Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Over time, a lot of people have asked me: "What is it with the way you raise your kids, Goldie? You spoil them too much. You expose them to too much. They shouldn't be watching this. They shouldn't be reading that. They're worldly. You robbed them of their innocence. What have you done?"

Of course, many others opine that my kids are cool and the kind of people they would want to be friends with. I guess tastes differ.

What can I say? I didn't start out by planning to rob my sweet babies of their innocence. It's just that, sometimes, they left me no choice. Consider this situation.

When we came to America, we of course always spoke Russian in our house. The kids didn't speak any English. This helped us shield them from the dreaded four-letter vocabulary for quite a few years. We made a point of swearing in Russian at home when we had to (hey, we've all dropped heavy objects on our feet, right?), so our children wouldn't learn any of the English words they didn't need to know. Then LilProgrammer made a new friend.

The new friend Bradley was a tall fourth-grader two years older than LilProgrammer. Rumor had it that Bradley had already been to a boot camp. For fun, he used to beat up on little kids. Needless to say, LilProgrammer was overwhelmed with respect and admiration.

It wasn't long before Bradley started teaching LilProgrammer new things.

"Mommy, where do babies come from?" ChinchillaBoy asked one day when he came home from preschool.

"I'll tell you," LilProgrammer cut in. What followed was a long lecture that left me standing with my mouth hanging open.

"Who taught you all this, LilProgrammer?" I finally asked.

"Why, you did!"

"No I didn't." I was a firm believer in teaching my children the basics of logical reasoning early on. "See, first of all, I don't remember doing that. And, secondly, even if I did, I wouldn't have used the word "hump" and the word "bone". It was Bradley, wasn't it?"

Not content to stop at "hump" and "bone", Bradley went on to expand LilProgrammer's vocabulary extensively over next two weeks. It took LilProgrammer another week to teach his five-year-old brother to use all the new words properly. Thus the battle with the swearing began. I yelled at them, I spanked them, I lectured them, but nothing helped. The kids swore like a pair of little sailors.

One day, about a year later, I got an idea. I would FINE them! LilProgrammer and ChinchillaBoy both received an allowance of three dollars a week each. I gathered the kids around and happily announced that, from that moment on, a swearword would result in a 25-cent fine. That meant each of them could only afford to cuss twelve times a week before going completely broke.

For a few weeks, the new system seemed to work. The kids were terrified of swearing, and I saved a lot of money because none of them was now getting more than a dollar a week. Then one day, both kids went into our basement to play. We have an enormous, fully finished basement that functions as a play room. Back in the day, it was full of board games, basketballs, and construction sets. These days, it is mainly occupied by the pool table, chinchilla cage, and copious amounts of chinchilla poop.

The kids seemed to be playing happily and quietly and I went about my housework, when suddenly LilProgrammer emerged out of the basement, holding a sheet of paper. On the paper was a spreadsheet that would a week later be a huge success in my mixed couples bowling league. People would literally stand in line to see it.

On top, in large letters, it said:


followed by:



et cetera, et cetera.

If I fined ChinchillaBoy based on that, I could retire.

LilProgrammer waited impatiently.

"So, Mom? Are you gonna fine him? Mom?"

It was a tough call. If I said no, I would essentially send my children a message that it is OK to swear. On the other hand, if I said yes, that would mean it isn't OK to swear, but it is OK to rat on your own brother.


"NO!!" I replied. "I do not fine based on hearsay. If I didn't hear it, he didn't say it."

"But MOM, it's not fair! He DID say it!"

"Hmmmm... you know what? I'm canceling the fines. The whole thing. It does more harm than it does good."

Now you know why my kids swear.

If you have any other questions, go ahead and ask.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:04 PM

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