Words matter

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“Do they even know that kids exist?” asked Emily, my sweet 8-year-old step-daughter.
I treat her as if she is my biological child, but I reference her as my step-daughter here for a specific reason. It was almost a year ago that I became a parent, and it’s been an interesting transition. Throughout my adult life, I was a single man with a dog and no kids. I could basically do and say whatever I wanted without any ramifications.
Occasionally, Lucy and I will let a “bad word” slip out around Emily’s innocent ears, but she is quick to call us out on it. We tend to brush it off, tell her we’re sorry, and that it’s no big deal. It happens from time to time. We’re human. It can happen, but I hope it happens less often.
Last week, I was listening to a local country radio station while driving her home from school. One of the songs had a “bad word” in it, and Emily quickly took note.
“They said a bad word,” she said. “It’s not a big deal,” I replied. “They say that word everywhere now.” Her reply will live with me forever. “Do they even know that kids exist?” she asked with a perplexed look.
I couldn’t answer the question. Of course they know, and in the broad scheme of things a simple four letter word is not the end of the world, but shouldn’t we keep our kids as innocent as we can for as long as we can? Shouldn’t we raise them in the best possible environment to give them the best shot at life? There’s a reason my wife limits Emily’s TV viewing to the Disney Channel and little else.
There are few things worse than being in a public setting around a group of people that use profanity throughout every sentence. They simply do not care and have no respect for their surroundings. It makes me want to get violent, and I’m not a violent person. When it’s a young person, it’s worse, because you know their future is bleak at best.
We had some guys from a local company doing some work in our yard this week. One of our little dogs got after one of the guys. The dog is tiny and couldn’t break the skin of a cooked potato, yet this young man felt the need to use all kinds of profanity in a calm and direct manner. His words were premeditated. He had plenty of time to alter his language, yet he didn’t. He didn’t care. I can assure you his future is not bright. He won’t be working in my yard anymore.
As adults, what we do behind closed doors is our business. As long as it doesn’t affect others, then I really don’t care. For example, if you want to belch the national anthem in your living room, then so be it, but you wouldn’t do that at Walmart, would you? Ok, so perhaps you would do it at Walmart, but you can see my point.
I used to use inappropriate language in my comedy routine, but that is now a thing of the past, and my career has never been better. I haven’t used vulgar language in a show since 2007 in Iraq. That’s just not my style. I want everyone to be able to hear my words.
That all came to a head when I did a show in Auburn several years ago. There were many people in the crowd that I loved and respected. I was ashamed and felt that I could do so much more with my humor that didn’t require the use of “bad words.” I vowed to never again use inappropriate language during my show, and other than pushing the envelope just a bit for deployed troops, that vow has remained intact. That vow was made on Dec. 30, 2006. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Sweet Emily was born the very next day.
Kids do exist, and as adults, we need to do our best to ensure we raise them in the best possible environment, because words do, indeed, matter.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier.

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