Ok, be honest: Do your children ever swear? Do you?
Growing up, my mom swore only now and again when she was really mad (she would bust out with an old-school “Damnation!”), and when I swear now, at 38 years old, my dad still says “Jo! Language!”
But sometimes you kind of need to swear. “How do people, like, not curse? How is it possible?” wrote Nick Hornby in A Long Way Down. “There are these gaps in speech where you just have to put a ‘f*ck.'”
Before becoming parents ourselves, Alex and I would often swear for emphasis (e.g., “That meal was so f-ing good”) or, of course, when a grocery bag broke or we missed a flight or eight million other things. Once Toby was born, we cleaned up our act, but now and again, we still can’t help it — and little ears hear everything. I remember when two-year-old Anton was riding a wooden bike down the hallway, suddenly said “Damn it!” and then looked up at me with a sneaky smile and said, “… but we don’t say that.”
So, when I stumbled upon this excerpt from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, I laughed out loud:
My son, Sam, at three and a half, had these keys to a set of plastic handcuffs, and one morning he intentionally locked himself out of the house. I was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper when I heard him stick his plastic keys into the doorknob and try to open the door. Then I heard him say, “Oh, shit.” My whole face widened, like the guy in Edvard Munch’s Scream. After a moment I got up and opened the front door. “Honey,” I said, “what’d you just say?” “I said, ‘Oh, shit,’ ” he said. “But, honey, that’s a naughty word. Both of us have absolutely got to stop using it. Okay?” He hung his head for a moment, nodded, and said, “Okay, Mom.” Then he leaned forward and said confidentially, “But I’ll tell you why I said ‘shit.’ ” I said okay, and he said, “Because of the fucking keys!”
Last week, I was putting seven-year-old Toby to bed, and he told me that his classmate got in trouble for saying the “f-word.” I asked him if he knew the word, and he nodded. “What is it?” I asked. Very somberly, he looked up at me and whispered, “It’s… frustrated.”
Maybe not all innocence is lost, quite yet. :)
Do your kids ever swear? Do you? What word flies out of your mouth when you stub your toe?
(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt.)