This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Oh, it's just amazing what you'll find when you finally get around to cleaning underneath your kids' beds after they've moved out. The sports section from the newspaper. An old rawhide chew toy. A Popsicle stick. The cat. A stray Christmas ornament or two. Unmatched socks. A Ninja Turtle action figure. Another cat who wants to start a fight with the first cat. A pair of boxers. That report on raptors that never got turned in. Your son's old "Swear Box."
Yes. You read that right. "Swear Box. I knew it was a "Swear Box" rather than just an ordinary Nike shoebox because it had the words "Swear Box" scrawled in black marker across the top. There was also a list of swear words with a dollar amount written out for each one on the lid. In addition, there was a hole where the offender (aka "my son") could drop some money any time he swore.
OK. Let me make some observations about this surprising discovery.
The first observation is that I was actually proud of my son for taking on a project like this with zero parental involvement. Trust me. I had no idea he was doing this, nor would I have encouraged him to proceed, because then I would have felt obligated to stop swearing myself.
So yeah. He gets full points from me for making a completely independent move on the self-improvement front.
The second observation is that I was actually impressed by his range of expression. Who knew there were so many words? Isn't English an awesome language that way? And so flexible, too! You gotta love a language where a word can be any part of speech you need it to be.
What really intrigued me were the dollar amounts ascribed to each word, ranging from 25 cents to $5. I was relieved to see that my favorite go-to swear word only costs 25 cents to use. It's a humble, garden-variety swear word that is nonetheless useful in a variety of situations, not unlike the miniature Swiss Army pocket knife you always carry in your purse, except, of course, when you're going through security at the airport. Unless, of course, you forget to take it out of your purse. Again.
I was surprised by one of the $2 words a word I have been known to say without (apparently) realizing it's a $2 word, which leads me to wonder if I've turned into the mom in our neighborhood where I grew up who used the word "bitchin' " because she was from Switzerland and didn't know what the word meant. So if I have used that $2 word in front of you, please forgive me. Although if you're my age, chances are good you didn't know it was a $2 word, either.
Anyway. As you can imagine I was eager to see if there was any money in the box. And there wasn't. There was, however, a boatload of IOUs some for as high as $15, because you know how it is. Some days are just $15 days, which caused me to call my son and ask these questions.
Me: Did you ever plan to replace those IOUs with actual money?
Son: Yes. At first.
Me: What were you going to do with the actual money?
Son: Give it to the Salvation Army.
Obviously he never followed up with that part of the plan, but still. I swear (ha!) you gotta love a kid whose heart is in the right place.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.