“What the hell are you teaching our daughter?” wrote my wife via text message.
I’m a journalist who has covered everything from sports to politics to beer, each more fervent than the next with regard to the opinions and partisanship that surround it. Just by virtue of engaging with these topics, I believe I’ve become a more informed person. As such, I couldn’t wait to get a blank slate of a child so that I could download my entire catalog of information into his or her brain.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise then that my daughters criticism of the current presidential administration had a familiar slant and delivery. It was, essentially, my take parroted in her voice.
One of the great joys is watching your children become like you. They deliver sentences in your cadence. They use phrases used around the house. They hear interactions and, unable to contextualize them, use them on their own in whatever format.
And so imagine, again, my lack of surprise when my then-two-year-old daughter asked one day while driving if we were in “f—ing traffic.” Or when my two-year old son was playing at his grandparents house and caught uttering “What the f—” to his dump trucks.
When it comes to cursing, I actually don’t have much use for it. Curse words beginning in A-, B-, and Sh- are pretty much devoid from my conversation, but I do use the F-word, mainly for its versatility. (I get it. Saying I don’t swear then in the next breath saying I use the godfather of the curse words is like saying I’m a vegetarian, but I do quite enjoy the taste of a medium rare kitten.) While I was led to believe this essay is definitely within the trust tree and a judgment free zone, I know I have to get better.
And so imagine, again, my lack of surprise when my then-two-year-old daughter asked one day while driving if we were in “f—ing traffic.”
But, honestly, does it make me a bad parent if I think that sometimes it’s pretty darn funny?
Another recent trend in my house has been asking my daughter if she wants a snack and her replying, “Well, what are my options?” This annoys me because I then run through literally everything we have in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer. I mean, I applaud her craving to become a more informed consumer, but come on, girl, you’re four. Want me to swing the dessert tray around? Pick the fruits snacks with “Frozen” characters on them like all the other kids. What are my options? Sheesh.
Then, recently, the kids were in bed. It was a nice summer night, and it was my intention to make a drink and sit out on the back porch.
“Do you want me to make you a drink,” I asked my wife.
“Well, what are my options?” was her reply.
Apparently, these kids hear everything. I’m just glad I’m not the only one they repeat. My wife has a much better filter than I do.
After our four-year-old expressed her rather strong political opinions in the car, I tried to explain to my wife, “Crosby, Stills, and Nash wrote, ‘Teach your children well.’” But I can’t be certain this dissenting opinion — while in my mind accurate — is something our daughter needs to be repeating. Luckily for me she didn’t repeat what I said in class, but in the car with my wife.
I hope that one day, my dinner table will not only be a place to share our daily experiences in school or soccer or debate club practice, but a place that harvests critical thought.
I hope that one day, my dinner table will not only be a place to share our daily experiences in school or soccer or debate club practice, but a place that harvests critical thought. I would like it to be a place where we can encourage curiosity, critical thinking, debate, and dissent. Maybe I dial back the F-bombs for now. And maybe we hold off on getting into the crisis in Syria for a few more years. Maybe when she’s six.
About the author:
Matt Osgood is a freelance journalist based out of Haverhill, MA, where he lives with his wife, their two kids, and dog. While life as a dad certainly provides him with the best material, he writes mostly about sports and booze, both of which provide much needed therapy.