Grace came home today from school looking distinctly…guilty. She wouldn’t look at me. “How was your day?” Her bottom lip began to tremble. “Not good.” I felt concerned. “What happened?” She began to wring her hands and pant a little. “Well,” she began, her eyes darting about quickly,” I…I…said a bad word! I…Mom, I said the ‘F’ word! I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry! I was mad and frustrated…and my thoughts were racing….and…and…and…Muhammed was really bugging me….and….and I’m so sorry.” At this point, she was openly sobbing.
“The ‘F’ word, huh?”
Time stopped in my head. I was trying to imagine my Gracie speaking that word aloud. That word that my sister-in-law could craft into a limerick that would make hardened Navy SEALs blush. That word that my kids would innocently sing as preschoolers when playing the Name Game: “Chuck-Chuck-Bo-Buck-Banana-Fana-Fo…” That word that I have cried out a time or three when driving the car or slamming my hand in the car door. Suddenly, I was transported to the moment I watched towheaded Ralphie from the seasonal classic “A Christmas Story” drop the lug nuts on the side of the road and then slowly utter “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuu…dge”–only he didn’t say “Fudge”. He said the Queen Mother of All Dirty Words just like my 12 year-old daughter did today.
And, Ralphie’s father didn’t take it very well. Ralphie’s mother didn’t take it very well either. In fact, mothers don’t ever seem to take their children swearing like George Carlin well.
I had to decide very quickly what I was going to say to poor, weeping Gracie.
“It’s okay. I read a study once that swearing releases endorphins.” That’s the best I could come up with under pressure.
Visible relief swept over Grace. “You mean you’re not mad at me?” I was thoughtful for a moment. “I’m actually really happy you felt comfortable telling me about it. I’m really more interested in what was going on inside of you. What happened today that caused you to feel so frustrated and mad?”
Grace thought about that. Once she calmed down from feeling so upset and anxious we were able to talk about her hypomania and some of the things about her school environment that she doesn’t like. For example, she’s one of only two girls in her class, and she’s surrounded by boys who swear all the time. She hates it and finds it oppressive. I suppose it’s natural that at some point she would mimic the behaviors that she sees on a daily basis. So, she took the Queen Mother out for a test drive, and she didn’t like how it handled. It was bound to happen. Welcome to middle school–the Land of Swear Words and Dirty Mouths. Keep in mind, she’s in an EBD classroom so I’m sure the language is extra-special because the needs are.
After we talked, Grace’s sisters weighed in on the topic of profanity in school, and everyone had something to contribute. It seems that no matter the environment, all my girls hear a plethora of colorful language every day. According to Milly, every bad word she could ever hope to know has been generously carved out on the back of the school bus seats but only in the back of the bus–“cuz that’s where the bad kids sit so I never sat back there.”‘ When I asked her how she knew about those bad words if she’d never had the pleasure of sitting in the back of the bus, she just blushed red and hid under her bed. Ah, the curiosity to widen one’s vocabulary…
All is now peaceful on our homefront, and I am feeling a deep sense of satisfaction that Grace will still confide in me. Grace shared with me that when she told her classmate how worried she was that I would be mad at her, her friend asked her with shock, “You’re actually going to tell your mom?!” Grace replied, “Well, yeah! I have to! I won’t feel peaceful until I tell my mom.” I can’t quite put into words how I feel about that. All I can say is that all those sacrifices that I used to count, that I used to think I made to stay home–the career, the money, and the glory–don’t feel like sacrifices when my 12 year-old daughter makes a statement like that.
I would do it again. I’ll continue to do it.