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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bad Words

Warning: This post contains language not appropriate for children. Or some adults. Proceed with caution.

My four-year-old daughter was delivered, in tears, to our doorstep the other afternoon by one of her big brothers. They had been playing at a friend's house and Aidan brought Ella home because she was upset. I came to her and gave her hugs and smooches and asked her what had happened. She was so upset she couldn't speak for a few minutes. I thought whew, we must be dealing with a doozy here!

Finally, Ella told me that the friend she had been playing with, who is several years older than her, had called her a "bastard." What!?! The job of swearing at friends, neighbors, siblings and parents is usually reserved for our older boys! Not a girl down the street! I was shocked, and wondered if Ella had the story right. I didn't know if this friend had really ever even heard that word, because it doesn't seem like a word her family would be throwing around. Unlike our boys who swear on a pretty consistent basis. 

*As a side note, the older boys do not swear because of their Tourette Syndrome, as many people assume when they hear of the boys' diagnosis. Only 5% of people who have TS have this symptom, where they swear uncontrollably. Our boys swear because of their mood disorders, their uncontrollable anger and lack of impulse control. Still not ok, but understandable if you know what is going on in their brains and bodies. One of our little darlings went through about a two year period where his favorite thing to verbally hurl at us was "You sh**ty assy f***." And he said it with such mentally-ill-venom, it was hard not to take him seriously and start believing that we were, in fact, the name that he called us. Whatever that was. Since we had never heard that particular term before, it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry when our little boy screamed these words at us. It was before he really knew what any of those words meant. Now when Alex and I are joking around together, we frequently use this term and chortle our hearts out at the crazy life we lead. *

As Ella calmed down, we talked about how swearing is not ok. This is a tough, and constant, conversation in our home because it's difficult to tell my toddler something is not acceptable when she sees her brothers doing it. They have consequences for their negative behavior, but usually the swearing is part of a rage and at that point we have bigger fish to fry than reprimanding foul language. Ella and Aidan are super smart when it comes to this unfortunate double standard. Neither of them wants to have a potty mouth. It upsets them when their brothers are so angry and sweary. So my youngest two understand that there are words that are not kind or acceptable, that we should not use. So I told Ella we would go talk to her friend and find out what happened and why she called Ella such a bad name.

Ella continued to say to me in a stunned voice "She called me a BASTARD!" Finally I said YES, I know what she called you, you can stop saying it now! No more!

We walked over to our friend's house to get Aidan for dinner, and to talk about what had transpired with Ella. Unlike some fellow mothers I have had experience with, I did not stomp over to their house, and stand on their porch shrieking and squawking, wagging my furious finger in her mother's face, making a spectacle of my anger for all the world to see. I feel like more is accomplished when cool heads and kind words prevail.

I talked with Ella and her friend, and calmly explained to the friend what Ella had told me. Without using the B Word, in case the friend had actually not really called my daughter that. Our friend said that she had been talking about how old she was, and how old Ella was. The friend said she had told Ella she was a toddler, and our friend thought maybe Ella had gotten upset about that. I turned to my innocent little reporter, and asked her if our friend had called her a "TODDLER." She said indignantly, "Yes!!" 

Aha. Crisis averted. 

So our neighbor had not, in fact, called my four-year-old a bastard. She had actually called my daughter a toddler. Two words, which in Ella's mind, are equivalent. She hates being called a toddler. On her way home, in the midst of her hurt fury, she forgot the word the friend had said. Totally cracked me up. 

What if I was one of those mothers who go storming around in a rage, flying off the handle without getting all the facts? That would have been hilarious, if I had accused the little neighbor of what Ella had said she had done. Hilarious in hind site, but completely embarrassing and uncalled for in the moment. Thank goodness I'm not that kind of parent. 

Lesson learned: never call my daughter a toddler. 
"Toddler" = "swear word" in Ella's mind. 
Hilarious. Parenting- it keeps you on your toes!

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