I suppose that the following conversation with Emilia was inevitable. I just didn’t expect to have it when she was four.
Emilia, having spilled some juice down her shirt: “oh, f***.”
Me: “Emilia Elizabeth Ann! What did you just say?”
Emilia: “I said, oh f***.”
Me: “Emilia, that’s not a nice word. You mustn’t say it, ever.”
Emilia: “Why is it not nice?”
Me: “It’s just not. Lots of people don’t like to hear it. So you mustn’t say it.”
Me: “Not while you’re a little girl.”
Emilia: “Not all bad words are always bad to say. ‘Stupid’ isn’t always bad to say.”
Me: “Well, maybe… but that other word isn’t like that.”
Emilia: “What is it like?”
Me: “It’s just a word that little girls shouldn’t say, because it’s not nice to say.”
Emilia: “What if someone’s name is F***?”
Emilia: “Because if someone’s name is F***, it wouldn’t be nice for me NOT to call them their name.”
Me: “Nobody has that name.”
Emilia: “How do you know?”
Me: “I just know.”
Emilia: “What if you’re wrong?”
Me: “I’m not wrong.”
Emilia: “How about, if you are wrong, and I meet someone named F***, I can call them that?”
Me: “Well, honey…”
Emilia: “Because that just makes SENSE.”
Somehow, in the end, she got me to agree that, if she did meet someone whose proper name was, in fact, ‘F***’, and was able to ascertain that ‘F***’ wasn’t just something that other people were calling that person (“but if people call someone that, isn’t that their name?”), and was certain that that person really did want to be called ‘F***’, then she could, in fact, utter the forbidden word with a clear conscience.
I don’t know if I handled that conversation the right way – I don’t know if there was a right way to handle to handle that conversation – but I do know this: if a four year old can argue me down to agreeing to let her curse under certain precise circumstances? I’m f***ed.
How do you handle this? When and if the curses come out, what do you say? How do you explain that some words just shouldn’t be spoken – by children, or by anyone, however you break that stuff down? (And no, she didn’t hear it from us. I don’t think.) What if she DOES meet someone named F***? WHY IS THIS STUFF NOT IN THE OPERATING MANUAL? F***.