I was in the pool with Micah. He was still young enough to play “Shark”.
This is basically water tag, with gory, detailed descriptions on what body parts the Shark (me) will eat, am eating, or plan to eat. Soon.
For years, Shark was the favorite neighborhood game during the summer. I usually started the game by volunteering to be the Shark.
Of course I had fun. How often do you get to chase kids and tell them in detail how you will mutilate them, and say “Hmmm. Tastes like chicken.”.
Being The Starter had the added benefit of teaching new kids the rules, so when they became It (Shark), they could then get appropriately gory and completely absorbed into the game.
Leaving Jane tons of time to lie on a lounge chair reading a book, occasionally yelling out something gruesome when a kid got stuck: “I’m gonna get you! And when I do I’m gonna …gonna…uh…”
“…disembowel you!” I would shout, turning the page.
“YEAH! I’m gonna disem…bowl…you!” I’d hear.
A kid called Time Out. A head popped up over the side of the pool. “What does ‘disembowel’ mean?”, he was clearly suspicious ‘disembowel’ wasn’t a real word. These kids were sticklers for rules.
“It means”, I said, taking a sip of Diet Coke, “to rip out someone’s intestines.”
A big chorus of delighted “EWWWWWWwwwww’s” and “GROSS” boomed out of the water.
I’m sure I am responsible for some very bad nightmares.
None of the kids were allowed to swear when I was on kid patrol. When one of Micah’s friends loudly (but out of sight) complained about the no-swearing rule, I called them out of the pool.
They were clearly afraid they’d hit big-time trouble.
Actually, it was me who was about to get in big-time trouble.
With other parents.
“Here’s the deal”, I say. “If you want to swear when you’re an adult, that’s your choice, though I won’t recommend it….”
Nine boys exchanged glances: Oh no, a lecture.
“…you want something better than swearing. If someone drops the F-bomb at you, you can retaliate with a whole artillery of words, rip them to shreds, and it’s legal. Like you-can’t-get-suspended-for-saying-it, legal. Like, your-parents-can’t-get-mad-about it legal.”
They. Are. Riveted.
I pick the complaining kid. “Say something mean to me, without swearing.”
He looks like he wants to sink under a rock. Micah looks like he wants to join him. I am SO going to written up later. Bad mom.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to mean it”, I say, giving him an out, in case he means it.
“I hate you?”, he says.
“Good.” I look at the other boys. “If we rate that on a slam scale of 1-10, how bad was that?”
“Totally lame…” whispers one boy to another, in the back.
“Exactly”, I say, proving moms do have super hero hearing.
“Now…”, I scribble something on a piece of notebook paper, “…read this to me like you mean it”.
I hand the paper to the I Hate You kid. (poor kid.)
He dutifully reads: “You are a worm ridden, slimy piece of odoriferous trash…”, he looks up at me, then back down. “…and I wouldn’t be caught dead near you. I don’t want the maggots.”
“See?” I say. “You didn’t say ‘F-word You’, or ‘you are a B-word’.” I smile, adding cheerfully: “And I am completely insulted!”
They steal glances at each other, and Micah, who wants to KILL me.
“Swear words get used so often we stop hearing them” I say, “and they stop meaning anything. There are so many GREAT words that will still mean something. Go. Try it.”
They dove into their vocabularies with gusto.
It sort of backfired on the Jane is relaxing now front. Kids would pop up at the side of the pool and use me as a thesaurus when they got stuck. The manager stopped by, hearing heated (but creative!) insults being flung around the pool.
“It’s fine”, I tell her, “they are having an insult contest. No one is mad”.
...You are a dog-excrement filled cockroach! Oh yeah? You’re a buzzard barfed human trash can…
She shakes her head, “that’s some contest.”
In front of our house the next day, the boys are elbowing each other over a hijacked dictionary, looking for new words. I took our Thesaurus outside, and showed them how it worked.
They grew into nine teens with very creative vocabularies. A dozen or so parents still haven’t forgiven me. Okay, maybe only one is still really upset.
The mom whose nine-year-old son said to her, in a fit of epicurean rage: “I despise this slimy, puke-ridden, writhing mass of sodden spinach. I won’t eat it, and you can’t make me.”