So Many Words

They say actions speak louder than words. I suppose that’s true in most situations, but what if words are all you have? What if what you say and how you say it is the only action you can take?

We’ve had lots of discussions in our household lately about words and phrases you’re allowed to use at home but not at school or at work or even around friends. My son got in trouble at school for using words like “freakin'” and “bullcrap” because they were too much like actual swear words. We had a chat about it and I reassured him that he was not in trouble at home but would need to use other words at school. The very next day he used “freakin'” again and although he apologized and is trying to change, he was sent to the principal’s office and I got a phone call.

You may be thinking, “Well, of course he got in trouble. Kids should not be using those types of words!” And you’re right, sort of. I don’t think kids should use those words in school, just like I can’t swear at work (except in the back room where my boss lets me spout off at whatever is ailing me). There is an appropriate time for certain types of language. I try not to use the phrase, “Oh my god!” around some of my friends. I think it offends them and I have no desire to do that. I feel like being sensitive to what others may feel when you use particular words is a part of growing and evolving. I’m still trying to teach my 9-year-old some of that sensitivity but I think he’ll  learn it. It can take time and many mistakes, but it’s doable.

At home, though, I think you should say what you feel. When I get angry or frustrated, I will use words that can make your ears burst into flames. Sometimes I’m muttering and other times I’m yelling. But as a person who ate all of her anger since the age of 7, I like to get all of my anger out before it becomes rage and consumes me. I can run out my frustration at times, but words are typically what purges my body of all the anger or hatred I may have. (And after being bulimic for a time, let me tell you that this type of purging is much more satisfying and so, so much better for me!)

After receiving the second phone call about my boy’s language and feeling scolded for allowing him to use certain words at home, I thought it was time to use my own words to express how I felt. I couldn’t do it over the phone because I knew I’d get upset and say things I shouldn’t. So I sent an email to both the teacher and principal, thanking them for alerting me of my son’s use of language. But I also explained that he is allowed to use those words at home because I don’t want him to eat his anger or punch the wall in frustration or hit someone because they ticked him off. I don’t want him to say nothing and push his feelings deep down until a little nuisance becomes fury. Using words is what we’re taught to do, right? In school, we’re taught to express how we feel by what we say, *not* what we do. And that’s exactly what he’s doing. He knows he shouldn’t use those words at school and he’s trying not to, but it will take time. (I suggested to my son that he use the word “fishcakes” like my 85-year-old colleague from the Blue Hill Library used to use. She used “fuck” when no one else was around. My boy has decided to try the word “flipping” instead, because a girl in his class uses it and she doesn’t get in trouble. I think this might end up being an experiment in gender studies.)

In my email, I also explained that in our home, we really do love words. We compliment each other if we use a good word or phrase. For instance, instead of saying, “That’s not what I was talking about,” my boy says, “No, Mom, that’s not what I was referring to.” AWESOME! Or we talk about words that we enjoy saying because of how it feels in our mouths, like “Mozambique” or “planetarium” or “hullabaloo.” Maybe instead of using boring words like “freakin'”, I can teach my boy to use Shakespearean phrases like, “Thou art like a toad!” or maybe “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage!” Well, he might not be able to remember that one.  We’ve been trying out other words like “wretched” or “crikey” or “dang nab it.” Something funny or clever that won’t get him into trouble.

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As we continue to discuss the power of words, do you ever find yourself having difficulty in saying certain words that should be simple to say like “I’m sorry” or “I love you” or even just “No”?  I know I do. Currently I have a tough time saying “My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease.”  I can say she has dementia just fine, but something about the word “Alzheimer’s” makes me stutter. The word gets caught in my throat. I think it brings so many depressing images to mind that it’s hard to spit it out. Or it feels like admitting defeat.

However, saying “I love you” to those that I do love or “Thank you” to those that have helped me or been a good friend to me, brings me joy and makes me feel all warm and squishy inside….

…as does saying “fluffernutter.” Seriously. It’s a great word, isn’t it? It uses your tongue and teeth and lips and it’s delicious! Oh and “delicious!” I love that word, too.

What about you? What words bring you joy or make your blood boil?

Let’s have an orgy of words!

 

 

 

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Fly Your Freak Flag

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When my son was 6 years old, I liked to call him my noncomformist. He danced to a different tune and wasn’t afraid to show it. I was proud of him for that. We all know how difficult it can be to just be yourself and not worry about what others think you should be.

Now that my boy is 9, I see that in most ways, he’s still that independent free thinker. And I’m still proud of him…yet now I’ve been trying to make him conform.

I know. Shitty, right?

 

Let me lay it out for you. See these boots?  My boy loves these things. He’s finally found footwear that doesn’t hurt him and is completely comfortable. So he wore them all winter and spring. Now that’s it’s near summer, he still wants to wear them. One day last week, he wore shorts and put his boots on. I told him, “No way!” He looked like a clam digger, an old man with his muck boots on. I could just picture him getting teased by kids on the playground and the damn school bus.  I was protecting him….or so I thought.

This week, my son once again wore shorts and as we were leaving, he put his boots on. When I started to tell him “No” he burst into tears. And I mean burst. This kid goes from zero to sobbing in 2 seconds. His face scrunched up and his mouth was making horrible sobbing noises and tears were leaking from his eyes.

I stopped what I was doing and sat down with my boy in front of me. I explained my reasoning, that I didn’t want people to make fun of him. He said he didn’t care if people teased him about his boots, but told me that no one had made fun of him. “Not for that, Mom!” We recently discovered that some older boys were picking on him on the bus (surrounding him, actually) because he’s taller than they are and they don’t like that. So he’s getting pushed around for something he has no control over. And I think that’s why I wanted him to dress differently, to have some kind of control over what the kids do tease him about. Don’t give them more fuel for their fire, you know?

But my little guy sees things differently. Right now, he doesn’t care that he’s not good at sports. He doesn’t care that he’s bigger than everyone else his age. He doesn’t care if he looks weird or odd or silly. And since he doesn’t care, why should I?

I just read a review of the book, The Awakened Family: A revolution in parenting by Shefali Tsabary, with one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard on this topic. “Only when we can separate our fantasies concerning who our children should be from who they actually are can we do justice to their original essence and craft our parenting to allow for this to flourish.”

In other words, let your son be who he wants to be, Holly. He will never be in any kind of fashion magazine. He will never be an award-winning athlete. Just let him be the boot-wearing, cat-loving, video game player and reader extraordinaire that he is. Let him be the amazing, sensitive, funny, sweet boy that you’re proud of.

Shut up about the boots and just love your boy and makes sure he knows it.

So that’s what I’m going to do.