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Monday, April 02, 2007
My sister came to visit the other day. She had her four boys with her, ranging in age from 15 down to 6. They grabbed Mac’s football and went out the back to play. I don’t have much entertainment for boys their age, so a football and a garden has to be enough. They rarely complain.
My sister started to tell me that she is having a lot of trouble with the 15 year old. He takes much pleasure in annoying the younger boys by touching them on the face. He does it repeatedly until the younger ones get so annoyed that eventually they punch him then he beats them up. He has been doing it day in day out no matter how much she asks, screams, begs him to cut it out. He keeps saying they hit him first. He doesn’t see that it is him creating the problem by annoying them.
This is just the very tip of the iceberg with this child. He refuses to do as he is told, leaves the house without saying where he is going and of late has started to shape up to hit his mother when she is yelling at him. She has told him, one hit and he will be making his own way in life. She will not be intimidated by her son.
The 15 year old came inside during our discussion, but he had not heard us talking. He walked into the room and stuck his hand over my face and asked his mum when they would be going. I told him to keep his hands to himself, but he just laughed at me. Then he did it to his mum. She smacked his hand away. He shaped up to hit her and she stood up and screamed at him to get the fuck out of the house. He yelled back, calling her a fucking bitch and throwing glass from the counter onto the floor.
My sister called him a fucking prick and he screamed back at her that she was a worthless fucking cunt and headed for the door. The younger boys were on their way inside at the sound of the commotion and as the eldest left he knocked the 6 year old to the floor. I picked up the youngest boy and made sure he was all right while my sister kept screaming out the door at her eldest boy. They all left not long after I had cleaned up the glass, my sister still crying because her child is out of control.
Now I admit straight up that I do not have teenage kids so I have no clue what it is like, but I am sure it is not supposed to be like that. I do know however that the problem is not simple, that teenagers are a complexity of raging hormones and developing morality and it can’t be simple to fix.
But I feel that my sister and her husband have to take some of the blame here. Her son is acting the exact same way he has seen his mother and father relate to each other and that is trickling down through them all. The younger boys already speak to their mother in the same manner, copying the way the eldest one does it. It is the same way my sister and her husband speak to each other and to the kids. The name calling and the liberal use of the word fuck come directly from their parents. They have always thought it was ok to speak this way in front of their children. Now they seem shocked that their children speak that way to them.
I have often found my sister’s language bewildering as my parents never swore in front of us, and until my sister was married, never allowed us to speak that way in front of them. My sister has gotten away with saying fuck since she married. I think my father thought it was up to her husband to stop it. But my father still frowns at me if I say ‘bloody’ or ‘shit’ and I will get a slap on the arm if I say ‘arse’. I think because I am the family baby, my father thinks he can still discipline me. Mac of course, backs my father on this. He says it is unfeminine to use such words in conversation. In the bedroom, of course it is different. Mac finds it rather hot to have me saying filthy words while we fuck and I think it takes away from the sexuality of the words if you use them just as a way to speak.
But Mac swears, all the time. He swears at home and at work. He will curse people He thinks deserves to be cursed and when I have pointed out His discrepancy between what I am allowed to say and what He is allowed to say He will just shrug and thank god for double standards. Long may they live! Yet in front of His parents, He is as sweet mouthed as any good son would be. His parents also never swore in front of Him. His dad even coached Mac’s under 15’s rugby side and never swore at them, even though it was the language of choice for them. He didn’t have to swear, they respected Mac’s dad for being himself and not trying to fit in.
And Mac never swears at me outside of the bedroom, and the only names He calls me outside of the bedroom are sweet, such as ‘love’, ‘baby’, ‘sweetheart,’ and ‘darling’. The other words we use are strictly for turning us on.
So I know that Mac and I will not call each other nasty names and swear in front of Sarah Jane. Nor will we call her names and swear at her. She doesn’t need to hear it. She doesn’t need to think that it is how grown ups communicate. She certainly will not be allowed to believe it is acceptable to speak to her parents that way. We would do the same if she was a boy. Like Mac told my sister’s 15 year old when he was swearing in front of me, we are not his school mates. He doesn’t get to talk to us like that.
I don’t know how to fix what my sister is going through. The boy has an after school job, so with any luck, he will sort it out for himself. I hope that it is not something that Mac and I have to go through. I hope we learn from the mistakes that others have made and apply them where it counts. I am going to stick with the basic with Sarah Jane, teach her pleases and thank yous and hope that we give her enough of a moral base for her to know what is appropriate and what is not. And I am starting it before she learns how to talk back.
Maybe it is over simplifying it to think that manners and respectful language can help in this sort of situation. There are so many influences on children outside of the home, but I think having a home in which there is certain behaviours expected give the child something to build upon.
There has to be a standard for them to aspire to.