Now that my kids go to an actual school, I feel a whole family-pack of mixed feelings, starting and ending with the simple fact that I’m no longer the one who’s in control of the flow of most of the information in their heads. Like, there are 13 other kids that my daughter talks to more often than she talks to me. (Except for the kid who doesn’t talk to anyone and pisses in his pants every day… but even he’s around her more often than I am, so no dice.)
I really never thought this would happen. I had a vision that I was going to be able to raise my kids differently than anyone ever had, that they’d grow up free of racial prejudice and television and only wearing pink and all the other bad stuff that’s wandered into the head of any other kid, ever.
Sadly, that is not always the situation. Case study #1: Language.
In college I read Inga Muscio‘s amazing book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. (I was a feminist! I was the only guy in Womyn’s Issues Now! I could do anything!) Essentially, the point of that book was that the word “cunt” used to be an honorific term for the female ruler of a country, whereas the word “vagina” is an Old English Latin word meaning “sheath for a sword.” And, in the earliest days of changing nappies and learning how female people wipe, I was quick to teach my gurgling baby proto-feminist girl to say “cunt!” instead of “vagina” — or instead of whatever other term you’d use.
No matter what anyone else said, or how they looked at me when I said it. In fact, because of how they looked at me when I said it.
Soon, my older daughter joined a playgroup. And instead of saying our Yiddish-ish “I need to make pishy,” which we’d trained her to say, she was saying, “I need to make.” As if saying what exactly she was making was too dirty to say. Or maybe just, like, she needed to do some creative work, and it somehow needed to happen on a toilet?
This year, she’s in an actual yeshiva. Fortunately, the teachers are better about such things, and no longer will she be subjected to the ludicrous and grammatically-questionable “Have to make.” On the other hand, if she utters The C-Word (in what context, I have no idea, but one way or another, it always seems to happen, doesn’t it?), I have no idea what her teachers and fellow students will make of it. Probably nothing. Because, in the end, instead of saying cunt, I kept my mouth shut, for the most part. Maybe, when she’s old enough to follow it up with a detailed etymological explanation — or when the other kids are old enough to read a book called Cunt — I’ll push it.
Until then, I just have to acknowledge that I’m probably on the outside, and that you can’t always enforce your own standards on your kids. And that she probably knows how to communicate with the other 3-year-olds much more effectively than I do.