One of Hank's co-workers, whom we'll call Ally, had a party this weekend. Ally is a sporty gal and brews her own beer, so the main activity of the party was a game called Beer Frisbee.
What's that? A beer-themed party with beer activities? Yes, I'd love to bring my 9 year-old daughter!
And so it came to be that Daisy and I were partnered in a couple matches of Beer Frisbee. I know some people may consider a game of Beer Frisbee to be an inappropriate activity for a 9 year-old girl, but in my defense allow me to explain that I was the designated Chugger. So there.
Daisy was the only kid at the party, but held up pretty well. I flinched a bit when I heard a few other guests let fly with some frisbee-caused epithets, but you can't keep your kid in a bubble forever. Mid-way through our 2nd match, I accidentally swore.
"Everyone is using bad words!" Daisy said, exasperated.
"Oh! Sorry! I shouldn't have said that," I apologized.
"Why is everyone using bad words?" she asked
"Well, grown-ups swear more when they drink beer. It just kind of happens," I replied
"I'm going to tell them not to swear." she said.
"No! You are not the boss of these people. Just ignore it." I told her.
"I don't even know what those words mean," she sighed.
We changed the subject at that point, but I realized that some parenting would be required. Obviously that's not my strength, but I broached the issue at dinner tonight.
Me: So, I wanted to talk about bad words. Do you know what makes a word bad?
Me: I don't know either. I mean, a word is just a bunch of letters that mean something, right?
Daisy: So the meaning makes the word bad?
Me: Well, I don't think so. I mean is the word 'stupid' a bad word?
Me: Not necessarily. I could say that I'm feeling stupid today. There's nothing wrong with that, but if I call mom stupid, then that's bad. It's bad because I was mean to her and I hurt her feelings. The word isn't bad and the meaning isn't bad, but you can use it in a bad way. Does that make sense?
Me: Ok, well, get ready for this. Do you know what the word 'shit' means?
Daisy: (taken aback) No.
Me: It means poop. It can be a verb like, "I'm going to go shit now" or a noun like, "Man, I just took the biggest shit."
Hank: Or an adjective as in "I feel shitty today."
Me: See, there's not anything bad about that word!
Daisy: It's gross.
Me: Ok, yes, poop is gross, but it's just another word for poop. It's only bad when you use it in a mean way like, "Mom, you're a little shit!" In this house, if it's just the three of us here and you're not using it in a mean way, it's not bad. Some people really find that word offensive, but mom and I don't.
Me: I'm telling you that if you walk out of the bathroom tonight and say, "Hoooeeeee, dad, I just took a big ol' shit!" I am not going to be mad. I'm probably going to laugh then then recommend that you not say that sort of thing outside the house or when other people are around or get in the habit of it, but there's nothing bad about it if no one here gets offended.
I then briefly went on to explain the word 'fuck'. She didn't seem terribly comfortable with that either, but these are life skills. We then got interrupted when a guest arrived, but when I got Daisy alone, I started back in on her.
Me: So, Daisy, did you go poop today?
Daisy: Uh... why are you asking?
Me: I just want to know.
Daisy: (thinking) Um.... What? What difference does it make?
Me: Just did you, or didn't you?
Daisy: I guess I didn't.
Me: Ok, so say, "Dad, I didn't take a shit today."
Me: Come on! It's just a word. It's just you and me here. Say it.
Daisy: No way! You can't make me say it!
There's a concept in life, that applies doubly to parenting, and it's the notion that you pick and choose your battles. You don't bother fighting the meaningless ones, instead saving your energy for the ones that matter.
Naturally, I dug in my heels.
Me: Daisy. You're right. I can't make you say it, but I really WANT you to say it. I don't want this word to have any power over you.
Daisy: I don't waaaaant to! I don't want to get in the habit of saying it!
Me: Oh, there's no chance of that. Come on!
Daisy: I reeeeeally don't want to!
Me: Just whisper it, ok? Just whisper the word?
Daisy: Ugh. Ok. I didn't take a shit today.
Me: Awesome! Thanks, Daisy!
You may now commence calling Child Protection Services.