Tim is 8. And, somehow, I have kept the f-word out of his vocabulary that whole time.
It wasn’t easy. I mean, our recent foray into the Transformers movies gave me a couple of moments where I needed to cover his ears. Once, we helped a lost dog get back home, and the homeowner opened the door and yelled the f-word at us, but Tim didn’t notice because he was so young and playing with a doggie (before we got Ruby, so this was novel to him). We’ve been in public a lot of times where I’ve heard it, but his attention was elsewhere.
Tim is excited about reading now. As we drive, he sounds out words he doesn’t know and excitedly says them, hoping that if he mispronounced something, we’d correct him. And we usually tell him why the word is pronounced that way. He reads the subtitles on Star Trek aloud (usually reserved for when Klingons talk to each other) like I used to do for him. It’s funny, I still habitually start to read subtitles for him, and he says, with an eyeroll I’m sure he’ll have perfected by 13, “Daddy, I can read it, you know.” Yes, I know. But as he becomes more and more independent, I find myself having a hard time adjusting to that.
- And now, in my neighborhood, there is a giant flag that reads “FBiden.”
So far, since Joy and I saw the flag, we can distract him as we drive by it. But that’s not going to last forever. In fact, when I went to visit a friend in Pittsburgh, I saw several of those flags. They dwindled the closer I got to the city, but there were many.
- Let me be clear: I would be just as upset about “FTrump” flags. I’m not one to say that people shouldn’t swear. I know there’s no magical power in words. But there are some words that kids just haven’t unlocked yet. And there are words that we should reserve for the vocabularies of people who have experienced enough of life to know the right context to use them. That particular word is super shocking. I guarantee that if I said that word in a column, the people with the flags outside their homes would lose their minds. “Uncouth,” they’d say. “Scandalous!” they’d yell. “Oh, my stars and garters,” they’d shriek as they fanned themselves and fell on their conveniently-located fainting couches.
My rule on what words can be on display in my house are under the “Grandma Rule.” If there is a word that Grandma would have given me a death stare for, then it doesn’t go on display. It’s served me pretty well. I, for the most part, use that rule while writing this column. So, no, you don’t have to worry about words like that in this column.
(Aside. When I was a young reporter, I once wrote a story where I forgot the letter “r” in the word “shirt” in, I believe, the opening paragraph. My editor at the time caught it. Thanks, Denny. That’s why I said “for the most part” when I said I use my Grandma Rule for this column. You never know when an “r” might get missed.)
Personally, I think it’s too early to decide if you hate Biden that much. But maybe you do, which is 100% your right. Therefore, I’m not saying that you and your buddies can’t sit around and shout the words on the flag to your heart’s content. In fact, I’m not saying anyone should take those flags down. Go ahead and keep them flying. Keep shouting the words among your family and friends that make you feel better about yourself. I’m not saying anyone should bottle their frustrations up inside when they’re in their own homes or surrounded by people who are capable of joining in.
What I am saying is that the next time you are offended about something, go outside and look at your flag. Maybe Google the word “hypocrisy.”
And thank you for forcing me to have a conversation with my 8-year-old son that I’ve been putting off for a while.
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Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd. You can reach him at email@example.com.