Here’s something that makes my blood curdle: inappropriate or vulgar language or actions in front of my brood. I’ve never been one to curse. Except for when I’ve been completely out-of-my-Italian-mind mad, I don’t think my husband, parents, or friends have ever heard me speak an unspeakable. I don’t use profanity in my everyday vernacular, and when I hear it from someone else I consider it a sign of lower intelligence.
I don’t tolerate it one bit from the kids either; even idiot, jerk, and stupid are among the list of banned words in our family. So when someone in close proximity to my children slips out a bad word, it literally makes my hair stand up on end. I’ve been known to try to silence the guilty party, using a technique that is matched with the age of the speaker. Teenagers walking by who are talking like teenagers sometimes do might get a “hey guys” from me, and invariably they know what they did and immediately apologize and either stop with the vulgarities or at least whisper them. Adults, on the other hand, seem to react better to a single shout of “Language” in the nicest tone possible, at which point they look at me, then the kids, and then back to me with apologetic eyes. I don’t want the boys to hear these words at their age, because they are so incredibly impressionable.
At least the vulgarities and cursing we might occasionally hear were not directed specifically at me – that is until last week. All three boys and I were running late for a doctor’s appointment at Kaiser, and we found ourselves in the lobby of the medical building navigating through an obstacle course crowded with people of all ages traveling all different speeds, some with assistive devices and some without. We were able to keep a steady speed, both older boys grasping tightly to either side of our stroller, a stroller that was carrying a sitting 9-month old who was being entertained by the near misses that Daddy was exaggerating with “whoa!” and “aaaaah!”
We continued in this way until we were a few yards from the elevator that would take us up to the appointment. It was then that I heard the first few words from the furious fellow: “HEY! WHY DON’T YOU WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING?? YOU ALMOST RAN OVER MY F—ING SON!
It was so loud that it caught my attention (and everyone else in that lobby) and I was horrified to see that he was looking directly at me. I knew right away who his son was, since he was the only little boy we came across on our route, and I could definitely understand how from his vantage point it might have looked like we came dangerously close to bowling the boy over. However, much to the delight of the boy and my boys, my “near miss” was a couple of feet from contact but I acted like it almost happened.
I tried to assuage the angry man by singing back, “Sorry, buddy, I was nowhere near your kid” with a smile that quickly disappeared as he threw a barrage of obscenities at me and my kids in his next couple of sentences — obscenities that were aimed directly at my parenting abilities, my driving abilities, and the size of my reproductive organ, all in one fall swoop.
I shot back with a “WATCH YOUR MOUTH IN FRONT OF MY BOYS!!!, which I realize is a far cry from my usual nicely put “Language!” but I was proud that I managed to avoid any profanities that to my surprise were starting to erupt through my trembling lips. He threw back at least six or seven more obscenities, and even started to head in our direction, but the flow of the crowd swept us into an open elevator and the doors slammed together like the storm doors of a shelter before an approaching hurricane.
It wasn’t until we were safely ascending past the second floor when I saw the horror on the boys’ faces. My middle son started balling as he put a death grip on my thigh and begged me not to let that man come near us. I admit some easiness when the appointment was over and we traveled back down the elevator and through the lobby back to our car. I had seen enough episodes of “Snapped” and “Crime Detective” on late night TV to know that some criminals will lie in waiting before pouncing on their unsuspecting victims.
We made it in to our car completely unscathed, however, and the boys talked about the scary event the entire ride back to our home. I could tell by what they were focusing on that, in their minds, bad men and profanity were inextricably linked forever.
I couldn’t help but be a tiny bit thankful for this learning opportunity. I’d do anything to find that guy and thank him myself, right after I kick the f—king s—t out of him.