Monday, June 1, 2009


Part of parenting is trying to make your child not act like you. Which is really stupid if you think about it. Don't drink soda. Don't eat too much. Don't stay up late. Don't watch 'R' rated films. And probably the biggest of these is don't swear. I love to swear. I think I do it well (this may be up for some debate). And because I love to swear, I do it a lot when I shouldn't. And because of this, my children hear me swear a lot. And because of this, my children swear from time to time. How is it that a child can't hear a request that's made for the fifteenth time, but when you drop a swear word in there, it cuts through like a knife. They pick it up perfectly. How to use it in a sentence. The perfect inflections. There might be something there. Maybe teach a class and litter each lesson with profanity so that they understand everything perfectly.

One wonders if the battle against swearing is a one worth fighting. After all, it's just a word. Or words. It doesn't mean anything really. But you want your kids to grow up proper so that when they become adults they can swear like truckers. I guess my philosophy is to treat swearing like the French treat drinking wine. Get them exposed to it early and they won't abuse it later in life.

I'm sure all of us have good swearing stories with our children. I know I do. When my son was about five he was playing cars with my wife. He said he wanted to see his cousins which live a few hours away. My wife said we wouldn't be visiting them for a week or so and then she told him to play with his cars again. His response was "I don't want to play with my fucking cars. I want to see my fucking cousins. Right fucking now." He did not raise his voice. He was not angry. He was serious, but not angry. My wife told me this story and I was shocked, surprised and all. But more than that, I was proud that he used the F-bomb so effectively.

When he was seven or so, I was pushing him around in a shopping cart in Target. There were a bunch of people driving around in those little automatic carts that are reserved for the handicapped, but as far as I could tell there was nothing wrong with any of these people other than they were overweight and lazy. Anyway, these people were driving their scooters around and backing them up and there was that constant beeping sound echoing throughout the store. While I was pushing my son I made a comment to myself under my breath. It went something like this "I wish those people had their fucking carts up their asses." It was a quiet statement, but of course my son heard it and he had to point it out to me because when you're a kid and you're pointing out that someone said a bad word, you're absolved from saying that bad word. So my son says "Daddy, we don't say fucking." But it wasn't quiet when he said it, so I attempted to cough over him saying the word. At that point, I should have let it be but I had to be a parent and tell him not to say that word. He responded with "I didn't say fucking, you're the one who said fucking." Damn. Outsmarted by a child who now has said fucking three times.

My daughter has taken it up a notch. Not to be outdone by her older brother, her swear words are worse. There's a list of swear words somewhere that I'm sure someone has put together ranking each word for its badness. Hell is probably at the bottom and something like dirty fucking cocksucker is probably at the top. Not only that, but my daughter chose a rather large gathering to host her coming out swear party. Why waste really good swear words on Mom and Dad when you can shout it at a bunch of strangers. Anyway, there was a group of friends and co-workers in my basement having appetizers and drinks and I'm sure making smalltalk. My daughter ran down the stairs and stood before all of them and yelled "butt fuckers." And then she ran along her merry way back up the stairs, leaving everyone in complete dismay. Now if there was a swear police squad whose sole purpose on this earth was to investigate where a child had learned certain swear words, and let's say that swear police squad decided to look in to this incident, I'm sure all roads would lead to me.

All this said, my children really are angels. But it is really amazing. It's not like they use those words any more. They know they're out of bounds and despite the fact that Daddy doles them out like pennies in his pocket, they steer clear of them. There's that old parent saying "do as I say, don't do as I do." Fortunately for me, my kids have learned to ignore that first part.


  1. My 8-year-old has learned to run certain words by me in order to check them out first. I appreciate that he does that, and I make all attempts to explain away all mystery or secrecy about these words, so as to rob them of their entrancing power to be used. I figure if he knows what they mean, knows they shouldn't be used, he'll avoid them.

    But I haven't really applied this logic to that magical f-word. I can't really explain it to him. He did ask, and I did tell him it was a bad one, a REALLY bad one. And then I think I distracted him with a cartoon.

  2. Yeah, I've never had to explain what the F Bomb means. I think people know it. My son says "what the flagnog" a lot. He got that from Aliens vs. Monsters. Another reason why I hate that damn movie.

  3. It hasn't happened yet, but every time I watch THE INCREDIBLES with my boys, I'm convinced that at least one of them will ask the meaning of the following:

    "You married Elastigirl? And GOT BUSY!"

  4. Yeah. I hear ya. I haven't been asked either. Even by my 11 year old. Which I guess is kind of strange.

  5. I'm rolling on the floor! I tell my kids that to use the "f word" (one of my favorites as I am a passionate person who wants others to understand my feelings on a matter) you are supposed to be 40 years old. I have explained that there are different words that are acceptable at different ages and the "dirty fucking cocksucker" is a 40 year old term. If one was to begin using that word at a younger age, then it begins to be worn out . . . It loses something over time and means much less as it has been used up. Then one has nothing left to say once they reach their 40's that has the same emphasis! Yes, they are just words, but if one experiences all that life has to give at too young of an age, then one has nothing to look forward to! This actually applies to a lot of different life experiences, but for now, we are addressing cussing.
    Here are the rules in my house:
    Damn it- 16 years old.
    Shit- 18 years old.
    Ass- This is the one to cut your teeth on. 14 years old! (practice for this one starts when singing old Christmas carols and then progresses from "ass -giggle" to "smells like ass" to "don't be such an ass"
    I think you are getting the point!

  6. Susan,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I think I can safely say that my children have safely stored away their cussing knowledge and saved it for a much later date. My son pushes it from time to time, but knows that it's out of bounds.

    But I like your thinking. If you ever want it to have impact, you need to use it sparingly. Unlike me, of course.

  7. p.piper--dwyer here. love this post. have you read mike lewis' new book, "home game"? it's a fucking riot and be sure you read the introduction. you'll see that your daughter is in good company.

  8. Well, well, well. If it ain't Dwyer.

    Thanks for your comment.

    I'll have to check out the book. It would be reassuring to know that my kids are not the only potty-mouths out there.