Category Archives: sons

Holy *@$Z!* Where did my kid hear this?

swearingThe other night at dinner, our not-yet-9-year-old son asked me what a c***s***er was. He actually asked just like that, asterisks and all.

“I know the F word and the S word and the D word and the B word, but what word is that?” he asked.

What the bleep?

He told me he was checking the parental warnings of a movie he and a friend wanted to watch On Demand and that word appeared on the TV screen so they didn’t watch it. I had no idea they actually specify which words might be heard in a film. They do. (They also mention what nude body parts you might see, just an FYI.)

To hear him rattle off the ABCs of curse words was unnerving to say the least. Where has he learned all this?

I remember when we were kids – I was the oldest of the group and probably 8 – we found the “F” word scratched into a fence behind our playhouse. We ran inside and asked our mom what it meant. She said, and I quote, “It’s an ugly word for a beautiful thing.”

We didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but we were instructed not to say it. My mom used to say things like “Fiddlesticks,” when she was mad. If my Norwegian grandma was disgusted, you’d hear her say, “Uff da.”

Unfortunately today, kids hear a lot worse. Most wouldn’t have to ask the meaning if they saw a bad word scrawled on a wall.

I monitor what my son watches, but it seems like swearing is everywhere and it’s acceptable if there’s that beeeeeeeeeeeeeep in place of the word. Cursing is commonplace in the media, on pop radio, in PG movies, and on the playground. Older siblings also share lots of choice words with younger kids.

Swearing itself doesn’t bother me – my vocabulary includes some fine examples. Too often my son hears me exclaim, “Shit! I mean, shoot!” usually when I spill something, miss a freeway exit, or forget to pack a lunch. And he scolds me for such language.

Sometimes after he’s gone to bed and I’m watching the news (Oh what the h-e-double toothpicks it might have been the Real Housewives), he overhears and yells, “Mom, you know I can hear that? And it’s not appropriate!”

He knows he’s not supposed to say bad words and he doesn’t repeat them (at least in front of me.) But sadly, he’s heard a lot of them. Some moms don’t seem to care – YouTube is full of videos of babies and toddlers dropping the F bomb – but I don’t want my kid talking like that.

So we’re going to watch our tongues and enact a few more parental controls of our own. And he’s just going to have to wait a while to find out about any of those “C” words.

Gosh darn it.




Five reasons I won’t give up on Forced Family Fun

My husband and dad are watching football for the third straight day. My son and his friend don’t want to do anything except play the Xbox. I’m bored and unsatisfied with our family interaction.

What do I do? Bring out the board games! Plan an outing!

It’s a picture-perfect November day, with blue skies and sunshine to kick off the Christmas season. We’ll go to the Seattle Center, ride up the Space Needle to see the futuristic Santa, then visit the gingerbread houses. Family fun day!

The response from my son?

“I don’t want to go!”

Oh yes, we’re going. This isn’t just family fun. This is forced family fun at its finest.

forced fun biggerThe night before, I had suggested a rousing game of spoons with grandparents, parents, and kids. I heard more than a few complaints about what a dumb game it was. What’s the point? All you have to do is grab a stupid spoon? Lame.

“The point is THIS IS FUN!!!!” I screamed.

After finally getting everyone on board and explaining the very complicated rules of the game (pass a card, get four of a kind, reach for a spoon and don’t be the player to end up without one), we had a great time moving through the deck as fast as we could and diving dramatically toward the middle of the dining room table trying to grab our spoon.

As I was trying to inspire a little enthusiasm out of my son and his friend for my holiday sightseeing plans, I asked my dad if my siblings and I moaned and groaned when it was time for a family adventure our parents thought would be a blast. He just laughed. “Sometimes,” he admitted.

I don’t remember that, but I do remember the family fun – games of Facts in Five (does anyone else remember this old-fashioned, tougher prequel to Scattergories?) road trips filled with endless singing of “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” and “The Other Day I Saw a Bear,” and visits my parents arranged to historical sites like Pearl Harbor and the Lincoln Memorial.

So no matter how much grumbling I hear, I won’t give up on forcing family fun. Here’s why:

Because it get us off our screens. Whether it’s Minecraft, Facebook, the NFL Network, You Tube, or WordPress, we all spend a lot of time looking at our devices and not really talking to each other. It’s important to step away and have actual conversations and play real games. They always evoke giggles, and laughing together is my favorite kind of family fun.

Because I go places like the Family Fun Center and Chuck E. Cheese. Let’s be serious. These casinos for kids are not a place for family fun. Trying to keep track of the kids, limiting the dollars spent on tokens to stuff into machines that spew tickets, only to wait in line to count said tickets, then wait some more while they carefully redeem them for plastic swords and whoopee cushions is not my idea of quality time. But I do it for you, kiddos.

Because we’re creating traditions. Maybe we whined when it was time to play the classic Midwest card game Rook with my mom’s large extended family, but we always had fun at card tables filled with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins at family get-togethers. The night of my grandma’s memorial service, her children and grandchildren gathered together and played the game she taught us, and we now-adult grandchildren have shared it with our spouses and kids.

Because we’re making memories. My siblings and cousins often reminisce about camping trips and fishing outings with our parents. Waking up at 4 a.m. to climb onto my uncle’s small boat for a long, bumpy ride out to the halibut and crab grounds in Southeast Alaska drew some protests from the younger set, but we have fond memories of those times we spent together. Someday, my kids will teach their children the silly songs I sang in the car with them, and I will join the chorus.

Because most of the time, we have fun. The trip downtown wasn’t the best example of that. Suffice it to say I wasn’t the only one who had this great idea. Crazy long lines kept us from the two main things we set out to do, and the kids were hungry and cranky. After one of those Mom-of-the-Year moments when I told my son I was so done with his whining I might not ever take him anywhere he wants to go if I don’t want to go there too, I put myself in time out.

Succumbing to failure, we headed home. My son asked if his friend could spend the night, and my initial thought was no way, not after how you behaved today.

“I really want to play spoons again!” he said with genuine excitement. “I have to admit, Mom, that was pretty fun.”

Forced family fun wins again.




Of birds and bees and tooth fairies

My son went to the dentist yesterday and had a stubborn baby tooth pulled in what was a far more gruesome procedure than I expected. We couldn’t even bring the tooth home with us, so he wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining the circumstances. “Write back,” he instructed.

He deserved a visit after the way the tooth came out. Sadly, H woke me up this morning with the news that the Tooth Fairy hadn’t come. I don’t know if he really believes in the Tooth Fairy, but I’m doing all I can to convince him, so this was a serious tactical error. I desperately want these mythical creatures to continue to exist for him.

Last year I sent away for a “package from Santa,” that came with a customized letter and official gold seal, along with a certificate declaring he was on the “good list,’ authenticated by a hoof print from Rudolph.

“He really knows a lot of stuff about me!” H exclaimed. He framed the certificate and hung it above his bookshelf.

One more year of Christmas magic preserved, I congratulated myself.

I patted myself on the back too soon. We flew to my hometown for Christmas. The gifts from Santa and and for H’s birthday the next day — unwrapped to speed the trip through airport security –were in a carry-on bag I surreptitiously put in the closet out of view. But H found it, and my curious kid could not stop asking what was in that blue suitcase. So I moved it again.

On Christmas Eve, he looked me nervously in the eye and confessed: “Mom, I looked in the blue suitcase.”

Tears instantly hit my eyes, knowing the truth was out.

“I only saw three things!” he said. “I’m sorry.”

I agonized into the wee hours about what to do. Ultimately, my husband and I decided to save the Santa gifts that had been on the top of the suitcase for his birthday and wrap up the rest to leave by the chimney.

The wait finally over for him, he dug through what was admittedly a more meager pile from Santa. Everything was going fine until he opened the art set I bought when we got to town and hid in my dad’s house. Instead of excitement, I saw disappointment.

“I saw this in Grandpa’s study,” he said, dejectedly, followed instantly by the question I feared: “Are YOU Santa?!”

He jumped in my lap and we both cried. I was overly emotional, but my sweet boy was still 7 for one more day. It was too soon. Even then, I couldn’t fully fess up. Santa is real, I told him. But there are so many people in the world, he just needs a little help from parents once in a while.

I knew this inquisitive, intelligent boy was teetering on the edge of belief. My 14-year-old nephew told me my son asked him if he believed in Santa. “Of course!” my nephew blessedly told him.

“Me too,” my son replied. “But a lot of kids in my class don’t.”

The jig is up, Mom. But I can’t admit it. He wants to believe, and I want him to.

His ninth birthday is still a few months away, and he already has to see the orthodontist and argues with me about why he can’t be on Instagram. His older sister recently announced she’s pregnant, and he has a lot of questions about how that whole thing actually works. The magic-seed-that-got-in-Mommy’s-tummy story isn’t an adequate explanation anymore.

Please don’t tell me I have to have the sex talk and tell him Dad and I are the ones who put those gold dollars under his pillow in the same week. I love that he is growing up, that he learns new things every day. But I am not ready for this.

Hoping to salvage something from the Tooth Fairy failure, I had my husband dash into our son’s room to stash the cash and respond to his note while Mr. Dubious was in the bathroom.

He ran to check under his pillow, grabbed his reward with a grin and read the note.

“Dad, this looks like your writing,” he said, looking at us both with those skeptical eyes. “But I know it’s not.”

He’s keeping the dream alive. For my sake or his, I’m not sure.