Cards Against Humanity and… children?
I did something last night I thought I would never do. I sat down with my 11 and 12 year old and played an uncensored game of Cards Against Humanity. Yep! Like you, I might be appalled too, but there was a reason for my madness. In hindsight, not only do I not regret it, I recommend it to any parent with a child in middle-school.
When my children were born, I had no car, no driver’s license, and had to ride the local bus for nearly ten years. I knew my children were going to grow up hearing language most parents ensure their children don’t hear until they are well into their teens. I wouldn’t have the luxury of sheltering my child. I recalled the nightmares I lived as a 6th grade girl. My “sheltered” upbringing left me at a complete disadvantage upon entering the public school system at 12 years old.
What my parents considered a “sheltered” youth, was in fact, an uneducated youth that made me naive. Whether my parents liked it or not, my classmates would provide the lessons, my parents avoided. My peers weren’t kind. Nor did they bother to educate. They used my ignorance against me. Girls would ask if I was a virgin. Aside from the “Virgin Mary,” I had never heard the word and had no idea what the word meant. I thought “Virgin” was a feminine form of “Saint.” I had no idea how to answer the inappropriate question asked of me.
“Yes?” I guessed at what I thought was the right answer.
I watched their faces twist into mockery.
“No?” I quickly said, changing my answer. Their faces changed from mockery to feigned surprise as they launched into a gaggle of gossip with me at its center. This would be the first of many. It was a euphoric respite when I found someone who was kind enough to explain and not laugh at my ignorance.
As an adult, looking back, one reality sits firmly in my mind whether I like it or not. Our children know more than we want to admit. So my question was, “How much does my 12 year old know?” This is her second year in middle school. I would be a fool to not investigate. But how do you break the ice and get your child to open up about what they really know?
Now, my children talk to me. They easily open up about a plethora of sensitive subjects. But this was different. I needed a “test” to see just what they knew and what they didn’t.
I pulled out Cards Against Humanity.
“Here are the rules,” I said to my children. “If you don’t know what the card means, you can not play it. You have to turn it back in and exchange it for a new card.” This is an actual rule in the game, by the way, that is followed up with, “endure the ridicule from your friends.” We did not ridicule the children.
And so we played.
On a scale of 10—1 being the knowledge of a toddler. 10 being the knowledge of an adult.—I thought my 12 year old was at a 5. I suspected she was closer to a 6. By the end of Cards Against humanity, I realized she was upwards of an 8 or a 9.
“You know what “jizz” is?” I asked. I certainly hadn’t taught her.
“Yeah,” she said.
She also knows what “ejaculate” and “boner” meant. And “erection…” The list goes on.
I was floored. And that was just the beginning.
She knew what sex toys were, she knew more sexual slang than I could possibly imagine. She not only played the game on par with my husband and I, but she played better than my husband and I. She whooped our butts! Was it awkward? Hell, yes! Especially when she asked her father if he would buy her a butt plug. This was one word she did not know the true meaning of, but she was delighted at the term and thought it had to do with farts. She’s 12. What do you expect?
I did worry. “Am I teaching her the concepts children are learning at school?” This was a point one mother brought up with me nearly a decade ago, when I revealed that I had taught my children swear words.
“They will hear them,” I said. “I can not control that. But I can control when they hear them, how, and teach them what they mean and why they shouldn’t use them.”
The best part of teaching my children the swear words is that my kids have always been held responsible for swearing. I know they know the “dirty” words when they hear them.
When my daughter was in the fourth grade, I received a letter home from school the day before parent-teacher conferences. Emily had said “Fuck it” in class at her teacher. I was furious and lashed into her. The very next day, her teacher brought up the event. “She didn’t say it out of anger,” she said. “She didn’t even say it to me really. It was very random. I was in a lecture, going over multiplication. I had asked the class what 5 times 10 was and she raised her hand. I thought, ‘Oh! Emily is raising her hand for once!’ ‘Yes, Emily?’ She put her hand down and declared, ‘Fuck it!’ as if “Fuck it” was the answer to 5 times 10.” The teacher and I fell out of our chairs laughing over the event.
As it turns out, Emily did it on a dare. The conversation with her was great.
“Emily, why did you do it?”
“He said he would give me his lunch money?” By now she was crying.
“Did he give you the money?”
“Noooooo!” She sobbed.
So was I the one bringing new “ammo” to my children to teach other students? Yes. I decided. But better they hear it from me, than some abusive, raunchy kid at school. But then I remembered: My children knew these terms and concepts prior to playing Cards Against Humanity. CAH only taught me what my child already knew. It was disturbing to learn that my daughter knew every slang term for testicles, but did not know what “growing a pair” meant. That bothered me a lot, actually. It was like her “education” had drastic holes in it. So, the kids are teaching the slang to each other, but are ignoring the basic concepts on theory.
In turn, my 11 year old (a boy) knew more than I realized. He didn’t know half as much as my daughter. This brought up an interesting point: Are girls more liberal with the raunchy sexual words than the males? I’m not sure, but the concept is interesting. Here’s something else that I found interesting. Not only did my son not know some words, he didn’t seem interested to know. He was more delighted with cards like the “poopy diapers” card than anything.
I’m sure many of you are still horrified that I let a 12 year old play CAH, while others may be saying, “Hey! What a great idea!” But there was so much more to the game than this. I was thrilled to see her identify the racist cards and say, “That’s mean!” Oh! You know you did something right when she recognizes and hates racism! Now that, readers! THAT is what matters!
The best part of the night was when she was Card Czar, and she read a card about “finishing off the indians.” My daughter’s face fell and she said, “I’m sorry,” to her father who is Oneida.
“It’s okay, Emily. It’s CAH,” he said.
Emily was next to tears. She wasn’t convinced.
“Emily,” my husband said, “Who do you think played the card?”
She stopped, made the connection that the Native American played the anti-Native American card, and we all—her included—laughed.
“It’s about taking the stick out of our butts, and laughing at ourselves,” my girlfriend told her.
“It’s about learning to let go, and relaxing,” I said. “It’s about recognizing the mistakes we’ve made, and laughing at our own stupidity. And racism is just that. Stupid.”
You learn a lot about a person based on the cards they get offended by in Cards Against Humanity. I learned a lot about my children that night.
Take my hand and descend into the bowels of darkness! Join me so that you may lay upon your death bed and say that you have lived! Adventure so that you may taste the sweet nectar that flows from the earth… and receive a monthly newsletter from me.
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