I struggled for the slightest second to regain control of the van, and almost simultaneously my wife and I looked wide-eyed forward then to each other as the full power of our 4 year olds words seeped into what remains of the gray masses in our heads.
Hung out to wait, in the enormous gulf of a pause after his question, my memories flashed back to an argument I remember trying to make when I was 5 or 6 years old to my mother as she stood in the kitchen. I was sitting on the linoleum no doubt playing in and out of cupboards. I was doing my best to defend the use of the “sh” word as something that farmers reference in talking about field fertilization. Surely in our neighborhood, I had heard the word plenty of times in that context. I lost the argument, but I seem to remember not getting the soap in mouth as was customary in the house. So perhaps my argument had a ring of truth to my mother.
I rarely have ever heard her swear.
I remember screaming several loud four letter words at the top of my voice when I was 9 or 10, after I almost cut my finger off with an exact-o blade with a friend. I ran towards the house screaming the “F” word, out of terror, but also to alert my Mother, who just so happened to be shopping the crowded plant nursery across the street. Needless to say, she made record pace getting me in the car and to the Doctors office, though I wonder if she didn’t almost cut it off after they stitched it up, to justify to the neighbors my creative and profoundly loud use of the “F” word.
I think of myself as having a certain amount of elegance when it comes to speaking to others. I have very little problems with public speaking, and, thanks to my father, learned at a young age the art of salesmanship. That being said, the time in between those moments, I apparently swear with the best of them. Perhaps its the product of being the youngest of five, the subconscious need to be heard. I try to not do it, I promise you, but sometimes, only when it’s pointed out by someone else do I even catch it. So there in the van, in his own sweet parroting way, my son pointed it out to me by way of a simple question.
As a parent, it is a moment like this that you really begin to appreciate all of your influence on these occasionally shocking children of yours. The prospects for absolute failure at this job suddenly can seem terrifyingly staggering. And at the same time, they steel up your nerves to handle questions like these when uttered for your child’s lips. Or for their poignant responses to them, such as: