" whose brains only worked on the limited vocabulary of bargin basement speach, or is that bargin basement bar rooms . . . I did find myself freely spilling those two words from time to time through my own lips.

Well, I, too try to curtail my language to more genteel wording. I'm doing better for the most part and rarely "slip" these days. I suppose it helps that I have some heavy responsibility with teaching the youth and young adults in our church and get regular reminders that we who teach, teach more by who we are than than by any other lessons we might present. My position(s) is/are those of a layman's nature, too. (Our Church is run by lay-ministers, etc.)

I suppose that's why we have responsibilities to help/serve others--it refines our own natures as we try to help them refine their own?

debby said...

The thing is, I myself, don't use language like THAT. I shocked myself that day, but didn't realize that a little tape recorder was running in the back. It was a terrible shock to hear that ugliness coming from your own baby's lips. Worst? There was no way to convince the man of wrath that I was not routinely teaching the child to swear as soon as he left the house.

steviewren said...

I too was formerly married to a "man of wrath." He never cursed, but he used so many mean words which of course made me really angry. No amount of logic could change his mind once made up...if he said it about me or the situation it must be true, no matter what the truth really was. The frustration I felt was the genesis of my ugly language. I didn't call him a mf but I did throw the f word around alot. Ten years after the dissolution of our marriage I hardly ever even think that word anymore. Now my curse word of choice is "crackers" and if the situation is really bad then I say "crackers and soup." I can curse all I want and offend no one...well maybe soup lovers.....

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Debby, I think its one of the best modifiers of behaviour...having every mother learns (sometimes to her chagrin!) that what we do is far more important than what we *say*.

I am a)glad you eluded the grim reaper on that road (your guardian angel was certainly on your shoulder. And b) I'm glad you eluded your ex. Sounds like he was *not* the one you should spend your life with.

I'm glad you are in a much better, and happier place now.

Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

Oh dear... that was simultaneously funny and horrifying! Not so much the cuss words though... the tension in that car reached me right over here. That moment when she said those words - time must have stood still!!! Glad y'all survived it...

Hugs and smiles

debby said...

Oh heavens - time, my heart, breathing, husband's mouth...all stood still.

Yes. I am a better person for having had children, Lavinia, and although I have never risen to the point of being able to yell "Crackers!" when I'm mad like Stevie, I was able to confine myself to yelping 'summer ditch!' for the most part. Except in times of high emotion when I'd resort to something with a satisfyingly strong sibilance to it.

Mary Paddock said...

I'm the potty mouth in our house and I'm ashamed of it. 'Call it a Texan upbringing. Call it hanging out with the wrong crowd. Call it whatever. It doesn't matter. This grown up knows better, but lets fly occasionally anyway. It's worse than smoking (which I never did), I think because it's not something you can chew gum or take a pill for.

My husband, the ex-marine, rarely uses language like this. When he does, it's generally out of the children's earshot.

So what did we tell the boys so Mom wouldn't look like a total hypocrit? "Those are grownup words. When you're eighteen, if you still really want to use those words, you can." That made it more like a rite of passage and it bought me time to help them see it as a dirty habit--like smoking.

Strangely, it seems to have worked.

debby said...

I actually took the opposite approach. My son was probably 10 or so, and crying in frustration over something. He just said, "I'm so mad I just want to swear." He was so frustrated. I said, "Well, swearing's not right, but if you think it will make you feel better, go for it." So he did. And then we had a talk about what happens when you talk like that around other parents (they will not want you to play with THEIR children). And the trouble that you get in when you use language like that at school (and I made it clear that they'd have to take their lumps if they swore in school and got in trouble). I made a point of pointing out public vulgarity, and how uncomfortable it was, and how it made the person look like an fool, etc. So while the kids were allowed to swear, pretty much they didn't. And really, for the most part neither did I.

Pencil Writer said...

Great post and great comments. I didn't mean to sound like I thought you used the "really bad" phrase except on that one accident.

As others mentioned, I can't begin to imagine the horror you experienced in the car--or your first marriage. I always cringe when I hear of such scary relationships! I'm grateful Tim is such a GREAT guy and that you two found each other.

I'm ever so grateful, myself, that my husband has been such a good guy--not perfect--but a very considerate man.

PaintedPromise said...

ok you will not be wriggling before God alone! i will be right there with you. i was not raised with curse words but my first husband had ONE adjective... f***ing... as in, i'm gonna take the f***ing car and go to the f***ing store and get some f***ing bread" - i mean, he used it for everything and it meant nothing to him... and unfortunately i seem to be a sponge when it comes to that. however i am SO MUCH better now, i have to be REALLY REALLY made to use it...

my funniest little-kid-and-swear-word story is Lindsey, at 2, saying "Sit - Sit - SIT" - somehow i managed to convince my mother that we really WERE teaching the dog to sit lol

and Debby i have to admit that i gave my kids permission to swear - when they were at home/in the car alone/with me! not sure how well that has worked keeping it from happening out in the world, since i am not usually there with them, but i can say that when they curse at home in front of me, they generally apologize with the next breath.

and my favorite non-swear swear words - "cornflakes" and, in the immortal words of Winnie The Pooh, "Oh, Bother!" but yes i sure do like that summer ditch lol.

jeanie said...

lol at Painted Promise's one cussworded husband!

I was at a training seminar and staying at a motel recently. There were a team of concreters also staying at the motel - but it had rained so they had been drinking all afternoon and well into the evening.

Now, V is a bricklayer and he has tempered his casual use of colourful language quite a bit - but at 3am when these folk woke me with their argument consisting of NOTHING BUT variations of the F word, I was almost tempted to offer them a few alternatives.

I think there are some people in the world that would cause even God to splutter a few infinitives towards.

When 'Salina had her first big meltdown with V, she called him a "big dumb-dumb head" - and we WERE suitably shocked.