I’m always telling new parents to write down those odd little stories.
Stories? You know… like when your kid is in the bath and out of the blue she asks you, wry grin spread across her face, “Dad? Do you know what the S-word is?”
I’m not against curse words in our house. I don’t swear a lot and I often assume this is because either (a) I’m never really that angry that I find I need to express myself with “damns” and shouted “shits” and by calling people “assholes” anywhere but inside my own head but also (b) that I pride myself on having an above average vocabulary and knowing how to use it — it comes along with the pretentious writer-thing, I think — and I don’t find swearing necessarily precise as it could be. I mean, come on. Some people use “fuck” to mean as many things as the Smurfs used “smurf.”
Smurfing smurfers, smurf the smurfing smurf smurfs! Smurf?
But I digress. And I only mention this all for the simple reason that Claire is not apt to hear a lot of cursing in our house.
“Do I know what the S-word is?” I replied cautiously. “Do you?”
She didn’t say anything, but instead her expression did that light-switch-flip to a kind of sheepish, maybe-I-shouldn’t-have-brought-this-up kind of look.
I pressed. “Who was talking about the S-word?”
It was about here that she promptly tried to change the topic. She fished around in the bath water for a stray toy and a wash cloth and spent an unsuccessful minute trying to convince me to do one of my really-lame, not-exactly-magic tricks.
But I was curious. “Claire? Who was talking about the S-word? Someone at school?”
“She said we\’re not supposed to say that word.”
“My teacher.” She replied, reluctant. “She said we’re not supposed to say that word.”
“What word?” I nudged. “What is the S-word?”
Claire raised a hand to her mouth, cupping her palm over her lips as if it was some sort of secret, or as if she could catch the words as they were about to tumble out. Or maybe she figured if I didn’t see her say it then I wouldn’t be mad.
“What word, Claire?”
She hesitated for another brief second then bubbled out in a half-giggle, half-whisper: “Stupid.” She wouldn’t meet my gaze. “My teacher said we’re not supposed to say that word.”
I (literally) had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing, and nodded solemnly for a bit before I was able to reply with something about how she was right and that everyone needed to treat each other respectfully, blah, blah… all that dad-like stuff. The teacher was right. I guess. Calling people “stupid” is not exactly the ideal kindergarten-esque behaviour we’re looking for. I let out a did-that-just happen kind of sigh, and the bath went on.
“Dad?” She asked, a smile again spreading across her face when she realized that I’d finally finished my little impromptu speech.
“Do you know what the C-word is?”