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Last week, I was lucky enough to take Thelonious to his very first live NFL game. I surprised him with a pair of tickets after school on Thursday. He’s been begging for me to take him to a pro sports game for a couple of years now and when he saw those tickets, I thought he was going to wet himself, have an aneurism, or both. I was a little nervous, though. Sometimes with things like these, the expectations can outweigh the actual experience (like the time he fell asleep during the Weezer concert). But, that Thursday night game was nothing but pure gold. Seattle Seahawks: 31 Philadelphia Somebodies: a lot less than 31. It was tons of fun – we won, there was lots of scoring, and Marshawn Lynch hit beast mode (more than once).

Of course, all pro sporting events are a cultural mixed bag. Something happens to humans when they are sitting with 60,000 other people dressed identically to them. Or, maybe it’s just that after you’ve spent $97 on a ticket, $12 on nachos, and $16 on a pair of beers, you figure you’ve actually paid for the privilege of abandoning all social norms, etiquette, and decent human behavior.

Let’s be honest: the 300 level of an NFL game is no place for small children.

Luckily, I had the wherewithal to warn T before we went in to the stadium. “Son, you’re going to hear a lot of things tonight. Yes. Many of them you have heard from your mom. But, many of these words, and their contexts, are going to be brand new. Be prepared.” And the guy sitting directly behind us surely did not disappoint. I don’t believe he was actually capable of expressing a thought or emotion without using the f word. If his sentence consisted of more than a single noun and single verb, it included the f word. Me hungry… Me effing hungry for some big a** effing nachos! Constantly. For three hours. It got old pretty quickly, but, ya know, what are you gonna do?

The game ended and we started walking the six miles back to our car. Thelonious and I were basking in the afterglow of a truly great evening and debriefing everything that had happened. I asked him how he felt about the guy behind us and all of us his annoying chatter. At that point, Thelonious turned to me and said, “after about 15 minutes, I really wanted to turn around and tell that guy to shut the fuck up.”

My mind was instantly filled with questions. How do I parent in this situation? Is there any soap in this alleyway that I can wash his mouth out with? Is it more important for me to reassure Thelonious that I am a safe place where he can experiment with expressing his emotions and thoughts – or that I correct his every misstep? If I don’t make him pay for that f bomb, do I “lose”? When I die, do I want my child to say “I was always safe with him. He could handle and accept anything that I threw at him. I never worried that he didn’t love me totally and completely”? Or, would I prefer that he say “that man could really discipline” ? And on and on and on. Finally, I just chuckled and said let’s not use that word anymore, mmmm k?

I know not everyone agrees with my parenting style. But, I don’t really care.

I completed the conversation with this: “I won’t tell mom you used the f word if you don’t tell her I urinated in an alley.”