Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kid Stuff: Dad Draws a (Dubious) Line in the Parenting Sand

Driving in the car, heading to Nana and Granddad's, and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" comes on. The kids have heard it. They like it. They also are aware that: (1) the unedited version contains a swear word; (2) the radio edit substitutes "frickin'" for "the other word"; (3) Mom and Dad don't think that "frickin'" is much more appropriate for a child to say than "the other word"; and (4) ditto "freakin'."

Given the totality of the circumstances, I'm okay with letting them listen to the edited version. They're going to hear the song anyway, and when they hear it in the car with me I get to exploit a "teachable moment" or two. Why is substituting a word for a curse word almost as bad as saying the curse word? Because we know what you are thinking when you say the word:  because the substitute word serves as a placeholder for the curse word, it ends up being guilty by association. Why is "freakin'" slightly better than "frickin'"? Can't really articulate a reason, but it just is. But we don't have to use any of those words, because we can hum through the questionable part, lesson being that you don't have to repeat everything that you hear.

Not that I'm planning to queue up Bob Saget's "Aristocrats" when we get home or anything, but my position is that a little exposure to adult or adult-adjacent content is (1) inevitable, (2) not going to kill them (if properly managed by Mom and Dad) and (3) potentially helpful in training them early on to be their own filters/gatekeepers. I speak from experience, because I'm an only child, which means that I was surrounded by adults, and by adult things, perhaps more than some other kids. Try as my parents did to keep me fully insulated, things trickled through. Bits of dirty jokes, questionable images (cringing at the recollection of the anatomically correct - and aroused - plush "horny toad" that someone at my dad's office thought was an appropriate 40th birthday gift to a colleague), etc., etc. I learned to ask questions at appropriate times, putting pins in things that I wasn't ready to learn about at that exact moment, and I learned that you don't repeat words or express concepts that you don't understand.

You also don't repeat things that you DO understand, but that are not appropriate for a child to SAY. Adults get to do things that children aren't allowed to do - swearing included. Double standard? Absolutely. Justifiable double standard? Abso-FREAKIN-lutely. And I'm allowed to say that. On account of the fact that I'm a grown-up. I can swear, and I can vote, and I can operate a motor vehicle. Quite frequently, the latter two make me want to do the former.

My spouse came from a slightly different background. To give you an idea: his parents wouldn't let him watch "M*A*S*H" (the TV version), because it was too risque. (Compare and contrast his parent with my parents, who, after the airing of the fourth episode of "Saturday Night Live" and my fourth faked stomachache and/or bout of insomnia at exactly 10:30 PM, gave up the ghost and let me watch the show with them. Thirty five years later, I can honestly say that my sense of humor, a good bit of my cultural literacy and - actually, factually - my overall level of intellectual development are outgrowths of that "bad parenting decision.")

So Travie starts singing, I don't freak - but Daddy (who is driving) does. He reaches over to change the channel, the kids immediately start to protest, and I ask the question: why is this song, which they have heard numerous times (on the radio, on television, being sung by classmates and others), suddenly such a big deal? Answer: it just IS. Subtext is that he doesn't have the faith that I have in the boys to make correct choices for themselves, nor does he have the patience to correct them when they make wrong choices and encourage their recourse to healthier means of self-expression.

So he proceeds to turn the channel - to a classic rock station. We both recognize the song that is playing at the same time, but our brains process the information differently. Daddy relaxes: Ah, The Who. A classic - and entirely safe. Daddy smiles. Mom also smiles, but for a different reason.

"So, you're going to prove your point about songs that use questionable substitutes for the F word by playing The Who's 'Who Are You'? REALLY?"

(I have GOT to get me a "really" jar.)

Not a Who (or CSI) fan? Took this straight from Wikipedia (well, I put in the asterisks - this is a family blog):

The song is unusual in that it contains two instances of the word "f***" – at 2:16 and 5:43 (at 2:14 and 4:27 in the single edit version) – yet has been played frequently in its entirety on rock radio stations.

To his credit, my spouse immediately gets my point. Also to his credit: he looks appropriately chagrined, and then he laughs. Meanwhile, I'm having one of those rare "game, set, match" moments where the stars have aligned to make my husband look sort of incompetent and me look f***ing brilliant.

Was excessive celebrating involved? H***, yeah, you bet your sweet a** excessive celebrating was involved.

Freakin' A.

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