Here's a confession: When I was in fourth grade, crushed under the weight of my school-wide reputation as being a straight A student and all around goody-goody, I learned how to swear. I was careful to keep my potty mouth to myself and a close circle of friends, in order to keep me under the parent/teacher radar and ensure all the perks of being a "good kid." But the thrill of saying bad words in the company of friends fed me with a love of scandal and outrageous behavior that I still secretly (or maybe not so secretly?) harbor. I never got caught and nothing bad happened, but there were always stories of those who weren't as lucky as I was--the girls who got their mouths washed out with soap. The boys who had to stand in corners for hours. And the very unfortunate few who withstood the torture of hot pepper and other hopefully now outlandish forms of behavior modification. It was a dangerous enterprise, I kid you not.
Now I have my own fourth grader who recently got caught on the front porch using less than PBS sponsored language in conversation with her younger brother. I wasn't there to witness, but Dave was. What to do? Make a big deal? Mandate silence? Give a lecture? Neither one of us had much of an answer.
Madeleine, however, had a very finally crafted policy on swearing that she is quite happy to share. "Here's how it works," she told us. "Grown-ups can swear in front of grown-ups, and kids can swear in front of kids, but neither one can swear in front of each other."
That's what she said, I swear.
I know what you're thinking. Ouch. And the more noble-spoken among you, Do we really need any swearing at all? Seriously? I plead the fifth on that one, but I'd like to know what you think. Swearing? No swearing? Consequences? No consequences? You can slice this one any which way and I'm not sure I have the answer.