Monday, July 8, 2013

In Defense of Swearing

So, my kid swears. I don’t encourage it, I don’t reward it, I don’t like it. But it happens. And let’s be honest, he learned it from Husband and I, at least initially.

I’d like to blame the many people who changed lanes in front of me without signaling and my stove for heating up the skillet handle too hot and the grocery store for building its parking lot on a cart-hating hill. But I can’t hide behind the “McDonald’s coffee was too hot defense.” I chose to swear in those moments, and even though I apologized for my language and explained why it was wrong, the damage was done.

Toss in a little locker-room banter at school and a few too many un-supervised movie rentals at friends’ sleepovers, and their education in profanity was complete. They’ve been handed a one-way ticket to Scorcese-ville and Tarantino-Town. Their lives are doomed and my parenting legacy forever tarnished by the anticipated judgment of every other perfect parent out there who has managed to create a Bedford-Falls-like innocence for their cherubic offspring.

Unless that’s all bullshit.

I’ve never warmed to South Park because of the whole kids swearing motif, and I cringe every time my son lets loose with a profanity-laden rant. But let’s be realistic, they know these words. They use these words. Living in denial about it won’t make it stop. Like condoms, drugs and alcohol, we just need to teach them how to use these words responsibly. So here it goes:

1.     Do not swear in front of teachers, grandparents, referees, the police, the clergy, or basically any grown-up who has the power to expel, disinherit, and arrest you or bar your entrance into heaven.

2.     Do not swear in front of children 12 or under. Adopt the PG 13 rule.

3.     Do not swear at your parents in anger if you expect them to continue to feed and clothe you.

4.     When hanging with friends, do not use swear words in a derogatory way about any of their female relatives.

5.     Do not swear on a first date; looks like you’re trying to hard.

6.     Do not swear in front of babies, they pick up everything.

7.     When adults fuck up, do not use that as permission to say whatever you want. We all know you have better judgment than that.

8.     Do not swear to hurt or intimidate. It’s wrong, and you never know who is filming a documentary.

9.     Do not swear on Facebook, it will come back to haunt you in a future Senate hearing.

10. In a pinch have Shakespearean and Scooby Doo swear words at the ready. A well placed Fie, Zounds or Jinkys is charming, creative and scores key restraint points.

11. Do not swear in the Lincoln Memorial

12. If you violate any of the above rules, apologize immediately, show genuine remorse and take out the garbage without being asked for the rest of your life.

I’d like to be the perfect parent, with a swear jar and adorable kids who blush when they accidentally say “Damn,” but reality keeps getting in my way. I’d rather my kids learn responsibility than hypocrisy. They’re in a world where they hear swear words, not just from Husband and me but from friends, relatives, music, movies, Facebook and beyond. They’re going to get drunk on the novelty of the F-bomb at first, but once they emerge from the hangover it is my job to teach them the power of words and intentions and how to think before they speak.

I am not advocating buying the little board book Baby’s First  *#%*!  Curse Words(though if it exists, let me know, because, what a great stocking stuffer). But there does seem to be a middle ground between Leave It To Beaver and South Park where reality meets surprise and challenges us to come up with new options like Teenagers Say the Darndest *#%*! Things.


  1. I think I like point #1 best...oh, and #s 2, 3, 10 and 12:-)! Thanks for keepin' it real. Miss you and your family - best to all.

  2. Can you violate #6 if it's to an infant at two in the morning and you say it in a sweet cooing voice? Because I've done that plenty of times.

  3. Kate, you can anything in a sweet cooing voice and get away with it.

  4. As always you hit the nail on the head, Mary! I'm going to print out that list and have my son read it. He swears like a drunken angry sailor when he thinks I can't hear him. I've tried to impress upon him to watch his language around me and girls (but his girl friends are surprisingly profane - when they don't think I can hear them!)

    Recently we were in the car and he was complaining about something and said, "Sorry - I'm going to have to use the C-word." As I was about to have a stroke he said, "Yeah, that stuff was CRAP." HA HA HA HA HA.