The verdict giving 10 years of probation to Ethan Couch, the wealthy Texas teen who confessed to intoxication manslaughter in the deaths of four pedestrians, spotlights the fact that it takes a parent, not a village, to properly raise a child.
The expression “It takes a village to raise a child” means including extended family and resources, not taking the parent out of the equation.
The outrage over this verdict comes from the defense used in the case, which blames “affluenza” for which the only solution is real, old school, parenting. The term was used by a defense witness, a psychologist and refers to the boy’s privilege, affluence and lack of boundaries and parenting as the reason for his crimes.
According to the Associated Press, Ethan and his friends stole alcohol from a Walmart. Then Ethan chose to drive his Ford F-350 pickup with seven passengers and a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit for an adult, speeding at 70 mph in a 40 mph zone. He ran into pedestrians, resulting in the deaths of four people.
While the AP reports prosecutors called for the maximum 20 years in state custody, Couch’s attorneys appealed to state District Judge Jean Boyd “that the teenager needed rehabilitation not prison.”
Now it seems that the parenting of this Texas teen will fall to the state over the next 10 years.
However, I would argue that the boy has had plenty of parenting, just from the wrong people.
Like too many kids, rich and poor alike, this Texas teen was raised by society: TV, internet, friends, schools, and films seemed to have more of an influence on his actions.
While there are some positive influences there, there are many more attractive vices washing over kids.
My son Quin, 10, didn’t understand Ethan’s story at all.
“Who hasn’t heard not to drink and smoke? Never drink and drive. At school they literally tell you not to. Plus, parents tell you not to and everything because there has to be some kind of boundary I cannot cross.”
The entire key to the Ethan Couch case and the others like him is that one word Quin said, “Plus.”
School, commercials, and TV shows may tell kids what not to do, but until there is a parent there adding to the weight of the issue, the words just float away.
We can speculate that the bad choices made by kids like Ethan are a cry for help from a kid who craves parental attention and will settle for anything in place of being ignored or placated with material things.
However, that’s not the kind of speculation people often make about kids suffering from the alternative form of “Affluenza” which we might name “poor pox” – affecting poor kids of working parents who must entrust the raising of their kids to daycare and free programs after school with little “plus” time to offer.
There seems to be a double standard – when it comes to “poor pox,” kids often go to jail for 20 years.
Four days a week I volunteer to teach chess to kids both wealthy and impoverished in Norfolk, Virginia. I also make house calls to juvenile detention centers and alternative schools where kids are sent when they are unmanageable in a public school setting.
Kids with “poor pox” and “affluenza” alike often have attitude issues, bad grades and sometimes a rap sheet.
Because chess is like life, it is a great tool for teaching life strategies, but kids only retain what I teach them if their parents are on board to reinforce the lessons.
In chess, I teach kids that their actions can have swift and terrible consequences – bad move, big loss, game over – that is the way chess rolls.
If a child is allowed to make his or her own rules in chess and can take back moves with no consequence for errors, there is no investment in getting better at playing.
However, a game and a moral lesson from a stranger can’t hold down the fort when there’s no weight on the scales at home.
The case of Ethan Couch reminds us that no child, of any age, race, or socioeconomic status, will learn everything they need to know being raised by “The Village” if the parents have moved away from their responsibilities.
It’s never too late for parents to get back in the game with their kids.
All the holiday shopping going on this month reminds me of my most memorable saleslady. And she wasn’t even helping me. She was helping someone in the next dressing room at Nordstrom. I simply overheard her. The customer came in for a bra, but went away with much more.
To begin with, the customer sounded none too happy with her looks. She felt that she had a little too much figure going on, and a few too many miles on it. Her saleswoman, I’d later see, was of a similarly generous age and size, and was much more confident about the beauty possibilities of her charge.
I sensed that the saleswoman went through her motions more slowly than usual, in deference to her clearly anxious customer.
“I’m going to have to measure you.” “And what do you want to wear this with?” “Ok, now let’s lift your arm” “Perfect.” “No, it’s ok, take your time.” As the saleswoman directed her charge to remove this and to move that, it became clear why the nerves.
The customer – I almost want to say “the patient” – said she was going to her son’s wedding. Alone. Not only that, the wedding was in a place she’d never been, 1,500 miles away, with a bride she barely knew, a family she’d never met. Not only that, she’d resigned herself to the ultimate humiliation: looking frumpy.
Sending a child off in marriage in the best of circumstances is traumatic; a role life little prepares us for. Trying to meld the etiquette of our mothers with the “oh mom” sensibilities of our children leaves parents in a no-man's land. Put yourself 1,500 miles away from your own turf and who knows what additional humiliation awaits? You could go over on your heel. You could get a crying jag. You could have lipstick on your teeth in all the photos because no one told you.
Given the mix of circumstances, this lady was a peripheral, at best, member of the wedding, and she knew and felt it. But her bra saleswoman was slowly fixing that. As her charge worried and whimpered, the saleswoman’s businesslike, can-do spirit insisted “stick with me.”
“Hold still…Try this…Let me tighten something…No this is not it...We’re going to find it...Trust me...Here: Do you see what this does for you?” By the end of the standing back, straightening, and smoothing, you could almost hear their smiles. They had a winner. It would anchor the mother-of-the-groom’s figure, but more than that, it would anchor her confidence, enable her to claim her rightful place in the upcoming events. Both of them knew that if you were going into such a situation feeling like you looked great it could blunt your fears considerably. “Yes,” the saleswoman had shown her: “You can do this” the “this” having more to do with giving away her son in marriage than with lingerie, of course.
Nordstrom, for its part, says they make sure bra fitters are certified, but offers no training in emotional care and feeding of customers. “We try to hire nice people … and then we get out of their way,” leaving them to do what they feel is best, says spokesman Colin Johnson.
Maybe the mother of the groom never thought about her saleswoman again. And I doubt that the saleswoman goes to work every morning thinking, “I’m going to do some emotional first aid today.”
She probably doesn’t see herself as part of a great cadre of people out in the world who, just by going about their jobs, do a lot of ministering to the anxious and the weary. But surely such little dramas of goodness take place everywhere, every day, even during this busy season. Merry Christmas to all in the helping professions.
Elian Gonzalez lost his mother at age six when the small boat they took to flee communist Cuba sank near Miami, leaving him at the mercy of nature and politics. Today we can see how being raised by his father under Fidel Castro’s regime shaped his worldview.
While much is being made over Elian’s anti-American statements blaming US policy for his mother’s death, I want to focus on the words he allegedly learned from the man who came to see him on every one of his birthdays – father of his nation – Fidel Castro.
"I always remember what he told me: That I was already somebody, that the whole world knew who I was, and now what I had to do was be good at something, that's what he asked of me," Gonzalez said of Castro, according to a state run media interview.
He adds, "He never cared which path I took ... the intention was that I be good at whatever I did."
Whether Castro actually said this or the young man, who was raised by his father and military schools in Cuba, is parroting a state-generated media spin is hard to know.
However, the advice is sound and resonant. It’s good parenting even if that parent is the state.
We know for certain that the path Elian took was harrowing.
Back in 2000 the riveting tale of the boy who lived was everywhere. Then the story became a political issue, as his father, back in Cuba, demanded his return from the Miami relatives who had taken him in.
The Miami relatives argued that the parents were divorced and the boy’s mother had died to bring him to freedom in the US.
In the end President Clinton ordered the boy returned to his father. When the relatives refused, the world watched in horror as federal agents raided the Miami home, taking the child by force.
For my family this story was riveting because I was pregnant with son number three, had a six-year-old son of my own in my arms, and a five-year-old son beside him.
We had just moved to New Jersey after spending five years aboard a sailboat in southwest Florida. Politics aside, I sided with the Miami relatives, my husband with the father.
Gonzalez, now 20, is in Ecuador this week as part of a 200-member delegation to the 23rd World Festival of Youth and Students.
He attended a military academy and is now studying industrial engineering at University of Matanzas “Camilo Cienfuegos,” according to CBS.
However, what Gonzalez is now “good at” today is the same thing he was great at in 2000, igniting debate and focusing attention on the Cuban state and our policies toward it.
Little Elian may have been pulled from the water all those years ago but he is, by his very existence, a fire starter.
In 2000 my heart ached for his dead mother and how her sacrifice had apparently been for nothing.
However, seeing this quiet, shy, yet strong-willed young man take the media lens – like a boy might hold a magnifying glass over an ant in the sun – and burn himself back into our memories would make any mother proud.
In Peru, Gonzalez boldly said of his mother, "Just like her, many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it's the U.S. government's fault. Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba," according to CNN.
That statement says more than meets the eye.
It tells me that while we may want an easier, safer, freer path for our children, the more difficult way is often what makes rather than breaks them.
Elian’s mother and Castro had a lot in common. Neither knew that the boy they were protecting would become such a politically ambiguous and powerful symbol of freedom.
We must have faith that our children will be carried by life to the shores where they can be free to find their purpose.
But where have they gone? Did they suddenly pick up bat and ball, take to the great outdoors, or have a renewed interest in their academic studies?
No, of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. They’ve simply moved to other social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.
Now before you get too worried about the size of Mark Zuckerberg’s retirement account, fear not – teens haven’t deleted their Facebook accounts. Instead, according to experts, teens now treat their Facebook page as a chore, something you do every week or two like clean your room, make your bed, or finish your chemistry homework.
One wonders what motivated teens to migrate, and why now when Facebook stock is finally rising and the company is so close to its goal of worldwide domination.
Analysts believe that teens left because of MUMPS like me: Massively Uncool, Middle-aged Parents. We “Mommed” it all up, and ruined it for everyone.
We posted mundane pictures of our kids sleeping, we tagged shots of them as naked babies on Throwback Thursday, and we bragged about their drama awards, school dance dates, and soccer trophies with the most distant members of our families. What’s worse, we even made Grandma join.
But why did we do it? Is it because we, as parents, always have to spoil the fun?
No! It’s because the experts told us to. They said we needed to stay connected and monitor our teens on social media. These experts scared us into thinking that if we didn’t t keep track of our child’s every move then we’d lose them to creepy forty-five year-old “Catfishers” who would lure them to the nearest Greyhound bus station, or our kids would post pictures of themselves in revealing bathing suits, or even worse – announce to the world that our family has gone away to Maui on vacation.
Our motivations were pure. We were protecting our kids. But then, something happened: we got hooked. We became Facebook addicts ourselves, and we ruined it, just like we parents ruin everything by getting over-involved.
Of this, I’m guiltier than most.
My daughter showed an interest in fashion so what did I do? I signed her up for sewing, fashion sketching, and fashion design. I even enrolled her in this over-the-top college course where they did a professional runway show, complete with models. Then, you guessed it; she lost all interest in fashion.
I did the same thing with ballet, art, and softball. It’s a very predictable cycle: she shows a little interest, I become over-involved, and then voila, her interest wanes.
I’m not alone. We are a generation of parents who helicopter, interfere, and micromanage. At my daughter’s high school, the membership of the choral parent support group practically outnumber the chorus, there are more athletic boosters than qualified athletes, and the number of volunteers at the elementary school Jogathan often exceeds the runners.
It was so different when we grew up. Other than Open House night, my parents never set foot on my school’s campus. My husband’s parents only rarely attended his baseball games, and when I went out with my friends for the evening – now brace yourselves – my parents had no idea where I had gone.
Even though we Americans pride ourselves on our ingenuity and independent spirit, our generation seems bent on creating a generation of overly dependent, submissive drones.
Well I, for one, am going to do my best to stop. I’m going to step back and let my kids do their own thing for a change. I’m gonna try to let their interests grow on their own, or fizzle as they may. I’ll remove the tracking device from their necks, drop the Smart Limits from their cell phones, and I’ll stop showing up at every single event at their schools.
And who knows, I might even log on to Facebook and “Un-Friend” them as well.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Kristen Hansen Brakeman blogs at kristenbrakeman.com.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." That statement, by British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, has never been more relevant than it is today. We live in an era that features self-driving cars; unmanned flying drones; and wireless devices that fit in the palms of our hands and connect us to a healthy chunk of humanity's knowledge.
But when you don't understand something, you can't really master it – and in some ways, the technology begins to master you. That our overwhelming dependence on technology has arrived hand-in-hand with a general technological illiteracy is abstractly alarming. What is more concrete is that all these gadgets need programmers, interface designers, production supervisors, and far more jobs in order to be created, manufactured, and distributed. We're facing a tech job crunch: too many jobs, not enough computer science graduates ready for the next generation of work.
Enter the Hour of Code, a national effort to get 10,000,000 students to spend an hour learning how to program using a set of pre-designed tutorials during Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15.
By getting kids thinking about writing computer code, the Hour of Code is meant to prime the pump for more learning and, ideally, creating more computer science graduates in the years to come. The program's tutorials make use of popular games like Minecraft and Angry Birds, and some of them are completely computer-free, relying on paper, pencil, and simple props like plastic cups to demonstrate that computational thinking isn't necessarily tied to computers.
All of this takes me back to Henry David Thoreau elementary school in the early '80s, where programs I learned like the Logo turtle and Rocky's Boots (teaching 1960s programming language and Boolean functions) were at the cutting edge of getting kids ready for the computer-dominated future that was inexorably bearing down upon us.
And am I now a programmer? Absolutely not. But having some insight into the logical underpinnings of the systems that now govern just about everything is no small gift, and one that kids everywhere should have a chance to enjoy.
By illegally ejecting a discreetly nursing mother from a courtroom, a female Connecticut marshal drove home the point that breastfeeding is a women’s issue often fought between women.
Connecticut is one of 45 states with a provision allowing women to breastfeed in public. Yet Danielle Gendron was ushered out of a Connecticut courtroom while she was discreetly nursing her 3-month-old son according to WTNH-TV in New London, Conn.
I worry about a society that’s fine with showing every kind of violence on television, yet can’t stand to witness a young mother discreetly nourishing her child.
As a mother who nursed four sons, I considered "discreetly" to usually mean sitting in the back of the room with the baby under a blanket or shawl which covered me more than the average bathing suit, with perhaps the very crown of baby’s head visible. Anything anyone thinks they saw while I nursed was most likely in their own imagination.
In light of Ms. Gendron’s experience it is fitting to note that a sizeable part of the nation’s population is currently prepping for a holiday that centers on the birth of a child.
While I am no archeologist or biblical historian, I can pretty much guarantee that Mary didn’t bottle feed her baby, nor did any wise man, shepherd, or woman blow the whistle on her for feeding her babe.
Perhaps now, in this season, we could take a moment to find the wonder at the gift women have to be able to nourish their children via this perfectly natural act.
When Ms. Gendron was perhaps age five, I was sitting in my car on Long Beach Island, NJ, discreetly nursing my first son under a shawl when a woman who was in her 50s began beating on my window demanding, “You stop that right now! That’s disgusting.”
The woman called police and, because there was no provision allowing public feeding at the time, I was politely asked to “Move along.”
What infuriated me then and seeing Gendron’s story now is that in both cases it was women who made such an issue of a woman’s issue.
I have marveled at this odd turning of woman against woman. The only thing I can imagine is that perhaps the women taking issue are those who themselves were deterred from breastfeeding in public spaces and convinced the act was lurid and “wrong.”
In my experience, men who see a woman breastfeeding either don’t recognize what they’re seeing, or are too uncomfortable to make a report.
The only time anyone ever came up to me to complain about seeing me feed the baby, which happened many times in various states of the union, it was always a woman.
Gendron has been initiated into the sorority of women outed by women.
“That's never happened to me, so I wasn't sure she was speaking to me at first, so I kind of looked around, and she was like, ‘Get out,’ ” Gendron tells WTNH about the female marshal.
The new mom was removed from family court on December 4. She was waiting her turn to testify in a case, according to WTNH.
“It almost makes you feel ashamed, which is terrible, because you shouldn't feel that way,” Gendron told WTNH.
It made Gendron feel “ashamed.” It made me feel humiliated and furious when it happened to me. Today it makes me feel sad because frankly, we’re better than this, as both a culture and a sex.
When Gendron’s story became public, the court apologized to Gendron's sister, who had called the court to complain, according to the TV station. As a result, reports Yahoo! Shine, “The marshal was instructed on the law, as were judicial marshals statewide.”
The newly released Godzilla trailer may not have shown us much, but it tells us that kids are going to be happily rampaging through imaginary cities in 2014, shouting “RAWR!”
The film is expected to open May 16, 2014, however my son’s imagination is already captured, so much so that in his mind he’s already in his seat for the remake of the classic monster movie.
“I wonder who he’s going to fight,” Quin, 10, asked excitedly. “Maybe Mechagodzilla? I hope it’s not just the army again.”
At age 10, Quin will be allowed to see Godzilla because the evening news has more ugliness than a mutant lizard squishing cars and knocking through skyscrapers.
Also, I view Gojira (his original name) as a misunderstood, persecuted creature who, historically, was just reacting to man’s invasion of his habitat.
In fact, he’s left some pretty big shoes to fill in the save-the-day department by defending his former attackers when willfully destructive monsters come to call on major cities.
Godzilla is a great lesson in not pre-judging someone based on cultural difference or physical appearance.
In anticipation of the film, my household is already hotly debating the question, “In a battle to the finish with laser blasters who do you think would win, Godzilla and Mothra as a team, or Cyborg King Ghidorah?”
This was posed by Quin.
The interesting thing is that Quin must have learned about the radioactive monster via osmosis and YouTube because he’s never seen the films with me.
Although, when Quin was little, his favorite book was “Dogzilla” by Dav Pilky, so I suppose I should have seen this coming.
If your kids are younger you should consider “Dogzilla” a sci-fi primer for future fun with a city-stomping, room-wrecking, imaginary friend.
In our house, Dogzilla was allegedly responsible for anything spilled, strewn, or broken in the house.
Later it became the “real” Godzilla who apparently masqueraded as any one of my four sons. He’s spent so much time with my family over the years, from when I first saw the original film in New York City in black and white and slept with the light on, to today. I’m glad to see he’s back in action.
Godzilla turns 60 in 2014 and he’s looking pretty spry for someone who’s battled 32 different monster enemies in 29 films and counting, taken out New York and Tokyo countless times in the process, and laid eggs in Madison Square Garden.
Since we don’t want to just keep up with our kids, but rather lead the next generation into their science-fiction fandom, it’s time for a little crash course on our mutant reptile facts.
Let’s start with some of the big guy’s nicknames that we know of: Gojira, King of the Monsters, Gigantis Gira, Monster of Justice, Big G, G Man, God of Destruction, Big Gray Gecko, Kaiju Alpha, and Goji.
When I say he’s big I mean this guy originally weighed in at 20,000 metric tons as a 50-meter tall prehistoric monster in 1954 when he terrorized Japan.
Originally Big G wasn’t enhanced, just a prehistoric monster. It took Americans in the 1984’s “The Return of Godzilla” to morph him into an irradiated, laser breathing monster we know and love to run from today.
Some of his most popular allies are Mothra, Rodan, and Anguirus. The Big Gray Gecko’s enemies are numerous, and he has most often fought them with the result of saving the very city that was trying to destroy him. According to my son Ian, unimpeachable keeper of all sci-fi lore, the list of legendary Godzilla foes is long, but the best loved at our house are: Gigan, SpaceGodzilla, MechaGodzilla and King Kong.
Since the big guy’s left such a footprint on childhood, perhaps we need to get ahead of the curve by adding DVDs of the classic Godzilla films as some oversized, reptilian-themed stocking stuffers.
Today’s Google celebrates computer programming language pioneer Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. We all can thank Ms. Hopper for the term “debugging,” which to most people means fixing a glitch, but parents might take it as a reminder to clean out the keyboard before something crawls out of it.
Ms. Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" after finding an actual moth in her computer. There’s a photo of it on her official Navy page.
The moth was found trapped in the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, September 9, 1947, accofding to Hopper’s naval history page.
“The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: ‘First actual case of bug being found.’ They put out the word that they had ‘debugged’ the machine,” according to the Navy page.
While I could talk all about the importance of getting girls into Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) instead my point is the importance of teaching girls and boys what I’m going to call a Hopper Doodle Do: clean out your keyboard kids!
Better yet, don’t eat at the computer while are drinking in all that knowledge.
My personal mission to clean out our keyboards wasn’t due to Ms. Hopper, but an experience I had during a very brief run as the social media coordinator for a small local television station here in Norfolk, VA in the fall.
My first week on the job, working nights until midnight, I was typing when something tickled my fingertips. That something was a feeler from what turned out to be a shockingly large cockroach.
People all over the newsroom turned to see what furious missive I must be writing as I tried to squash the bug with various keystrokes.
No such luck. This baby had apparently been born and raised in the fast paced underworld environs of newsroom typing.
When I called for tech assistance the answer came back, “We keep telling people not to eat at their desks! Just put the keyboard outside and we’ll get it later.”
The next morning the children woke to find their mother, a woman possessed, vacuuming and shaking out the keyboards.
If you are operating under the delusion that your kids never eat at the computer just turn the keyboard upside down and shake. The contents of your keyboard might just surprise you, while the cleanout might stop letters from sticking anymore.
However, despite my best efforts, last week when the Virginia weather neared an unseasonably balmy 80-degrees, my 10-year-old could be heard shouting, “Mommomomomomomomomommm!”
When I arrived at the computer where he’d been playing Minecraft, he was pointing to the computer as if it had come alive, and in a way it had. Ladybugs were coming out of from under the letters and that spelled trouble.
In this case it wasn’t due to snacking, but the fact that the computer sits by a window with a potted plant. In the warm weather our neighborhood saw a huge ladybug bloom for a few days.
My best guess is that the bugs travelled from window to plant to dark keyboard. Perhaps after one of our two cats pawed at the soil (another habit to drive me buggy) the creatures made the keyboard home.
When it happened to Hopper, the Navy circulated a cleaning memo. Perhaps part of honoring her today should circulate a similar memo at home in order to keep things ship shape and Hopper fashion.
Having a childhood dream to be a NASA astronaut isn't unusual – doing something practical about it, however, certainly is. When six-year-old Coloradan Connor Johnson heard that Congress was threatening to cut NASA's funding, he started a petition on the White House We the People platform.
If a petition on We the People gets 100,000 signatures, it receives an official response from the White House, something that has obtained official statements on everything from postal service reform to using monkeys in Army training exercises to regulating gluten-free food labeling in the past.
Johnson's effort may be a bit quixotic – even if he's able to make the 100,000 signatures required by the end of the month, the odds are long that anyone in Congress will take notice and change their vote to support the space agency – but it makes a great point. Namely: the impact of NASA is far more profound than it might appear.
Wikipedia's list of spin-off technologies from NASA efforts is long and profound; when you're preparing to put people and complicated machines into the frigid void of space, you tend to discover a lot interesting things along the way. The list ranges from artificial limb technology to enriched baby food to aircraft anti-icing systems and well beyond; if we're not exploring space, we're also not exploring the limits of our Earth-bound technology, either.
Far less tangible than temperpedic foam, but far more important over the long term, is that space ultimately holds the future of the human race. At some point, the odds are good that Earth will be overcrowded, polluted, or otherwise changed to the point where life here is difficult if not impossible. Colonies on other worlds - or traveling spaceships that can sustain life for the long, long, many generations long trip to other potentially habitable worlds – may be our best bet for long-term survival.
From the short-term problem solving and tech development to the long-term future of humanity to the dreams of adventurous little girls and boys everywhere, it seems clear that NASA and other space programs yield dividends that are hard to measure. And that may be why China – one of the world's other great powers – is putting so much of its money into space exploration. There isn't an obvious payoff to sending a rover called Jade Rabbit to the moon's Bay of Rainbows but the long-term importance is profound, and there can be no doubt that a generation of Chinese kids will be inspired by its mission.
It may be that a country on the grow needs to have a dream. That the United States should keep dreaming seems to be an obvious point – it's so obvious that a six-year-old can articulate it.
When Selena Gomez dropped the F-bomb in anger at technical difficulties during a performance, she also reminded parents that swearing – and even the equivalent abbreviations – can become part of their kids daily vocabulary.
“Selena Gomez was so frustrated by technical difficulties during KIIS-FM's annual Jingle Ball concert in Los Angeles Friday night, that she said 'what the f***?' into the mic and left the stage,” according to E! News.
Salty talk can sink a ship – such as the ship of public decency, which Ms. Gomez, 21, so publicly torpedoed. Gomez didn't use the W.T.F. abbreviation, but the prevalent use of casual abbreviations of swear words often leads to a desensitization to the words represented.
I had to ban "WTF" from use in our house and in my kids' online accounts when my youngest son, 10, asked what it meant because he always saw his brothers type it in online gaming chat and heard them exclaim it. One day, I heard him shout the letters in a library and it was time for the crackdown.
Swearing is a bad habit that wrecks the first impression both socially and later in life with potential employers.
To combat the flow of swearing from my son Ian, 18, I came up with a challenge for him to not swear for one week and I would give him $50. At any other age it would be a different motivator, but at 18, gas money talks and swearing walks.
His reaction was to immediately offer to split the money with his brothers if they would cover for him. I countered with, “The one who catches him swearing gets the full amount all to himself.”
It was on!
Our eldest son is away at college but participated as my online security chief monitoring Facebook for any swearing on his brother’s page, with the same reward in the balance.
When they were younger I warned my sons, “Constantly swearing is like eating boogers in front of the entire class with the girl you like sitting in the front row. It’s a bad impression that is unforgettable.”
The boys claimed they would be able to control the swearing when it was important and I beg to differ.
Case in point, 12 years ago my former New York Times editor “accidentally” used the F-bomb on my mom when she answered the phone while babysitting for the boys. Our voices are similar and he opened with a lulu of a litany until she cut him short with a withering comment that resulted in him not swearing at me for weeks.
In Ian’s case, however, he went the entire week without a single slip of the lip until the university informed him he needed to go get a vaccine. When the pretty, young nurse administered the shot he dropped the bomb.
Then he realized he’d dropped it and slipped a second time. He was sitting on the little exam table in a pediatrician’s office surrounded by duckies on the walls.
I could almost hear him wishing the ground would open and swallow him. In the car I told him I was willing to honor the bet anyway since it was the end of the final day and the shot was extenuating circumstances.
He sat in stony silence and then said he didn’t want the money, he just wanted the last 45 minutes back.
It’s been three months and when someone loses a video game match or stubs their toe we hear a stream of cartoonish creativity spewing forth such as, “Cheese on a cracker that hurt!”
All the money in the world can’t bring back the moment when you lose face because you opened your mouth and a cuss word popped out at the most embarrassing moment possible.