09 August 2012

This is not a post about religion

Oh jeezlouise!
Photo courtesy of Richard Malcolm
It's not. Not religious. I want to say that right off because search engines are not as smart as they say, and I get concerned that the ads on my site are going to glom on to some of the language in this post and totally misrepresent me, or you, or the whole story I really want to tell, which is really a cute story about my kid that leads to a question I have about about religious freedom. Particularly MY religious freedom. And by that I mean my freedom from religion. I bet blogs are like bars…avoid religion and politics unless you want a beer bottle smashed over your head and peanuts shoved up your nose. So look, keep your hands where I can see 'em and let me say this so that there is no misunderstanding: this is not a blog about Jesus. Ok, now that we've cleared that up…

I was dropping my son off at preschool two days ago. We have this routine where we go in and I sit with him for a little while. Then I announce that it's time for me to go and he informs me of his sudden need to go potty. So I take him to the potty, he does his business and then goes back into class for breakfast, all is well, mama leaves, life is good. So two days ago I'm helping him to the bathroom - it's a large echo-y bathroom with 5 open stalls and 5 cute little person toilets, and 5 little sinks. Jack is working on his peeing standing up skills (which I always forget about, I just set up the toilet so he can sit. Luckily the boys bonded while mama was out of town for 10 days and now Jack won't be ridiculed at school for sitting down to pee for the rest of his life.) So he's standing there peeing and all of a sudden out of nowhere he says (in this nice big echo chamber bathroom) "Oh Jesus Christ!"

Pause. "What did you say Jack?"

"Jesus Christ."

Uncomfortable laughter (and utter shock, and a little embarrassment) cough, cough, "Um, what?"

"Oh my God mommy. Jesus Christ!"

Now, nothing particularly crazy was happening to warrant this outburst. His aim was good, the toilet was sound, everything was coming out ok. He just came out with is as if he had just remembered something critical. Like "Oh Jesus Christ I forgot to put my Lightening McQueen lunch box away!" Only it's my kid, so he doesn't really elaborate. He just says…well you know...

Somehow I have to get my kid to stop saying Jesus Christ. In a big echo-y room. "Jeez Louise!!" I shout over and over. Jack laughs and decides to join in. Now it's a game, especially since he doesn't pronounce his L's yet so he's chanting "Jeez Muweez!!" Whew! And ohjeezlouise I hope he doesn't say it when we get back to class!!

Ok so, when I was pregnant Jason and I were looking at cute baby videos on youtube which lead to cute toddlers and then to some not so cute toddlers who were just cussing up a storm. Before we saw these videos we had talked about the issue of language and agreed that "words are just words and there should be no taboo on any language in our home". (Ah the things you "decide" about parenting when you're only just day dreaming about parenting, about how awesome and compliant and disciplined your child will naturally be.) Then we saw videos of 4 year olds dropping F-Bombs and sort of felt icky afterwards like we really needed to shower. This helped us quickly change our tune about language.

It's hard for me. I really like the F-word. There are things that simply cannot be expressed properly without it. But the first few times you hear your little budding amateur linguist parroting your potty mouth back to you, you clean it up pretty quick. Except, apparently, for Jesus Christ. See, this is not a cuss phrase in our house. And it's used more often now than ever in our house because we are trying very hard to not say things like "Oh F#$%!!" So "Oh Jesus Christ" is a good fallback, and it's incredibly satisfying - which by the way just so you know (and in the defense of bad language users everywhere) scientists have actually studied the effects of swearing and have determined that it is GOOD FOR YOU. Yes, that's right, eat your vegetables and say F%$# three times a day.

So now I'm torn. I don't want my best fallback swear phrase that's not even a swear phrase taken away from me because my kid is now saying it with frequency and I suppose he shouldn't be saying it so that other people won't be offended. And now I also feel like it may be a freedom from religion issue. MY freedom from Other's religion. My husband thinks I'm seriously ridiculous and rude and intolerant to demand my right (and my son's right) to say it because it's not cussing in our house. His argument is that he thinks farting is natural and perfectly normal and ok to do. But because he acknowledges that most people in society do not agree, think it's gross and rude to do in public, he refrains from farting out in the world out of respect for other people. Same idea applies to shouting out "Jesus Christ!" I'm supposed to censor myself out of respect for others. Well, we do this all the time in so many ways out in the wide world. We apply our filters and layers and masks and disguises all the time and often without even realizing it, all in an effort to blend in, harmonize, maintain a status quo.

I'm not going to argue this too hard. When my kid shouted that out I admit that even though it is not a cuss phrase I was immediately self conscious and embarrassed. Why would I have that reaction if I didn't think it was a controversial phrase for a 3 year old to be spouting? But... (oh boy here it comes) it's difficult for me to demonstrate respect for other people's religious beliefs and observances when so much damage and disrespect is committed in the name of religion. So yeah, I get a little LOT stubborn and intolerant when it comes to a discussion of curbing my language in this way. I am not totally intolerant: I bowed my head when my brother started praying over his dinner last week assuming that I would just naturally follow suit, and I didn't say anything about it or goad him for it or try to start a philosophical fight discussion about it like I would have 10 years ago. I guess I got to thinking about this issue a little deeper than normal because I saw a meme on facebook about the issue of respecting (or not respecting) religion. The suggestion was that I can respect you but I don't have to respect your religion. And I wonder if that's true. And right? And how I am to conduct myself around you if I respect you but not your religion? Well, I don't know, so I'm trying on the argument for size. 

And well there you have it. A funny post about my silly kid turns into a musing on religious freedoms. Ok, so just please don't smash a bottle over my head.

see no evil
speak no evil

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