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Little Bites 2

I am quite a fan of posts with bullets.  I know, it sort of bucks the trend — most people would think I would like lengthy, contemplative posts.  And I do, but I am also a fan of posts that simply dump a lot of ideas on your plate and you can pick and choose which ones you feel like snacking on.


This week was St. Patrick’s Day and the ChickieNob was extremely anxious about what she would do about wearing green.  She has some green summer clothes, but nothing suitable for winter.

I remember in elementary school that there was a contest for who could wear the most green and in third grade, I tried to win.  The problem was that if you wanted the green on your underwear to be counted, you had to go to the bathroom with a fellow student and prove its greenness.  Which upon reflection today, totally wouldn’t fly.  I mean, how would you react to your child being told by a teacher to show someone their underwear?

So, I remember sitting there in third grade during class meeting, where people were counting their green items and we’re trying to discern who has the most green, and even though I knew I had underpants on that had green on them (they were dotted with flowers, but the stems and leaves were green), I didn’t go to the bathroom to show a fellow student.

And the reason was that one of my best friends as a child was a boy (he later became my first date!) and at camp, I had shown him my underpants.  Not only had I gotten in trouble, but some girls had teased me for having a boy as a friend.  And I remember sitting there on the carpet, desperate to win the St. Patrick’s Day green count but unwilling to show another girl my underpants because all I could think of were these bratty twins from camp who would run by me on the playground and tell me that no one wanted to play with a girl who would show a boy her underpants.  But I had been so curious about boy’s underpants and he had been curious about mine.

Every time the ChickieNob would fret about being pinched, I would think back to how I lost the green count even though I would have won if I had shown someone my underpants as proof.  I’m still bitter about it to this day.

Please do not worry — the ChickieNob was saved by Julie who gave the ChickieNob a green shirt a few weeks ago when I saw her that said, “Eat More Kale.”  So no pinching.


I got the first batch of Purim packages off with only one hitch.  I don’t know why — my heart wasn’t into Purim this year.  I had the theme set for months, but I dragged my heels in picking what I wanted in the box.  And I didn’t make new costumes for the kids.  Usually, it’s this huge sigh of happiness when I get the first packages out.  But this year, it was sort of a sigh of relief and a feeling of crossing something off my list.  I’m not sure why the blue Purim.

The hitch came on Sunday while Josh and the twins were running errands and I was at home, making lollipops.  I was completely in my own world, which is the only explanation for how I poured super-heated sugar over my hand.  I was trying to slosh the remains out of the pot into the sink, and my hand got in the way.  Luckily, since I was right at the sink, I immediately turned on the cold water and thrust my hand under.  And I had a topical ointment for burns with lidocaine that I put on afterward.

My hand looks fine now, but I was in mind-numbing pain through most of Sunday afternoon.  The sort that blots everything around you out.


Earlier that day, since the kids were out of the house and I was baking (pre-lollipop; nothing was made post-lollipop), I tweeted that I turned on the Violent Femmes.  Kate asked why I don’t play the Femmes in front of the kids, and it comes down to our philosophy on curse words.

Namely, we want them to own them and we believe that in order for a person to really be able to own a curse word and use it properly in the future, they need to find it themselves, preferably written on a bathroom wall rather than being overheard in your parent’s music.

I remember exactly where I was the first time I saw the word “fuck.”  I was in the bathroom at elementary school and someone had written it on a piece of toilet paper.  I tore off the toilet paper and brought it out of the stall to an older girl who was doing her hair by the mirror and asked her what it meant.  And she told me.  And now I own that word and use it comfortably, albeit sparingly (much to my mother’s chagrin).

I don’t want my kids to be using the word in the future and have this niggling thought of their parents in the back of their head as they say it.  It’s all about roots and wings.  Or something like that.

So, we are those parents who censor the music we play, and I’m sure many musicians would be horrified to know that we play their music and mute the curse words in songs (I have a mute button on my steering wheel).  The kids know exactly what we’re doing and we’ve told them why we do it.  But the Femmes are just too much work.  My thumb would cramp from hitting the mute button.

I’m not of the mindset that all censorship is bad.  I think censorship when used for a clear reason (in this case, so that curse words aren’t ruined for them) can actually be a good thing.  I know many disagree with me and they can even present a good argument, but I frankly don’t care.  Nor would I be offended if someone told me that they ripped the sex scenes out of my book before they let their daughter read it.

It’s how we walk that fine line between letting them listen to the music they gravitate towards and keeping it still age-appropriate.  And not ruining a good curse word for them since you can’t unring that bell.


1 N { 03.20.11 at 8:49 am }

Oh my goodness. I’m so glad your hand is okay – hot sugar is no joke. <3

2 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 03.20.11 at 9:56 am }

I like the logic behind that– letting them discover the curse words themselves. Much to my linguist husband’s chagrin, I tend to fall in the camp of “words only have the power you give them”, and so, while I try not to be excessive in my cursing around the boys, I also don’t censor myself too much, though perhaps I will in the future. I have such fond memories of my first curse word (age 4, Jamie, an older boy at the hippie preschool I went to, taught it to me), motherfucker, and I promptly and proudly called my mother a “mother fucker” because I thought it was just another word for mother. So I guess my discovery of my first curse word was courtesy of two people– Jamie for teaching it to me in the first place, and Mom for letting me know that the word was forbidden. What can I say, I’ve been fascinated with those forbidden words ever since then.

I actually had this discussion with one of H’s colleagues, who was doing that “wait till you’re a parent!” thing, as I was talking about my personal distaste for most video games, but certainly how I’d never be okay with my kiddos playing a first-person shooter game. And she was more or less defending her decision to give her 13 year old son such a game (and he’s truly a good, smart kid, one I don’t worry too much about having bizarre delusions while playing such a game), but thought I was insane to not have a policy on NOT cussing around my children. So it broke down to the fact that I find violence of any form unacceptable for children, and she finds aggressive language of any kind unacceptable. We agreed to disagree. But I’d much rather have my children using words to show their dislike than guns (fictional though they may be…).

And JEEZ. I really hope your hand isn’t hurt too bad! Candy-making’s a dangerous sport!

3 Bionic Baby Mama { 03.20.11 at 10:47 am }

hot sugar is the worst! i still have scars from flan i made years and years ago. (thank god there was a lot of sangria at that party….)

interesting cuss philosophy. i don’t have a philosophy on that yet, but i suppose i’d better find one.

4 Kristin { 03.20.11 at 11:03 am }

I still have a scar on my hand from making candied apples when I was abut 11. That red melty crap HURT. I’m so glad you are ok.

I like your theory on curse words.

5 Tigger { 03.20.11 at 12:31 pm }

Curse words. Ah the bane of some parental existence. I had friends who cussed, but I didn’t do so until I was 13…and even then, not in front of my parents until I was 15, because I *knew* I’d get my ass kicked. My mother certainly tried – we got into an argument and she slammed my door and I told her not to slam my door, dammit. She comes back in with “What did you say?” so I repeated myself. She tried to tell me I could not cuss at her, g*ddamn it, and I told her that was bullshit – if she could cuss, so could I. I had her there and she knew it. The only word she would NOT tolerate at all was f*ck…and unfortunately, that is one of my favorite curse words.

I am completely aware that my son is going to come out of the womb cussing. I have no illusions. Unless he takes after his father, who does cuss but not much. Unlikely, though. As for kids owning it…that I don’t know about. My goddaughter’s parents also cuss a lot, and at the age of 5 she already has 2 amusing cussing stories that involve using them in context. While she HAS learned to use them, she also hasn’t learned when NOT to use them…such as at school, at her teacher. So while I don’t mind that my son will cuss, I’m also hoping to teach him that there is a time and place for it.

6 Elizabeth { 03.20.11 at 2:13 pm }

ouch ouch ouch ouch OUCH!!!!! I scalded my hand once with hot water and still remember the intensity of that pain.


7 a { 03.20.11 at 2:20 pm }

Yeah, the Violent Femmes, in addition to the language, have themes that I am not yet willing to explore with my daughter. Maybe she’ll hear Blister in The Sun on the radio, or Kiss Off (I’d prefer not), but the rest she’ll have to discover when she’s a teenager and going through my cd collection. I mistakenly downloaded the explicit versions of a couple songs she likes, and I wish I had chosen the radio edit. Of course, she has lately taken up saying “Curse you!” (lifted from Phineas and Ferb – Dr. Doofenshmirtz says “Curse you, Perry the Platypus” in every episode). I had to tell her that since she doesn’t understand what it means, she couldn’t use it. Fortunately, although there is copious use of “fuck” in all it’s forms around our household when someone is angry, she has figured out that it’s only for extremes and has not yet used it. And when she does whip that one out for effect, she will get the same speech – if you don’t know what it means, you can’t use it.

Sorry to hear that you poured molten lava on your hand. It makes me cringe to think about it. Hope it’s fully healed soon.

As for St. Patrick’s Day…I used to prefer to spend my time harassing those who didn’t wear green rather than wearing more green myself. Now, I bust out the shamrock socks and a green shirt and call it a win. Sometimes I even put in the shamrock earrings. I remember the green underwear suggestion from grade school – but I don’t think anyone ever checked for it.

8 Mad Hatter { 03.20.11 at 4:00 pm }

Yeah, we censored cursing with my stepson as well…and you can’t imagine it when they are young, but, like everything else, it’s the sort of thing that just naturally evolves as they grow into an adult. One day he’s 11 years old coming to me to tell me that he thinks he overheard Daddy say “H-E-double-hockey-sticks” while on the phone, and six years later we’re swearing in front of him occasionally…because, as you say, he’s already come to own all these words by discovering them himself rather than through us. And it works.

9 Chickenpig { 03.20.11 at 4:03 pm }

Pour some sugar on me…in the name of love!

I had to try and explain that song to my Japanese room mate in college. Not really possible 🙂

As I said before, I play the Femmes in the van with my kids listening, and Pearl Jam, and I’m sure others. My kids are amazingly clueless when it comes to stuff that we grown ups listen to. I have to numb my mind and my ears to the point where I feel like screaming with all the kid crap, they can suffer a curse or two to save my sanity in the minivan.

10 TasIVFer { 03.20.11 at 8:03 pm }

I should be soooo ashamed of myself. I happened to be wearing green undies this year, but everything else was black. And – here’s the shameful bit – I just showed people in the office at our desks to prove it. I didn’t go full monty or anything – just a bit at the side. I didn’t know the in-the-loo-with-another-‘girl’ etiquette!

SO glad your hand is doing better. That could have been more lastingly awful than it turned out to be, but sorry you had to endure those hours of mind-numbing pain.

My first best friend at school was a boy. We were the tallest in the class, and each year there would be the moment when we’d line up in height order for the first time that year (strange school; on the way to assemblies and things we had to walk in height order along lines in the hallway) and see which of us was tallest. It went back and forth until my family moved away. Now we ‘see’ each other on fb occassionally.

11 Hope { 03.20.11 at 8:49 pm }

I like your theory on curse words. Although, I have to say that my favorite curse word (F*ck) also happens to be the one that had the most people, including my mom, involved in my learning it . . . Most of the other ones I know, I learned in a much more matter-of-fact way, just from hearing other people use them or reading them in context, or occasionally reading about them . . .

12 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 03.20.11 at 9:58 pm }

I clearly remember that in 2nd grade, if someone wasn’t wearing any green on St. Patrick’s Day and was about to be pinched, they could deflect the pinching with, “I’m wearing green underwear.” No one checked.

I have numerous baking scars but so far none from candy-making, though there have been plenty of close calls given that mine usually involves standing over a pot of boiling sugar, stirring for an hour.

This is a pro-swearing house, though there will be accompanying explanations of dealing with the fallout from others outside the family who don’t approve, like teachers and grandmothers and others’ mothers.

13 Tara { 03.20.11 at 11:43 pm }

I really like what you said about curse words & owning them if you’re going to use them & discovering for themselves.

14 Lisa { 03.21.11 at 4:55 am }

Your blog todayabout Chickie-Nob dressing up in green and about discovering “swear” words zoomed me right back to the (ahem) 70’s, when I was a kid who wanted to be in with a chance of winning…contests, friendships, etc…. And, resonated with what happened with my kids this weekend. My oldest came down dressed for Hebrew School in her 11-year old, cool version of a ninja: black leggings, boots and black T-shirt that said “I have a black belt in awesome.” Oh, also, a Miley Cyrus type messy bun with 2 chopsticks sticking out of it and a black scarf wrapped around her head. Suddenly, my youngest started crying that no one had reminded him that it was Purim and he didn’t have a costume. So, armed with my makeup kit and a scissors, I transformed him into a Moshi Monster in 10 minutes flat. When they got home in the afternoon, I was told that “no one dressed up but us and the babies” so my daughter had quickly removed the scarf and chopsticks and pretended she was not in costume. My son just shrugged his shoulders and said it didn’t matter. Obviously a difference in how they relate to peer pressure. Is it a girl thing?

The first “swear” word I tried to use was when i called my 6 year old brother an “asshole.” I was about 8 years old. My father asked me if I knew what it meant, and then described what one looked like in the most unattractive terms. “Does your brother look like that? Don’t use words you don’t understand and don’t use them like weapons!” It put me off using those words until I was at least 10. Doesn’t stop me now, of course.

Have a great ICLW! Lisa

15 Sushigirl { 03.21.11 at 5:55 am }

I remember my Mum catching me listening to the Fun Lovin’ Criminals during one of the sweary bits in their songs. I realised too late what was happening and couldn’t leap over to the stereo in time, and got a row.

Mind you, she had a ridiculously low tolerance for possible bad influences in music and was also offended by the Smiths “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”, among other fairly innocuous songs. As soon as I left home I got completely into Marilyn Manson.

16 Heidi Smith Luedtke { 03.21.11 at 8:09 am }

So sorry bout the sugar. That hurts something fierce!

I need to reign in the curse words and your rationale is perfect. I don’t really want my kids never to curse (that would be hypocritical!) but it isn’t so cool when I hear my son say one of his toys is “jacking him up.” He learned this in the backseat of the car, where he hears me accuse Mrs. Garmin (the navigator b*&%!) of “jacking me up” on a semi-regular basis. He *wants* to own it, but he really doesn’t.

17 Gail { 03.21.11 at 8:52 am }

I think kids should know about curse words, but also understand what they mean and how to use them properly. I remember coming home from school in the 3rd grade and asking my parents why one finger was bad when you stuck it up. I thought it was the ring finger and was told it was the middle finger. So, then I promptly asked what it meant. Rather than tell me the truth, my mom said something about it meaning that someone wanted to stick that finger up someone else’s butt which was disgusting to a 7 year old, but not the truth. Anyway, fast forward to my first year of college (11 years later) and someone says “F&*$ You” while putting up the middle finger. It was like a lightbulb went off and I finally understood what it meant.
There are also lots of funny stories that my husband can tell you that involve me learning to cuss as an grown adult and not knowing what part of the sentence was suitable for which curse words. (Is that word a noun or a verb when used in this situation?)

18 Denver Laura { 03.21.11 at 10:35 am }

We had a 16 year old French foreign exchange student a couple of years ago for 3 weeks. To try to connect to a 16 year old, I told him the English version of everything I knew in French (I took 2 years of French in high school). It came back to bite me at dinner a week later when in a restaurant, he said, sh*t – f*.k – d*mn. I was pretty proud, but gave him a look and said that although it was fine to say at home, those weren’t polite words. He got it and didn’t say them (at least the Engligh version) out in public again.

19 Dora { 03.21.11 at 2:50 pm }

OW! That burn sounds awful!

I’m glad to read about the other pro-swearing households. I guess my philosophy is opposite yours. I want her to learn them at home, so I can teach when it is or isn’t appropriate, and how to use the words correctly in a sentence.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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