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Bad Words, Good Dad

“BUTT! STUPID! SHUT UP! CRAP!”

These were the words I heard floating down the stairs one evening last week. My husband, I noticed earlier, had taken our three sons into our bedroom and closed the door. And so it was with more than a little surprise I heard these words (all of them normally off-limits) being shouted. Nervously, and, perhaps, a little gleefully.

I couldn’t help myself. I went upstairs and poked my head in the door. Hubs gave me a wink, and the boys all shouted, “Mom! It’s Man Town in here!”

Ah, yes. Man Town. The “place” my sons and husband have invented when something of a masculine nature needs to be addressed without the involvement of a nosy mother or a pesky little sister. It’s sacred territory, I’m told, by its occasional inhabitants.

The shouts of off-limits words subsided, followed, I could tell, by the calm and muffled sound of my husband’s voice. There was laughing, and then scattering, as the boys went off to play.

Hubs came downstairs smiling, and I asked him what was up. As it turned out, he had overheard a Son Who Shall Remain Unnamed secretly using an off-limits word. So Hubs took all the boys upstairs for a session of getting the words out of their system. For a few minutes, he gave them full permission to say the words in question, freely. He stripped away some of the forbidden fruitiness. He let them squirm a little, as the words came out of their mouths, perhaps not quite as much fun to say out loud as they thought it would be.

Best of all, he reminded them that the thing about bad words isn’t so much the word itself, it’s the motive and heart behind it. They talked about kindness and respect and doing unto others as you’d have done to you. They laughed together. Their dad looked them in the eye, and he treated them like men.

All in all, a pretty productive day in Man Town, I’d say. And further confirmation of something I already know: When I look back on all the smart things I’ve done for my children, the smartest of all may very well have been marrying their dad.

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