A Confusing Lesson About Right and Wrong

Madeline: Right and wrong.

This week my grandgirl Madeline–my favorite person on earth–learned one of life’s difficult lessons: When you do a good deed and mix it with a questionable act, people remember the questionable act.

Maddie stood up for a friend who was being bullied (yay!) and used a vulgarity to put an exclamation point on her defense (boo!). A teacher was within hearing range of the vulgarity and, thus, Maddie was “written up,” whatever the hell that means. In any case, she became a 12-year-old version of Antifa: good intentions, bad delivery.

But I’m her grandfather and as such, I am proud of her without reservation, much as I was of her father when he was kicked out of his fraternity (he’d been president two years) for doing the right thing instead of what a bunch of old white men board members wanted him to do. I suspect he used a memorable vulgarity in response.

Sometimes there just isn’t a better way to say it other than my favorite, “Fuck you, Jack!” It’s the bottom (or the top, depending on your point of view) of our verbal defense line. When used sparingly and unexpectedly, it hits between the eyes like a 2X4. (Who’d expect something like that–and it wasn’t THAT–from a sweet, loving 12-year-old?)

BUT, there’s the Mom/Dad argument against encouraging kids to “cuss.” The common and immediate response is, “Where’d she learn that?” Oh, god, let me count the ways (or sources, as it were). My daughter’s first word–I give you MY word–was “shit.” Where do you imagine she learned that at 1 1/2 or 2? Probably her dad.

Twelve-year-olds are assaulted on all sides with the temptation–and the resources–to shout vulgarities, and my guess is that most of them use those very blue words in excess when disapproving adults aren’t around.

Mostly they’re used to get attention and to fit in. When they’re used to defend a friend, they get my vote. Sorry Mom and Dad. Good for you, Maddie.

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