"O be careful little ears what you hear." - lyrics from the children's song, "O Be Careful, Little Eyes"
I've never liked profanity, but I especially despise it when my children's innocent, impressionable ears hear it. Unfortunately, for a week in November, they heard as many four-letter words as Ozzy Osbourne's family hears. Here's the clincher: it was straight out of my in-laws' mouths.
As parents, my husband and I were put into a tough spot. I'm sure you can relate. Whether you've experienced a grandparent who serves unhealthy food or an uncle who allows inappropriate TV and video games, you've likely had to answer the question: What do you do when those you love are compromising your parenting?
Before I go any further, I want to set the record straight. I am not out to bash my husband's family. I love them so much that I helped plan the weeklong vacation where four-letter words abounded. The trip was a surprise for my mother-in-law and father-in-law's 40th wedding anniversary. All five of their children, two daughter-in-laws, three grandchildren and one of their son's girlfriend spent a week together in a beach house in Charleston, S.C.
The entire family hadn't been together for more than a year, so all 13 of us under one roof was a celebration in and of itself. There were many other reasons to celebrate: the anniversary, Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law's 30th birthday, and another brother-in-law proposed to his girlfriend while we were there. She said yes. Every day was a party!
As the week progressed, I became dismayed by what my children were hearing. My husband's siblings, three of whom aren't married and aren't thinking about children, let alone how to raise them, were talking about mature topics in front of my 4-year-old, Harrison.
I am a stickler for clean language. In our home, we say toot; we don't say hate; and we never use the Lord's name in vain. However, I'm not naive enough to think that a few days exposed to swearing will taint my sons forever. Let's face it, growing up, we all had a swearer in the family. Mine was my grandfather, whom I saw every day, and I didn't grow up with a mouth like a trucker.
Still, I believe children should be as innocent as possible for as long as possible. They will be exposed to the world soon enough. When they are with family, they should be positively influenced and protected.
Several times, my husband and I told his siblings to ask themselves this question before they speak: would you want your 4-year-old to repeat that? Our tactic didn't work well. Surprisingly, my son's approach worked best. When they said a naughty word, he replied with his big green eyes, "Uncle Dave, we don't say that word."
Sometimes, what comes out of the mouths of babes teaches us what should come out of the mouths of adults.
Shasta Clark is a St. Clairsville native who lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, with her husband and two sons. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.