Anyone who knows me knows that I have a mouth like a sailor. Which makes sense, I guess, because my father was in the Navy and, if we’re being honest, I learned my vocabulary from him. My vulgarity training continued during my first “real job” working for a university football program where the obscenities flew on and off the field (and in the locker room!). As my career took off, I learned that sometimes I would need to hide my affinity for four-letter words, so as not to offend coworkers and customers who could find me offensive. I was now working in human resources, doggonit!!
I had always thought that I’d tone down my choice of words when I had children, but it’s become quite the opposite. I find that as the years have gone on, I have continued to perfect my ability to eloquently sprinkle profanity into nearly every conversation I have. I sometimes use words to punctuate my point – like when it’s time to get the flip into bed – and sometimes I use them as adjectives. They just roll off my tongue, like my phone number. Cheese and rice, I’m a freaking great cusser.
I remember the first time my son uttered the f-word; he was about three years old and we were watching a football game. There was an interception or a dropped pass and, perfectly in timing and context, he just said it. It was exactly what I was thinking and I couldn’t have said it better myself! We laughed it off, and I committed to my husband that I would try harder to watch what I said around the kids. Secretly, I was proud that he’d used it correctly! I kept my commitment to clean up my language about 24 hours.
You see, my husband believes that using curse words can make a person sound ignorant. (By the way, many obscenities also come flying out of his mouth; he’s just a bit more conservative with the frequency in which he uses them.) I once read (so it must be true) that people who curse are often seen as more trustworthy and honest. I use little “fact” to justify my choice of words because I agree with it. I’m an open book and using “bad words” is part of who I am. The truth is, to me they are just words. Letters. A combination of sounds. I don’t see a difference in saying “what the h-e-double hockey sticks,” “for fox sake,” “shut the front door” and saying their alternatives. Isn’t the meaning the same? Isn’t insinuating just as foul? I’m just saying out loud what most people think in their heads, right?? Does this make me a bad mom?
In our house, we don’t sugarcoat or have different words for our body parts. I don’t give alternative story lines when we see a scary news story. We do our best to give appropriate and honest answers when our kids ask questions about the world, relationships, and the people around us. My husband and I strive every day to emulate the character we hope our children to have. We teach kindness, fairness, and truth. And we curse. I believe that character and cursing don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So, I am not going to place a ban on words.
As much as I believe that we should own any words we choose, I also believe we must use these words responsibly. In our house, it’s not okay to use any words in a way that is demeaning, rude, or hurtful. It’s not alright to be offensive. So, if holding back on some cuss words when we visit grandparents (who am I kidding? They are worse than we are!!) or are in school is necessary, then that’s what we do. It’s important to know your audience. So, we’re teaching that, too.
As my son has aged, he’s realized that some words are more socially acceptable than others and now, much like my husband, is often telling me “watch your mouth.” My daughter, on the other hand, finds some sort of pleasure in asking me if she can say any number of curse words. I think she likes the risk and the shock value. I almost always allow her to say them.