My Kid Can Cuss in Two Languages

by Angie Washington on June 24, 2013

When the new normal cuts against your soul like a cheese grater on your knuckles, what do you do? Do you lift those bloody knuckles and fight back? Or do you woefully bandage them, let them heal, and wait for the next time the scraping starts again?

We live in Bolivia. We are a bi-lingual family: Spanish and English. Eleven years in a place gives you cool skills like that. Did you know that part of language acquisition means learning naughty words? Bi-lingual means double the fun in this area.

My child comes to me with tears brimming. A foul name from a sibling caused the tears. We do the parent thing. We discuss it. We know our child, the one with the silver tongue, has struggled, been bullied, been picked on. We know the defenses have gone up and one survival technique has been to learn rough speech.

It’s only fair to blame Bolivia for this child’s special knack, right? The romantic tongue of this Latin people makes allowances for explicit descriptions and colorful expletives. I should expect complete cultural assimilation from my children, right? Oh that blessed blame game… like those songs that never end, they just go on and on my friend…

My kid can cuss in two languages. Not an ideal bumper sticker. Although, it could be plastered right next to the one about honor roll. My kid is on the honor roll, too. Somehow that balance doesn’t soothe me, though.

Can I be grateful that our children face real issues under our care? Grateful for the cheese grater? It shall not be said they lived a sheltered life. No indeed.

I was about 11 years old when I had to get stitches because I sliced my finger cutting a head of cabbage. I remember my mom had to drag my younger brothers and sisters with us to Doctor Brown’s office. I sat on the tall bench and screamed as the little ones looked on with wide eyes. Plastered stiff against the wall in that tiny room the whole lot of them maintained perfect silence as the needle went in and out of my tiny index finger. Still have the scar. Still one of my favorite childhood memories. No joke.

Even though blood was everywhere, I was in pain, and the numbing shots did not help, I felt a goodness about me. With all those kids around me I knew I was not alone. I knew I would make it through. And it did.

So my kids fight the habits, and sometimes scrape their knuckles. Oh sure, the guilt still drives me to grind my teeth and bite my nails. Questions buzz around like a mosquitoes in my ear when I am trying to sleep. The prayers turn accusatory with a hint of pitiful begging.

Then the scars on the knuckles of my own soul remind me that our humanity is one of our most becoming features. I dare to hope that amidst the pain, goodness can be felt surrounding us.


You can share your cheese grater story below.  Please know, you are not alone.

What compromises do you feel you have had to make for the sake of “the call”?

When faced with a moral conflict how do you decide your response?

Who surrounds you, reminding you of the good in life, when things get rough?

– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: twitter: @atangie  facebook: atangie

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About Angie Washington

Co-Founder, Editor of this collaborative blog site: A Life Overseas
  • Loved this post, Angie. I think it brings up good questions we haven’t talked about yet here– the MORAL danger to our kids b/c of exposure to perhaps different things in the culture they are living. And sometimes, obviously, the moral danger is greater in America than a more conservative country perhaps. But I remember a missionary kid from Europe who would visit my church in the summer growing up and she always felt so, um, immodest in her clothes– tight and low everything. And it was very much the style in Europe, as was clubbing until the early mornings, but she got in trouble for her outfits at church back in America. Just an interesting thing– a reminder that our environment DOES shape us greatly.

    But also a beautiful reminder that our humanity is everywhere, regardless of latitude and that even the hard can bring beauty. Love this post and your voice here friend. It is irreplaceable.

  • Richelle Wright

    hey angie ~

    just now getting a chance to get caught up on all my blog reading since we’ve been traveling the past few weeks.

    i really appreciate this post. funny but real – two things my kids have struggled with here is a stupid but fairly easy correction – when your teachers pick their nose while teaching class… the kids don’t see anything wrong with it. the other thing is eye contact… in our african culture, eye contact with elders is hugely disrespectful. in the states, no eye contact when an elder speaks to you is hugely disrespectful. they can’t keep it straight, especially when they are little. these things frustrate my kiddos, hugely. people who won’t give them slack frustrate me.

    but, i’m slowly learning not to interfere and to let them figure some of these things out in their own way. if the relationship with some adult in this world is “compromised” because they can’t give a bit of grace to my kid – so be it. my relationship with my child, and my child’s perception of God and Who He is is far more important.

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