I referred to someone, a stranger, as a “cockwad” the other day. Sunday. It was Sunday. It was an unpleasant day, for the most part, for many reasons. Though it snowed heartily and I claim to love the snow, I forgot, when declaring my love, that I am trapped in Toddler Town, a district where the toys all suck and the snow is weird and might eat your feet and all you want is a cookie dammit why won’t your mother give you cookie upon cookie upon cookie? Why?
This has the potential to deteriorate so I’ll leave it there; my point is not to bitch about my kid, whom I love and treasure, but to mention that yesterday I could have sworn he, in turn, called someone a “cockwad” or version thereof.
He was actually saying “cake.”
I’m of mixed opinions around swearing in front of my child(ren). It’s supposed to be wrong, right? Because we want our children to learn “good” habits and to be citizens who are not rude or inappropriate. But I think if I can teach my kid context as well as terminology, I will be doing him a favour.
I do think it’s important that people know what they’re saying when they swear. To gauge the level of insult, if warranted. For each family, it’s a different sort of value statement to call someone a “shithead” versus a “numbnuts.” For me, it’s all about how pleasantly and easily the words roll off my tongue. I don’t especially like the word “shit” because it’s too top-of-the-tongue. There’s not enough gutteral. On the other hand, I don’t know that I want to explain what “cockwad” is to my kid while we plow through the Safeway parking lot. My answer, I think, would be, “it’s a nonsense word. It doesn’t really mean anything.” And then when he’s old enough to figure it out, he’ll realize his mother was a filthy beast. I’ll be long since moved to another city by then, though.
But here’s what happened: it was snowing like crazy and we had no choice but to go to the close Safeway, which is a) right off the highway b) being renovated so the pedestrian path through the parking lot is long gone and c) being renovated so the SIDEWALK to the other entrance is permanently closed.
What else do you do, when it has taken two of you to push the stroller through snowdrifts and you finally get to where the overhang is at the front of the store, only instead of sweet, dry space what you find is cars, idling in front of the door, waiting for their sweethearts to pick up a box of cookies, ignoring the large, empty parking lot, instead BLOCKING YOUR PATH with their vehicles with their lights on and their engines running, the drivers of which LOOKING YOU IN THE EYE while you kick slush maliciously all over their headlights and then, while you wheel around them with some difficulty, necessitating the pushing of your stroller into the oncoming path of a DELIVERY TRUCK, have the nerve to offer a pitying glance. MR SUV MAN I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU. What else do you do?
I would have let it go, but when we exited the store, half an hour later, the guy in the SUV was still sitting there, waiting for something (the snow to stop?) his big, important engine still thrumming. I think, in a situation like that, that everyone within hearing distance, including my son, should know that I think he is a cockwad. Because maybe he never had Parking Lot Justice modeled for him and that’s why he’s such an inconsiderate jerk. Right? I bet he is careful to teach his kids not to swear while at the same time he behaves like an oaf – behavior they are internalizing and memorizing. And while my kid might mimic my bad language and that might, at some point, be embarrassing to me, I would hope that he will learn important values from me as well, which in the long haul will be more important to society than whether or not he chooses to say “fuck” or “fudge” out in public.
(Yes, my values include swearing where it is warranted. And judging strangers in parking lots who might be waiting for their elderly mothers to get their tv dinners for the week. You can send your Parent Of the Year nominations to the committee starting next week.)