Thursday, October 12, 2006

In praise of blue language

Today I did something that is just another example of the slippery slope my principles have been sliding down since Swee'pea was born: I used the drive-through at Tim Horton's for lunch today.

This morning I went to a workshop at the Ontario Early Years Centre about development between 6 and 18 months. And this afternoon I planned to go to a date with my mums' group and a public health nurse answering our questions about sleep, food and other baby matters. Swee'pea fell asleep in the car on the way home from the Early Years Centre. He really needed a nap. And I wasn't sure how I was going to fit in feeding myself and getting him a decent nap before the mums' date, since he sleeps on me. Then inspiration struck. I could buy lunch via the drive-through, drive home, eat my lunch and read my book in the car until it's time to go to the next date. So I did; but not without guilt.

I hate drive-throughs and don't understand why people use them anyways because they're usually so backed up you get better service if you can manage the Herculean task of parking your car, turning off the ignition, removing your seatbealt, and walking the no more than 50 metres to the till. I am an anti-idler. Not that I'm opposed to being idle. No, I do that quite well and have total respect for idleness. I'm against idling cars. Especially those idling cars that don't even have passengers waiting in them. Ever since I saw an acquaintance at a bakery and she mentioned that she was on an anti-idling campaign. Oh no, I thought. I'm lazy; I'm often idle. Deny! Deny! Deny! But then she explained about the cars. Oh yeah. So I hopped on the bandwagon, which for me mostly involves raging inwardly when I see minivans parked in the bank parking lot with nobody in them but that aromatic exhaust pouring out the tailpipe nonetheless.

This past summer I discovered a valid reason for idling: babies and air conditioning. I believe that is a good combination - better than curry and fries, even. And I should add that I never raged inwardly at seeing a baby in an idling car. So I took the best advice I've ever heard -- never wake a sleeping baby -- enjoyed my lunch, which even included a hot cup of tea, and read my book. Life is good.

Then I went to the very kind woman's house who hosted this date with a public health nurse. She had lots of great information (the nurse, that is -- the hostess had yummy snacks) and it was definitely worth going. Swee'pea enjoyed climbing over the six other babies and grabbing everything out of their hands. Much of the discussion focused on sleep, and introducing solids and cups. Like I said, lots of great information. But right at the end a mother mentioned that she really doesn't want her child to be the one who swears at school. I've already resigned myself that Swee'pea will be that child. I don't swear that much in my writing but I swear a lot when I speak, especially when I see idling cars with no babies inside. And I just don't think it's realistic to think I'm going to stop before Swee'pea starts listening (because I still swear). I found salvation in Andi Buchanan's book, Mother Shock. She mentioned that she swears a lot. One day her daughter swore too; she even used it appropriately in a sentence. She said something like, "Mummy, I can't fuckin' do this." Anyways, Buchanan made a deal with her daughter that they would only swear in private because some people don't like to hear those words. So they do. I also once knew a woman who told her daughter that they could only swear while driving a vehicle. So the little girl would get into her toy truck, put her arm across the back of the seat to reverse, and start yelling, "Kwissake!" I like these ideas; that there is a time and place, a social context, for some things rather than just banning them outright.

Anyways, back to today. In response to this mother's concern, the nurse got on her high horse about how they've never sworn in front of their kids and their kids have never sworn either (they're 12, 15, and 18 I think). She said she once told her daughter that people who swear don't have good vocabularies. I find this attitude very offensive. I think people who like words and harbour large vocabularies are even more likely to swear. It is so satisfying when someone drives through the cross walk several minutes after the lights started flashing to let off a volley of swear words. I have said before that I'm prone to stroller rage and it is so liberating to at least mentally tell that fucker off who threatens your baby's slumber. "And," the nurse went on, "you know, kids who swear, usually it's because that's normal at home" (normal like leaving the heroin needle on the floor). She said this with a distinct tone of derision mixed with pity that smacks of superiority; like swearing parents also drink and abuse their children and need Help. I think it's just classism, plain and simple.

Besides, she's at least partly wrong. My parents never swore around us; I learned the best swear words from my older brother. And I remember taking great pleasure rolling them around my mouth, outside the range of my parents' ears, when I was 10. I still do. And I may not be happy when Swee'pea starts running his two or three-year-old tongue along the old favourites, but I'm just not into creating an artificial bubble. Like Buchanan, I will even take some small pride if his first swear word is used correctly in a sentence.

Later: It's a flipping winter wonderland out there and it's not even the middle of October yet! Where is global warming when you need it?


metro mama said...

I disagree with her. I have a good vocabulary and the word fuck is one of my favorites.

I try not to swear around Cakes, but it's not the end of the world if the odd word slips out.

alec's mom said...

Because in my family it is considered very good humor to use swear words to describe a baby's state of mind, I find myself saying (to 3.5 month old Alec) things like: "that Cat in the Hat really pisses you off doesn't he", or "I know you're thinking Christ on a Donkey why can't this woman match my socks to my shirt?" It seems we might be doomed.

mad_hatter said...

Great post. Yes, I swear like a sailor despite having a vocabulary the size of an aircraft carrier. And you are right, her attidute is classist plain and simple. I hope to curb my swearing around my daughter but even a curb is a pretty big bump, if you know what I mean.

Oh and I have succumbed to the sleeping baby, drive-through lunch. Last winter Miss M would only nap in the car. We did a lot of cringing while we emited fossil fuel emissions at the height of the oil crisis. Normally, we walk every where and use the car only for groceries and long trips. The car nap stage nearly killed us. I still have visions of my sitting with a book in the mall parking lot hoping to hell she would wake up soon so that I could run the errand and get the fuck home.

jen said... it. fucker is one is my 10 favorite words. if it's classism then hell, it's a class i want to take.

bubandpie said...

I love the Ontario Early Years Centres - I couldn't have made it without them, especially the community playgroups, which I attend 2-3 times per week. But. Their seminars always have an agenda and it tends to be a pretty presciptive, "we're here to tell you the right way to parent" kind of agenda. I take it all with a very large grain of salt.

penelopeto said...

i'll second b&p's opinion of the early years centres - i spent lots of time at them, but rarely agreed with their friday afternoon 'experts.'
and, what would we do w/out the car nap? to this day, if bee falls asleep on the way home, i sit in that drivers seat until she wakes up. i often have a book or magazine with me, but if not, who cares? it's quiet.
and, swearing? puleez. i try not to (i said try), but i seriously doubt it will make my kid a delinquent.