One of the really nice things about being an older mother of a little kid (I was 43 when I had Josephine AKA “Larry”), is that I no longer sweat the small stuff. This may be a factor of not having time to sweat the small stuff. It might be a factor of age- I can’t hear or see some amount of the small stuff without my cheaters anyway, and frankly, I don’t have that much sweat left. I’ve past the sweaty stage of life, and with six teenagers in the house, I like to save my sweat for when I really need it.
Take swearing, for example. I just don’t have it in me to get all that worked up over it anymore.
Now almost 20 years ago, I remember one of Sierra’s preschool teachers commenting on another child’s diaper with a resounding “PU” and me staging a full on revolt. I was mortified, certain that this kind of negative talk would wreak emotional havoc on my child forever, even though it was not about her, and she was barely in earshot. Now I hear myself say things to my own sons like, “you smell awful, terrible! You are making my EYES WATER! SHOWER NOW!” or “You smell horrific! Like Walking Dead bad! Run, don’t walk, to the shower NOW! And use some *&%$#@ing soap forcryingoutloud!”
You could make a case that these are ugly words.
I never call my kids names, or permit them to call each other names in my presence. I’m sure they do when I can’t hear them, but I don’t like it. We don’t permit ‘shut up’ or any derogatory or foul language aimed at another person in anger. There is never use of words that are racist, sexist or homophobic- or ugly about any group of people in harmful ways (and this specifically includes the word ‘retarded,’ which I find particularly offensive, and unfortunately common).
Outside of that, I really don’t care if they use swear words. Words have power because people give them power, and there is something to be said for using those words in everyday language to drain the power right out of them. I am certain my sons drop the f-bomb, although I likely hear it only a fraction of the time it is uttered. When they are playing backyard football, or lacrosse or wrestling in the house (grrr), I know those words fly. And I use them too. So does my husband. A lot. Sometimes I wonder if he has one of those rare speech disorders where he forgets that there are other word choices besides the ‘plosives,’ but he does construe them artfully, and his not-so-much-finesse is incredibly endearing.
I use swear words when I’m happy and want to make a grand point of it, and when I’m mad, and so do my kids. They know when to NOT use them, and how to be polite and respectful around adults, peers, teachers and most importantly, prospective employers. And, if they make that mistake, and many of us have, it’s their mistake, and they’ll have to take their lumps and move forward.
So, you’ll surely get in trouble in our house for saying something sexist, or for not standing up for another person’s civil and human rights when you could have, but you won’t get in trouble for the f-bomb, as long as it’s not intended to wound another person. I just don’t have it in me to fight that battle, or use my dwindling supply of sweat on swear words that are only powerful because people make them that way.
Plus, I would have to stop swearing myself, which is not likely to happen anytime soon.
If kids grow up knowing how to demonstrate the genuine respect they have for other human beings, in greater and lesser circumstances than themselves, they’re going to be fine. If they can be charming and polite in a restaurant, and know how to give back to society in meaningful ways, they’re going to be fine. If they know how to express love and tenderness toward others when it matters, then swear on, kids- it just doesn’t matter enough for me to sweat it. And you all have apparently done enough sweating for the both of us, now GO GET IN THE #@$%&^*ing shower!
What do you think? Do you allow your children to swear at home?
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This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.