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Bleep this

April 15, 2009

There’s a new sheriff ’round these parts. He’s short, has a bit of a pot belly and he snores when he naps. He enforces the law with an iron, albeit diminutive, fist and he’s forever on the lookout for “miscreants.”

He’s our new language cop. Also known as Graysen.

My dad, who now lives in Arizona, visited last month and spent an evening trying to carry on an adult conversation while simultaneously doing coin tricks with the kids. As he was getting ready to leave, he was talking about something with Gray’s daddy, Chris, when suddenly he committed a serious infraction in the eyes of the language cop.

He said “what the hell.”

Graysen’s eyes lit up, and he charged up to my dad full of spit and vinegar to scold him with one small finger raised.

“You don’t say what the HELL!”

Dad was so engaged in what he and Chris were discussing that he didn’t hear him the first time. So Graysen said it again.

And again.

And … one more time for good measure.

Finally, Dad looked down at his little spitfire of a grandson and said, “what’s that Gray?”

Graysen grunted, obviously annoyed not only by the egregious violation of the rules but also by not being heard in a timely fashion.

“You don’t say what the hell!” he repeated.

I could do little else but stifle laughter, for I instantly recalled how this very same child recently uttered the likewise verboten “cr*p” over spilled soup one afternoon.

He is also the only one I have ever heard use the word “footcr*p” in response to a stubbed toe. Or, well … in response to anything, actually.

And, of course, in chastising his grandfather, Graysen did manage to say “what the hell” roughly six times himself.

Personally, I find this so amusing that it’s hard, at times, to lay down the law. Must be why Gray stepped in — I was shirking my duties. He’s taken things to a whole new level, however.

For instance, he jumped on my case recently for telling him to “shut” the door.

“You don’t say shut, Mom. That’s a bad word.”

Then he got in his dad’s face the other day for saying “flipping.”

‘Cause that’s apparently a bad word too.

Too bad he wasn’t around when the other three kids were younger. He’d have been even more gainfully employed in this law enforcement capacity.

All three of them went through the experiment with language in one form or another. For Soren, the word of choice, when he was 4, was “d*mmit” which he got from super-good-influence me.

I figured it was innocuous enough so I didn’t say much. But when he started using it with great and random frequency, any and everywhere, I decided it was time for a talk.

I had a hunch that making certain words completely off limits was an approach destined to failure. Certainly, there are words in the English language that I don’t feel comfortable typing here without inserting stars for vowels.

“Cr*p,” for instance.

But I am uncomfortable with banning these words outright because I know that only makes them more alluring. Anyway, I want my kids to understand their meanings, that they do exist and, most importantly, how powerful they are.

In Soren’s case, a simple discussion about how that word was fine to use as long as it was used at home with family only was sufficient. I gently told him as well that it might hurt other people’s feelings to hear him use that word. This spoke to his natural empathy, and he understood. Case closed.

Later, I noticed that with a gentle boundary in place, the word lost its power and Soren stopped using it.

Perhaps he isn’t the best example of this, however. He groks these sorts of boundaries better than most … and certainly better than his small brother. I could warn Gray till I’m blue in the face that something might hurt someone’s feelings, and he’d just look at me askance as though to say, and I would care because …?

On a certain level, though, he must care ­— he is the self-appointed language cop, after all. But maybe that’s just another part of his plot to usurp control wherever and however he can.

Bless his shining and sweet little miscreant heart.

Still, he’s stern. And charmingly convincing. He’s actually called me on a few things that have inspired true contrition in my heart. Cause you see … sometimes he’s right.

With that in mind, I’m glad the kid can’t read yet. If he read this installment, there’s no doubt I’d be in really deep … um … footcr*p.

Or something like that.

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