*****! My youngest said. It's a word used to express anger and frustration. I reminded him that it is not used in 'polite' company. They threw back something about me just being concerned about my reputation and what about me wanting to overturn the patriarchy. Children have eidetic memory about the things we say and love to remind us of our words. If I dared to say something like this to my parents, I am certain they would have smacked the taste out of my mouth. They have chilled since becoming grandparents. I should have been a tightrope artist with how I tried to walk the line between encouraging free speech, pointing out that sometimes 'politeness' was an oppressive tool of the patriarchy, and that there is a time and a place for everything.
Their older brother chimed in that they do curse, but try to not do it at home. "Mom, I know to not use it in public," my youngest retorted. I also used my eidetic memory about when he did in fact use some phrases when visiting with my mom. He did concede that point. Undeterred he tried a different tactic. "Mom, you said it's not creative. I think people do curse very creatively." I could not deny him there. I looked up some of the phrases and noted that we could just say we are outraged, or angry, or frustrated versus using a sensitive phrase. He then countered that using euphamisms are pointless and we should just say what we mean. He then went on a tirade about when I had decided to use ice cream flavors instead of cursing. Example - "What the fudge ripple pistachio is going on here?" What's the point of trying to cover it up when in our minds we know what you actually mean?
It was time to try a new tactic. Okay, when you visit these other people, they do curse alot. "How does it make you feel?" I asked. He visibly cringed and noted he felt very uncomfortable but quicky noted that it was more because that they hate each other versus their language. I had my opening! I pointed out the words in context conveyed a mood and it made him uncomfortable. Simultaneously, I had been looking up definitions for vulgar and crass. He was not moved about a lack of sophistication, but I did have him on the ropes about sensitivity and caring about other's feelings. When I admitted that I did care about my reputation he was more open to listening. I shared that in the business world, most people view cursing as unprofessional. I cut him off, "I know, the patriarchy," but it's true. I shared that there is a consequence for our choices, but since he is a minor, I pay for the consequences of his choices. His sense of fair play prevailed. He agreed that it was a balancing act to express yourself while being sensitive to how our words make other people feel.
Managing conflict is a skill. As a parent, my kids do not do what I say, they do what I do. I like that my youngest pushes for clarity. It keeps me sharp and hones my critical thinking skills. How often do we rely on authority versus engaging in meaningful conversation, even if it makes us uncomfortable? Often times we run on auto-pilot and trot out talking points versus actually talking. What my youngest needed was for me to be authentic and to respect him has a human being. He wanted to be taken seriously and not dismissed. Do you dismiss other people's ideas because you 'know better'? We agreed that what we say becomes part of our muscle memory such as when people get in the habit of using filler words. I asked him to also consider why he felt the need to use such phrases. Was it for the shock value or was that how he needed to express himself? Of course, I will need to step up my creativity game. Though sometimes, especially in this day and age, cursing is the only response. #$*&! Namaste
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