Monday, September 20, 2004

Be good and don't say bad words

Published September 2004

Be good and don’t say bad words

My son came home from school the other day and I asked him how his day was since he is now in his father’s fifth grade class. “Great, mom, but the kids at school cuss a lot!” I asked him how he dealt with it and he said he had spent the morning on the playground telling first graders to be good and don’t say bad words”. I had to laugh because it brought back memories.

When JD and I were young parents we thought it’d be nice to raise our kids to be self-reliant, trustworthy and good-natured. Part of our parenting philosophy was that words and the ability to choose them charitably would ensure success in life, plus gain respect for our children.

When the kids were toddlers, we taught them right from wrong and one of the words their friends liked to say was “stupid”. ‘That’s stupid’ or ‘you’re stupid’ were commonly heard and every time we heard this we told the children, “don’t say stupid”, it’s a bad word. Well, it’s not necessarily a bad word but the kids hadn’t heard real profanity yet and stupid wasn’t the best abstract noun for a toddler to use when he is looking for a word of disagreement. My son couldn’t even say the word properly because he had a pronounced lisp.

We lived with hearing my son correct everyone who used the “bad word” until I was eight months pregnant with my daughter, Birdy. J.D. was working storm coverage one rainy winter Saturday. Rather than face the day with my list of things to do, I should have just stayed in bed. But my six year old daughter had a soccer awards pizza party and my mother’s birthday celebration was awaiting us in the Bay Area. I had managed to get her a puppy for her birthday and so he joined us on the trip to the pizzeria. Conor was three at the time and occupied the rear car seat which was loaded down with all kinds of gear. Can you visualize this already as a recipe for disaster? Take one energetic toddler, add eight months pregnant and a whining puppy, plus a soccer party for a six year old and well you can see what a glutton for punishment I was.

We were full of pizza and headed out to my car which was packed up tight for the weekend getaway to mom and dad’s house. I was opening the doors of my old Mazda van (whose doors open out like regular cars) in the parking lot, trying to adjust a wide girth, a soccer trophy, a soaked toddler and a crying cockapoo, when I heard a little impatient honk. Obviously, the honk coming from the youthful looking woman in her car filled with young studs couldn’t be for me because no one in their right mind would honk at me in my condition.

I was in the middle of cleaning up pizza faces, changing a diaper and feeling faint, when the honk sounded louder and more persistent. I looked up this time and stared right at her. There were fifty available parking spaces all around me, but for some reason the one next to me was the object of her desire. I looked at them, threw up my hands as if to say “sorry” and pointed them all around to other spots. They honked again repeatedly, this time louder and longer as if I cut them off on the freeway.

In a huff, I finished my business and slammed my doors shut. They whipped into the space next to me like NASCAR and jumped out of their car, laughing at me. I couldn’t restrain myself any longer and muttered, “Thanks a lot you stupid little b&$ch”!

All at once and without the slightest hesitation, I heard a voice pipe up from the car seat in the rear along with the snap of the plastic cup coming out of the mouth and thrown down on the floor. With admonishment and all seriousness, catching me being really bad, he smartly said like a little siren, “Ahhhhh mom! You can’t thay thtupid, that’s a bad word!!!!!”

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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