I was hanging out with dear but distant friends: a mother and her 7-year old daughter. In the course of things, I slipped and said “Oh sh-t!”
“Ooh, Mommy, Auntie said the ‘S’ word.” My bad, of course. For the rest of the afternoon, I took care to use words that would pass muster with broadcast radio and primetime TV.
” talk talk talk talk talk HECK talk talk . . . ”
” Ooh, Mommy, she said the ‘H’ word!”
“‘Heck’, not H-E-L-L. ‘Heck’ is not a bad word.” I exclaimed.
“Oh we don’t even say ‘heck’. That’s a no-no,” explained the mother, beatifically.
I thought it odd, but mentally shrugged my shoulders. Since most of my friends have inevitably become parents, and everyone has their own style and standards for raising kids, I’ve learnt to respect and conform to their wishes when spending them with all these nieces and nephews. Indeed, it’s very entertaining to compare parenting practices across the board.
“You know, my daughter says there’s bad words even in this book.” The mother pointed at ‘Ramona the Pest’
Ramona the Pest! One of the my favorite books, by one of my favourite authors Beverly Cleary. A book written about and for 6 year olds. What bad words could there be in ‘Ramona the Pest’? ‘Buggers’?
It’s all very well to teach your kids respect and refinement. But this was over-the-top. Censorship, when it comes to books . . . it struck a nerve with me.
The afternoon went on; we played games like Candyland, did the chicken dance, etc.
” talk talk talk talk talk oh MAN talk talk . . . ”
” Ooh, Mommy, she said the ‘M’ word!”
“You can’t say ‘MAN’ . . .”
“ We only say ‘oh boy!’ ” replied the mother.
I was beginning to wonder if either or both the mother or daughter had been immaculately conceived.
I’m known as the aunt who buys nothing but books as presents for kids. Not so much that I’m anti-toys, but I’ve liked reading ever since I was a kid. The mom showed me a list given to her by the 7-year old’s teacher. “Hey, since you read a lot, check this out!” It listed recommended American classic books for children. The usual suspects: Goodnight Moon, Little Women, Charlotte’s Web . . . ”
“Hey, Ramona the Pest is on this list.”
I felt slightly vindicated. The cynic in me assumed that my seeing the list was in effect logging on to an Amazon wishlist registry, i.e. ‘here are books you can buy for the 7 year old in the future for birthday and Christmas.’ I’d been thinking of getting her ‘Ramona the Pest’ for her upcoming birthday anyway, but now I knew she had it. And it was ‘bad’ book.
“I don’t know,” I commented to the mother drily. “I don’t know which books I could get for your daughter in the future; you’d have to read them first and let me know which ones are OK. They don’t have beep-able words; but your standards for vocabulary being so pristine, I wouldn’t want to give offense.”
She’s got a lot of reading to do. My friend was brought-up well by her parents, but circumstances deprived her of the joys of E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Carolyn Keene, Louisa May Alcott et al.
There’s a very funny scene in one of the Ramona series. Ramona’s throwing a tantrum and announces to her family, “I’m going to say a bad word.”
Her family bursts out laughing, which makes her even more upset. It wasn’t the reaction she was looking for, of course.