Saturday, July 13, 2013

TN40D challenge 1

The Next 40 Days (Utah version), challenge #1: No cussing.

This challenge came at a very appropriate time in our lives as Peanut has been pushing his boundaries by dropping a few naughty words here and there. Thanks to people who take wonderfully entertaining children’s concepts, completely misconstrue them, and then post the videos on YouTube, he has a list of phrases that he never would have learned in our house. Mostly, however, what he learned came from us.

When I was still pregnant, I suggested that we stop cursing. Bub did not see the urgency in my request even though she had been assessed a $2 fee by some friends when she cussed in front of their 2-year old. (A bit funny that this happened in OUR house, not theirs, but she put the money in the potty-mouth jar nonetheless.) “We don’t curse that much,” we told ourselves. “We can stop at any time,” we believed. Yes. I realize that those last two sentences are exactly what addicts in denial say.

So, when one of the boys would occasionally say a bad word at the age of three or four, we looked at each other, giggled, and then agreed to tone it down. Yes. We giggled. What of it? It’s funny when a little kid says “our car is a piece of shit.” It is. Wait – let me give you my mailing address so that you can send my parent-of-the-year award….

But, finally, thanks to our efforts and YouTube’s influence, Peanut was getting a bit out of hand. Meatball was saying some naughty words, too, but he’s much less determined to push us. Peanut wants to find the boundaries and kick at them until they break and fall down in a mess around him. (As one of our close friends puts it “He’s going to be your pistol.” Um, yeah.)

So, we were having the typical conversations that parents have with kids about their language:
Sweetie – we don’t say naughty words (while thinking to myself: Yes – we DO say naughty words – a helluva lot of naughty words, actually – mommy is a hypocrite! ACK!)
Honey – you’re a smart boy – let’s think of some smart words to say (while thinking to myself: I AM smart – why am I so lazy that I resort to shitty words that belie my own intelligence?)
Oh no – that wasn’t very kind – we only use kind words (in my head I heard: Kind words my ass – mommy is the worst hypocrite EVER! Dammit!)
What did you just say, young man? (to myself: Why did *I* just say that? I had a good word in my head, and then THAT bullshit rolled off my tongue?)
Dude – zip it! (and, again, to myself I was shouting: Zip it. Zip it? YOU zip it, you rotten damn mommy!)
Oh – I don’t think so! (while thinking: That’s right. “I don’t think so” because I don’t fucking think! That’s the fucking problem here!)

And, that is why I chose “no cussing” as one of my challenges, and I actually thought that it wouldn’t be that hard.

Wow. I really missed the mark on that one.

I’ll tell you my success rate right now: 7.5%. Yup. 7.5%. I managed to NOT curse only three of the 40 days.

In all fairness to me (because 7.5% is just NOT something that I am proud of), cuss words included some things like “screw” (as in screw you or screw it) and “idiot” because we don’t allow the boys to say those words. The list is actually very long; I’m surprised that they are successful at avoiding most of the naughty words on the list! One of the most difficult has been “god” (as in oh my god and not to be confused with God). This was a concept that needed to be explained a couple of times to the boys. An agnostic and an atheist explaining the existence – or non-existence – of God made the explanations probably 20 minutes longer than they needed to be.

So, at the end of the 40 days, I thought that I would be 98% or 99% successful. Boy, I was so wrong, wasn’t I?!?! But, I’m still considering this whole thing a success, and here’s why: I had no idea that I was cussing so much. Now, I know – like, I KNOW. Every time a curse word escapes my mouth, I realize it. I stop what I’m doing and reflect on it – even if it’s only for a moment. I’m even catching myself when I THINK a naughty word.

I didn’t sound like a sailor before the challenge – well, ok - SOMETIMES I sounded like a sailor – but I DID use the quintuplets of curses (shit, damn, piss, fuck, hell) a couple of times per day. And god – not to be confused with God but offensive, nonetheless, to those who believe – multiple times per day… x3… easily. But, I didn’t realize that I was doing it then. At least now I do.

I was beating myself up a bit (big surprise) for what I considered to be this epic failure until I talked to my friend, Nate. Nate has recently given up a 6-a-day (sometimes more) Dr. Pepper habit – cold turkey – without a single side effect (hahaha). He is now 66 or 67 days DP Free. Anyone who has ever given something like that up knows that it’s not easy, but he has done an amazing job. (And, yes. I know that quitting smoking or drinking or drugs is so much more amazing, but let’s get some perspective here. I’m talking about cursing, not shooting up. These things aren’t even in the same ball park, so I’m not going to compare them. DP and the f-bomb? Much more similar.) So, I was lamenting my abysmal 7.5% performance on this challenge, and he helped me put it into perspective.
“Look, I could separate myself from the Dr. Pepper. Simply, do not buy it. Do not walk past it in the cafeteria. It would be different if I had DP bubbling up in my veins and I couldn’t escape it. It’s a bad habit, sure, but I can physically remove it. You can’t remove words. They are in your brain, and they’ve been trained to be there for the last 30 years. It’s a total re-programming of your brain, and it will take time.”
He’s right, of course.
And another thing. I’m “scoring” myself on a completely pass/fail basis. If I said ONE prohibited word during the day, that was a fail. My pass rate would be much different if I had taken a percentage of the number of times that I actually SAID a naughty word compared to the number of times that I WANTED to say one.

It was not all for nothing. It was really a very good challenge for me to experience. I learned how lazy I had become with language, how little time I spent actually thinking about what was about to come out of my mouth, how EVERY thing I say is heard by two sets of little ears who will then repeat it. Being mindful of these things was worth the entire 40 days. And, of course, just because the time is up doesn’t mean that I am going to quit. I’ve established more of a pattern, and I will continue working on this. It can only get better.

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