The Swear Jar, or How My 12-Year-Old Daughter Set Me Up
There is a plastic cup with a lid that lives on the kitchen counter, in the corner next to today’s (and yesterday’s and the day before’s) New York Times and last week’s Economist. It’s one of those 7/11-type deals with a snap on lid that has been altered in a few significant ways: it has a thin rectangular hole cut in the lid, and a hand written paper sign taped to the side: “Swear Jar.” My 12-year old daughter Tasha, perhaps the most conscientious child ever to walk the planet, is fed up with the weak apologies I issue whenever inappropriate language escapes my lips and has finally forced me to put my money where my mouth is: I owe a quarter to the Swear Jar every time I utter a banned word.
“What’s so hard about that?” you might be thinking – “how tough can it be to avoid dropping f-bombs in front of the young daughter you are trying to raise not to have a mouth like a sewer?” So here’s the thing: if it were just the $12 swear words I’d be golden. I’m not that bad a parent that I walk around spewing profanity like Tony Montana. But it’s not just $12 swear words. Tasha enforces the Swear Jar on everything that could possibly squeezed for quarters: the “a-word” (me: “but it means donkey!”); the “d-word” (just try getting through the day without saying damn at least once – you know you can’t); I’m even nailed for mild compound anatomical insults (“dickhead”). And don’t even try to get away with “bee-otch” instead of the “b-word” – she will be all over you like flies on, well, you know.
But you haven’t heard the worst of it. True confession time: there is a congenital disorder in my family – my father suffered from it, my sister does, too – that we’ve dubbed Automobile-Induced Verbal Vulgarity (AIVV), and my (now highly advanced) condition is costing me a fortune. God help me if Tasha is in the back seat when some fool cuts me off in rush hour traffic in the City – the girl is positively bleeding me white. Maybe it’s finally time to found a charity for AIVV – you all have at least a touch of it from time to time, be honest – to replenish my pocketbook. Until then, I guess I have to resign myself to having her shake that thing at me like a Salvation Army Santa until I learn to mind my p’s and q’s.