Some rainy afternoon, a well mannered mother may come upon her children whispering conspiratorially, while listening to the Black Eyed Peas' “My Humps” on a CD she foolishly allowed them to borrow from the public library. “Shhh… here… its here! Listen!” one child says to the other and they bend their heads close to the speaker, and their eyes flicker in recognition, when they hear the lyric, “…all that ass inside those jeans...” Never mind that the song is dreadfully inappropriate for so many reasons besides the language. Never mind that this is probably not the first time they’ve heard a swear word. Never mind that the song is just really, really bad. Even annoying.
The mother recognizes her children are focused on the language and this is a “teachable moment.” Though she may be tempted to pretend she doesn’t see them, she has no excuse. The house is reasonably quiet; its not bedtime, homework time, or get-out-the-door-we’re late-for-school time. The only problem is that she’s not entirely sure how, exactly, she should address swearing.
She briefly considers confiscating the CD, disapproving loudly and continuing about her business, imagining that her children’s world is and will remain PBS kids, Raffi, and homemade cookies. Next, she considers postponing any discussions with a deft “re-direct,” and a comment like, “Oh you want to hear funny song? Have you ever heard of Weird Al Yankovic?” But she decides to save the powerful tool of Weird Al for a more desperate parenting occasion.
So she takes her mother in-law’s advice (really!) and tries to address the language issue head on. Casually as possible, she asks, “oh are you listening for the part where they say, ‘ass’?” (Yes, if your mother can say “ass,” it can’t be that cool or dangerous.) Then she explains, “Most adults find swear word offensive, especially coming from children,” adding, “I don’t care if you use those words, but I would be really disappointed if you were to use those words in front of other children and adults.” Voila! Words (hopefully) de-mystified, expectations defined. The well mannered mother can only hope that they are met. Meanwhile, she braces herself for the moment when her toddler, eavesdropping from the next room, starts swearing like a sailor.