“Fuck it. Fuck,” my 4 year-old casually announced one morning many years ago, as my cell phone rang somewhere in the living room.
Hmmm, perhaps I’d misheard. In the most offhanded tone I could muster, I ventured, “I’m sorry, what?”
“FUCK. That’s what you say when you can’t find your phone.”
Oh dear. That sweet little developing brain, soaking up vocabulary and context like a God damn sponge: You say ‘ouch’ when you get hurt; you say ‘fuck’ when you can’t find your phone. As his primary caregiver, I knew he was learning much of his language from me. I just didn’t realize he was learning so much bad language from me.
Here we are six years later. Curbing my appetite for a juicy expletive is still an uphill battle for me, but I’m trying to stay clean.
Especially since my family’s now living in a sleepy burg reminiscent of Mayberry — if Aunt Bee drove a Prius and wore lululemon. Our neighborhood percolates with propriety. There’s no lapse in parenting finesse, no unraveling in Walgreens when your toddler mows down the L’eggs display while the cashier announces your minivan is being towed. Forget Gwyneth, this neighborhood INVENTED conscious uncoupling. And our local elementary school reflects this. But lately, its playground is sounding less like the yard at a quaint little village school, and more like the yard on a maximum security prison. The phrases “What a douche” and “Fuck that guy” have been punctuating the air — and this is from the 1st graders.
What gives? It’s not like these kids suddenly discovered YouTube — or Inside Amy Schumer — overnight.
My hunch was that, like everyone else on the planet, the children had been exposed to a toxic dose of The Donald. After all, he’s unavoidable, spewing obscenities like a Tourette’s sufferer with a bad combover. When I heard one particularly angelic student drop a ‘douche’ while standing near his mother Megan*, I nodded to her knowingly.
But Megan set me straight— her son didn’t learn the D-word by listening to Trump, he learned it by listening to his parents talk about Trump. And that’s okay by Megan, because in the case of Trump, “douche is the perfect word that says it all.”
She’s not alone. My friend Kelly* — who coaches clients in perspective-taking and mindfulness FOR A LIVING — has 5 and 8 year-old sons who entertain themselves with the “Fuck Trump” song they personally composed. They didn’t necessarily learn the curse words from Kelly, but Trump gives the whole family a reason to bust them out at home, with impunity.
These parents have described their household’s profanity-laced disgust with Trump as a bonding experience [sometimes even the grandparents join in!] Of course, there are ground rules. In Megan’s home, “You’re only allowed to use the [bad] word ‘douche’, and only to describe Trump, and you have to explain why you’ve called Trump that.” Her son usually brings up how Trump labels an entire group of people as dangerous.
When Kelly’s kids talk about how the Trump fucker wants to build walls to keep people out, she makes it a teachable moment — “a doorway into a conversation about what we DO want, like equality and respect.” As for compassion, “I tell my kids there’s no such thing as bad people, just hurt people who don’t have the tools to do better. I teach them compassion. I just can’t find any [with Trump]. I’m trying, but I got nothing.”
I wonder what happens when he finally leaves office and the spectre of President Trump is behind us. Will the neighborhood kids unleash their graphic vocabulary on new targets? Or can we stuff the little potty-mouthed genie back in the bottle?
Megan is optimistic that her son will still reserve the word ‘douche’ for the man who earned it. When he sees someone acting hateful, aggressive or ignorant in real life, he can always say “God you’re being such a Trump.”
*not her real name.
(This post originally appeared on The Coffeelicious)
About the author: Patricia Jones formerly worked in film development [the features kind, not the One Hour Photo kind] before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Now that her kids are old enough to toast their own Pop Tarts, she’s trying her hand at writing. You can find her at medium.com/@momfoundahobby, twitter.com/momfoundahobby and at TheTVPage.com, where she is a contributing writer.