On a recent trip with my friend Betsy (who I had not seen in 15 years!) and my girls (ages 11 and 14), within moments of being picked up in her car, I referred to something as “bullshit” and Betsy exclaimed, relieved, Oh! I can curse in front of your girls! This is going to be so much easier than I thought!
I have been cursing in front of my girls since they were babies. I’m not saying I deliberately or excessively curse. What I mean is, I have never censored the way I talk. Well, that’s not precisely true, of course. There are definitely topics that I never bring up in front of them (and there were lots more when they were younger). But I curse as regularly as I do when they’re not around, which, holy fuck, is often.
Has this been an experiment? I’m not really sure. All I know is, my girls have never been fazed by my cursing and, come to think of it, I have never heard either of them use a swear word. In fact, I would actually be startled if they did. Not that I would mind, but it would just be out of character. My older daughter explained that she curses with her friends but never really feels like it around me. I was exactly the same way as a kid. She thinks it’s because I curse and have made it not really a big deal. I guess her friends think it’s a big deal.
I know actual adults who have set up a “swear jar” in their homes and thus, each time a swear word is uttered by someone, that person has to put money in the jar. If you are trying to save money, fine, go right ahead, but that particular activity would drive me fucking insane. I’m not even sure the point of this exercise because it seems that if you simply had piles of change, you could curse all you wanted. I suppose the point is to instill the following value: cursing is bad. Everyone does it (see the overflowing swear jar) but we shouldn’t. But we do it anyway. And then feel guilty about it. Guilt is where all of this is going.
But what if we could just stop feeling guilty? What if we made it clear that it was fine to curse at home but there are situations where this would be inappropriate? You know, I never came out and explicitly said this, but I do believe my children have actually followed my example. One parenting success!
I’m not a huge fan of swear words while writing, however. This isn’t to say that I don’t or that it didn’t frustrate me that I couldn’t when I had that blog over at the Times Union. But I’m a strong believer in the notion that if you actually have the time and can’t find any better word, you’re probably just being fucking lazy.
The thing is, there are so many mistakes that we will make in terms of raising our kids (have you ever noticed that the mistakes you make with your kids are never the ones you assumed you’d be making, but things that were just so completely unexpected?), but I really don’t think cursing is one of them. In fact, it might be the very opposite of a mistake. I will never forget the first time I heard the phrase “bullshit artist.” It was said by my grandmother and I spent a long time afterward marveling at its construction, really breaking it down to get at what it meant. What would my life have been like without that lesson? What would my children’s lives be like if we had a swear jar?
Fuckity fuck, I don’t want to know.