Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

My son was up gaming late the other night. He thought I’d gone upstairs to read, but I had this brilliant idea so I went to my office to write. I could hear the sounds of warfare coming from the basement as he played Call of Duty. He plays with a headset and talks to other players while they do battle. Between the smack talk and the background noise, he didn’t hear me come downstairs. I was just settling in when I heard him spew a bunch of words I won’t repeat.

Most of them were garden variety curse words. The kind his parents occasionally slip up and use but tell him not to. Those I don’t care so much about, although I don’t want him to get in a habit of using them indiscriminately, and I don’t want them used casually in our home. It’s one thing if you break your toe tripping over your own Teva, hypothetically, or drop a dozen eggs on the kitchen floor, but as part of regular conversation it’s lazy and disrespectful.

My real problem was with the other word. The one that some people use as a weapon against others they deem as “different.”  When I call people on using this word, they say “I don’t mean it that way,” and “it just means stupid or lame,” but I don’t buy that.

Once our words leave our lips, they do not belong to us anymore. They belong to those who hear them. They decide what they mean. We don’t get to weigh in. Is a word so important that it’s worth hurting people over? With so many to choose from, why fixate on a few that are destructive?

I hope that my son comes to understand that pejoratives are loud words, and they drown out anything else you have to say. They don’t make one powerful, they just get attention. He got mine.

I stood at the top of the basement stairs and asked “Hey, what’cha doin’?”, and he nearly fell out his chair. Embarrassed to be so utterly (and publicly) busted, he gave me a sheepish smile and said, “I love you, Mommy.” I gave him the Mommy-is-everywhere look and went back to work. It was remarkably quiet.

Too bad I couldn’t remember the brilliant idea I was going to write about. So I wrote this instead. Mommy loves you back, you little $#!+.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Enokson