Grace Trumps the F-Word

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My older son’s friends came over to hang out the other day. It’s about the middle of summer, with camps and stuff going on, so not everyone could make it. Still, it looked like they had a lot of fun.

J has had the same set of friends since first grade. They’re in middle school now but they’ve managed to stick together. Of course, most of them do go to the same school and we all live in the same neighborhood. Still, I am very grateful for that sort of stability in my son’s life. It is safer, I believe, to walk around with a group of geeks than to be a geek all by yourself.

So while they were in the basement playing video games, the hubby and I sat in the living room talking. We could hear the boys’ laughter and teasing, and something about girls. All normal fare. Quite expected.

Then someone started cursing.

Crisply.

Succinctly.

Clearly.

Loudly.

It wasn’t just the S-word, which most kids at their age try out experimentally. It was the F-word, the B-word, and different variations of the F-word.

Yes, he dropped the F-bomb and then some.

The hubby went downstairs. The cursing stopped.

He came back up, the cursing did too.

We looked at each other. What do we do?

We had two choices. We could say something, or we could wait.

 

We decided to wait.

Why? Because the way we see it, we are parents to our children, and friends to their friends. More mature friends, hopefully, but still just friends. We really have no desire to parent other people’s children. We had that figured out some time ago—it wasn’t the way we wanted to influence their lives.

Besides, we both kind of figured out who was the culprit. And we know the kid well. Because my son and I talk a lot, I knew almost as much as he did about his friend’s background and a lot of the things going on in the kid’s life. I’ve met his mother, and I liked her. I also knew the family went to church. So I knew he must have heard somewhere, for good or bad, that bad language wasn’t such a great thing. We just didn’t think it was the right time to reinforce it.

 

And then there’s the bigger picture: we really just wanted our home to be a safe place for our children and their friends. Without an agenda, we wanted our home to be a place kids feel comfortable hanging out at. You know, without them feeling like they have to behave a certain way to be accepted.

It’s really because we believe grace meets you where you’re at, and if you are willing, it takes over and does the changing.

But how can grace start working if we start by forcing a person to fall in line with certain expectations, expectations that may not make sense to them at that point?

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: my job is to make sure my children know and understand that bad language is not acceptable—not just because we call ourselves Christians—but also because it is disrespectful and demeaning to others. My job is to do what I have to do to make sure they grow up to be respectful and considerate of others and to live according to the values we hold important in our family. And my job description does not include their friends.

 

If other kids are to learn anything from me, it is because they see their friends—my children—behaving a certain way and having that pique their interest. Not because I force them to listen to me.

Again, I will parent my children and I will befriend their friends.

 

While I believe I should correct someone IF I see and hear them cursing, it really isn’t the most important thing if it happens and I am not in the room. Chasing down the issue erects barriers and breaks down bridges that could prove vital in the future. After all, the kids are only in my home for a few hours in what could be months, and the image of their friend’s mom as an avenger exacting justice over their foul language isn’t what I want them to take away from the experience.

{Besides, while cursing isn’t part of my everyday language, I’d be hypocritical if I say I have never cursed. I do believe there are certain situations when strong language is justified, and I don’t shy away during those times.}

 

It seems to me like when you live in a society where worlds are crumbling every day and varying definitions of what it means to be a family abound, those of us who work hard to build a good home for our children can choose to add to our calling. We can, much like adding a new room to our house, relax a bit and allow our homes to be a gathering place for our children’s friends, with the hope that one day, over a glass of milk or a bowl of popcorn, we can talk about grace and hear that child say, “I knew there was something different about your family.” And in my hopes, I can hear the walls come crashing down as I tell the child Who makes us different.

 

I guess that’s what they mean about being intentional. It can look like being permissive at the start, but the purpose becomes clear in the end.

 

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