At about the age of four, Random Daughter, a very bright and attentive child, began to listen closely to her parents’ use of bad words. My wife took a year off from work to be with her young child, taking RD out of her pre-school at the time, so exposing innocent fellow pre-school fellow students was not a concern on our mind.My daughter put four and four together and concluded: When Mommy and Daddy get upset, these are some of the words they use. Children imitate adults, so one day as she was frustrated with some childish activity, perhaps trying to get a recalcitrant dress on a recalcitrant dolly—I don’t remember the exact irritation—-in any case, out of our daughter’s mouth, clear as a bell, issued the famous phrase: God fucking damn it!
What did RD’s very bad Mommy and very bad Daddy do, you very well might ask?
We cracked up. RD decided she had cracked one of the basic codes of adult communication. Of course, only one of the words was exactly four letters, but she was only four years old and still learning her arithmetic.
However, as the age of five was reached and entry into kindergarten approached, RD’s depraved parents remembered their parental responsibilities.
We had a serious talk with RD. We explained to her:
There are certain words that upset some people. Obviously, we don’t mind if you use them at home [even at four she had a sharp eye for hypocrisy and would not have tolerated our saying these words and forbidding her to do so] but if you use them outside the home, some people will get upset. So please don’t say words like fuck and shit at kindergarten or around grandmother.
Five-year-old RD, a quasi-genius among her cohort, told us she understood and would comply. Her teacher, Mr. Morasch, (it seemed wonderfully avant garde to us that her public school had a male kindergarten teacher) only had one mild criticism of Random Daughter. Her language was fine, but she was a little bossy with the other children he reported at the parent-teacher conference. But that was probably only to be expected for a child who was already reading when she entered kindergarten and knew how to behave herself and follow rules, even when they were rather silly. And no, she wasn’t reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Tropic of Cancer at the age of five.
To this day, if anyone in our family is frustrated, they merely need to say, “GFD” and everyone else chuckles.