Last night I met a friend for dinner. She’s great company: smart, well-read, relaxed and funny. She and her husband, a doctor, live in a Melbourne mansion they renovated themselves. Their country house has featured in several magazines. They have three children.
My friend told me she’d been in her kitchen that morning when she heard her five-year-old son – let’s call him Max – shouting. He stood in their back yard, on the grass near the high wooden fence yelling, ‘Fuck Off’.
She told him to come inside immediately. He stared at the fence and shouted ‘Fuck Off’ with extra vigour.
She looked up when she heard giggling from the second-floor window. She saw her oldest child yank her head in.
Once my friend had forced her little swearer indoors and instructed him to sit at the table and write an apology letter to their neighbours, she went upstairs to chastise her other children. They have a history of coercing Max into doing things for their amusement. She knew that swearing over the fence was their idea.
When she came downstairs, Max waved a piece of paper in front of her.
‘Done it,’ he said.
On the paper he’d drawn a stick figure, a fence, and a speech bubble that said ‘Fuck Off’. At the bottom of the page he’d written: ‘Sorry for saying Fuck Off.’
She knew she had to follow through, so she and Max hand-delivered the letter – which she calls the Fuck Off Apology – to her prim neighbours. It was, she said, mortifying for all of them. But I think they’re lucky to get a letter like that. I told her if they have any sense of how lucky they are they’ll keep that letter forever.