Though I have a mouth like a truck driver’s when my children are out of earshot, I’ve done a fairly good job of remembering not to swear around them. As such, all of those magical, four-letter words have, until recently, been completely foreign to their ears. In fact, up until a few months ago, my almost seven year-old didn’t even know that there was such a thing as bad words. But then in December we watched the movie A Christmas Story with her friend Sarah, who has two older sisters, and in the scene where the kid breaks his glasses with the beebee gun and yells FUUUUUUUUDGE, Sarah informed us that she thought he was going to say the F-word, and well, let’s just say that the cat was out of the bag.
Since then, my kids have caught on the fact that there are other words that are verboten, though I’ve refused to tell them what they are. As much as I think it would be fun to channel George Carlin and recite for them the seven words that they’re not allowed to say, anywhere, I’m guessing that such a strategy might backfire on me. So, in the alternative, I’ve decided to just let them find out about swear words the old fashioned way; from movies, tv, and, of course, friends with older siblings. I did, however, think that it would take another couple of years, at least, before my kids were swearing like sailors. But like just about everything else that has to with parenting, I was wrong. Unfortunately, I’ve begun to notice that swear words pop up in the most unexpected places, and even more unfortunately, so have my kids.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which my son recently discovered on the Cartoon Network, one of the turtles – they all look the same to me – has a habit of saying “What the….?” Which my son – who is four – now also has a habit of saying. And I know he’s not technically swearing, but for me, the implied swear is just as inappropriate.
Just yesterday, my daughter was at a friend’s house, and they were playing a cheerleading game on Wii. Halfway through the routine, the head cheerleader yelled to my daughter, “Come on, now, move your ass!” In a video game! For kids! And then, finally, there are all of those damn grownups who don’t have kids. Walking down the street, in an elevator, at the grocery store – it’s shocking how many f-bombs are dropped by grownups without kids. And I get it. It’s not their responsibility to protect my child’s delicate ears. But still, sometimes I just want to be like, um, hello? How about an earmuff warning, at least? And when my daughter looks up at me and asks, mommy, what does f—k mean? I want to say to her, I don’t know, sweetie. Why don’t you ask that man who just said it?
But I guess the point of this is that nothing is sacred anymore, and as parents, we should stop expect things to be. Short of home-schooling our kids and making them watch nothing but Playhouse Disney until they’re fifteen, our kids are going to hear bad words. And then they’re going to repeat them. Repeatedly. And as their parents, all we can do is tell them that it’s not okay, and hope to God that when their teacher asks for an example of an adjective, it’s not your kid who raises his hand and says “f---ing.”