Dave Lesser argues that swear words aren’t the worst words a kid can add to their vocabulary
We all do it. What parent hasn’t accidentally cursed in front of their kids? Bullshit, you have to sometimes! I love cursing. “Fuck” is one of my favorites. (Caution: If you’re offended by the word “fuck,” you should probably stop reading this.) When my kids aren’t around, I let the f-bomb fly with wild abandon. But, around my kids, I try to curb it. I admit I’m a little less cautious around my 18 month old, Simon, than I am around my five year old, Penny. If I do let the language slip in front of either of them, well, shit happens. Those words are naughty and fun to say so, of course, Penny occasionally repeats them. When she does, first, I laugh at how appropriately she did so (she’s a natural), then I let her know why it’s inappropriate.
But here’s the thing: The only reason I stop her from cursing is because it makes my wife and me look bad. Other than the word itself, what does it matter if she says “oh, fuck,” “oh, frak,” or “oh, fudge”? The message she’s conveying is the same—something bad just happened and she’s probably going to have to help clean it up. Is it more polite to write “f*ck” than “fuck”? Why? They both sound the same in your head. They both mean the same thing. So who the fuck are we k*dding here? (Damn. I did that wrong, didn’t I?) As explained in a brilliant South Park song, changing curse words to non-curse words is “easy m’kay.” But is it really better to call someone a “bunshole” than an “asshole”?
I’m actually more concerned about the other words Penny repeats, namely “hate” and “stupid.” No one would categorize “hate” or “stupid” as curse words, but, when I hear my five-year-old daughter say them, it makes the hair on my neck stand up. These are the words I want to stop, or at least severely limit, in our household, whether or not anyone else hears my kids say them. These are the words that dismiss people, ideas, and experiences. When you’re a child, you haven’t lived long enough to dismiss anything outright. You haven’t had any real experiences. And, even if you have, you need to give them a second, third, or fourth try. (Adults should, too.)
Of course, I say I “hate” things. I say things are “stupid.” But I’m old. I’m cynical. And I’d never thought of these words as inappropriate before having kids. Now I’m trying to excise them from my vocabulary because I hate those stupid words.
I want my kids to be like me. I want them to be funny and sarcastic and self-deprecating. I want them to find humor in the shittiest of experiences. But, more than that, I want them to experience EVERYTHING…beyond what I can give them. I want them to try new foods, travel to new places, meet new people. And, even after they do all those things, even if those experiences suck, I don’t want them to say they “hated” them or they were “stupid.” Even the worst experiences are worth something: a lesson to be learned, an amusing anecdote, something! They have value.
Who gives a fuck if my five year says fuck? What the fuck does it fucking matter? It’s just a word. It’s not polite. But, shit, neither am I.
Hate. Stupid. No matter where you place the asterisks in those words, the message is the same: “I can’t be bothered with that. I won’t even give it a chance.” Now THAT would be the real f*cking curse.