About a year ago, thinking about the young, impressionable minds living under our roof, I realized we had to do something about certain words that were in too-common usage. I don’t quite curse like a pirate, but there were occasions that I did utter the F-bomb, and once Lisa and I began to catch the kids saying it, I realized something had to be done. I didn’t know at the time how much it was going to cost me.
One morning while driving the kids to school, we talked about how there were things, one thing in particular, that you shouldn’t say. One of the girls pointed out, “But, Daddy, you say it all the time.”
She was right, of course, and it was agreed among us that I would pay them each $10 every time I dropped the forbidden word.
As time went on, the plan worked well. My use of that particular imprecation dropped off sharply, to the point that the girls tried to sneak other bad words into the bargain. It was funny to negotiate with Evvy, who’s is 6 going on 7, about whether a “dang” uttered during some kitchen mishap or other was a payable offense.
I noticed that my language in the office and when out with friends was a lot less salty, too. I started saying things like, “What the heck!” a lot, going suddenly all 1950s-corny.
What I had not counted on was my eldest daughter’s prodigious memory for numbers. Though I should have: Money was at stake. She kept close track each time I let one fly, ticking off the $10 increments and remembering the running total, which she lumped in with her belated allowance remittances. By the time the tally got over $500 — payable to each child separately — I was beginning to sweat.
In the end, I got off lightly. Adelia, the older one, had wished for a new Xbox Kinect videogame system and hit on the idea that she would agree to erase the growing debt if I bought her and her sister the coveted device so they would not have to wait for their birthdays in June or, worse, the December holidays. I agreed quickly, lest the girls do the math and change the terms.
I haven’t checked whether they think the original deal is still in effect, but I haven’t used the F-bomb lately, just in case.