I was raised in a fairly strict household where rules were rules and the only reason I sometimes got away with a mischievous act or word was that I was the youngest (and my older sisters still loathe me for it today). Still, overall, there were certain behaviors and language that were simply off limits as we were growing up. Comparing those guidelines with current society and it’s clear that expectations have changed quite a bit for kids growing up.
Shut up, stupid, and butt were literally curse words in our house growing up. I can vividly remember a few pouty afternoons I spent in my room in punishment for uttering one of these absolute verbal assaults on family decency (sarcasm, in case you missed it). The funny thing was that I didn’t even know about most of the darker profanities most would probably associate with kids saying bad words. If I called my sister stupid, I might as well have been dropping f-bombs to my mother for her reactions. I grew up in the 1990s and one of the best insults of the decade that emerged was ‘Butthead’; as an 8 year old with two older sisters, I heard this term regularly and always when my parents weren’t listening. As the baby of the family, I would hightail it straight to my mother and tattle to infinity. I would say something along the lines of “Mom, Ashlee and Alyssa called me the B word.” As an 8 year old, I didn’t even realize that the B word could be anything other than butthead.
Perhaps I had a unique childhood where strict lines were drawn and my parents overdid it a bit on our language. Regardless, there was a shame list that included mild words like dumb, stupid, shut up, any iteration of butt, booty, idiot, pissed off…even fart was a word deemed too inappropriate for our use. So call me sheltered, call me overprotected, but just don’t call me stupid (because that word is not allowed J).
We went to my grandmother’s house for a family get-together a few weeks ago and my 2 year old Eliza was putting on a show for my mother and grandparents. She was singing her songs, reciting her alphabet, and reveling in the undivided attention, which very rarely happens with all of her cousins around. I felt like I was showing off a pet’s tricks to my family (Eliza say this! Eliza sing that!) but a parent has to sometimes manufacture ways to feel proud. So my little talented girl performed all her dances and songs and was showered with all the praise we give EVERY 2 year old ever born (Oh, she’s so smart for her age, Oh, she’s got such good harmony for 2 years old, Oh, she’s basically God’s gift to Earth and talented in every way).
My mother stepped out of the room for a minute and a new song came out of her mouth that my wife and I have never heard her sing. In front of my 85 year old grandparents, Eliza started singing “Shake your booty, shake your booty, shake your booty” while also doing the accompanying dance and gyrations with her little behind. My wife and I looked at each other with complete shock! Where did this come from?!? I immediately exclaimed that she must have been spending too much time with her older cousins and I blamed her 9 year-old boy cousin specifically. We weren’t quite angry, but a little surprised because she’s still young enough that we don’t give her a lot of alone time with the older cousins. I concluded that I needed to have a stern chat with these cousins and set them straight.
My mother comes back into the room, sees Eliza still dancing, and then STARTS SINGING ALONG WITH HER. Apparently during the last several trips to her Nana’s house, my mom had been teaching her this song and dance. This woman would not let me say booty until I was practically 15! There were no butt-shaking dances performed in my house growing up! She outlawed so many words for butt that I didn’t even know how to refer to my backside for 12 years. And now, as a grandma, she’s got my two-year old little angel shaking her tail feathers and proudly singing booty music. Sigh. What’s next? Sir-mix-a-lot? Thanks mother for doing the exact opposite with my child that you did with me. Geez. Oh wait, Geez was outlawed growing up too…sounded too much like we were muttering Jesus.
I guess Nana gets a special Grandmother pass, but I sure wish I had received a few free passes when I had some word slips growing up!