From the Mouths of Babes: A Personal Relationship With Children & Cursing

I curse. Not ALL the time, but a good amount for an adult. Like when getting a bikini wax… all kinds of expletives come out of my mouth. When I’m driving and someone does something stupid. When that character on Game of Thrones had his head chopped off.

Since having a baby, I thought, “Oh, I’ll give it up when he starts talking.” But will I? Will I?

I’m not so sure.

You see, my parents were pretty lax. They let me watch Poltergeist and the Exorcist when I was very young. Oddly enough, it was The Birds that REALLY freaked me out. My dad cursed like a sailor, because he WAS a sailor. My mom? I’ve only heard “shit” slip out once or twice in my life.

Basically, I knew all the curse words from the beginning. What’s more, as I didn’t know they were bad until the age of five.

So, basically, I knew all the curse words from the beginning. What’s more, as I didn’t know they were bad until at the age of five. I was staying with my grandmother, and one evening she came home late. Getting home late meant dinner had not been made yet. She was carrying groceries, and for some reason I cannot recall, I didn’t like what she brought home.

Me: “What the hell is that?”

Grandma Max: “What did you just say?”

Me: “What the HELL is that?”

Then she slapped me across the face and grabbed my chin so my lips puckered into a fish face.

Grandma Max: “Don’t you EVER say that word, or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water.”

It was 1980, and she being a grandmother, was from another time… from the days where people slapped each other for everything. For example, freaking out about something was a perfectly good reason to slap someone across the face, and threatening to punch your wife in the face was called comedy. Also, washing a child’s mouth out with soap and water was an appropriate punishment. Violent times.

I’d like to say my cursing stopped there. But it did not. I just got good at not cursing around adults. By the time I was seven, my friend at school taught me this little rhyme.

Mother fucker, titty sucker, two-time bitch.
Your mother’s in the kitchen cookin’ red hot shit.
Your daddy’s in jail.
Your brother’s in hell.
Your sister’s on the corner sayin’ “Pussy for sale.”

We had no idea what any of it meant, but we sure as hell loved saying it as we walked down the street. (I’m going to put on my old lady voice and say, “Back when I was a kid, you could walk down the street without adult supervision.”) So yes, that’s what sweet, innocent, seven-year-old girls know.

Fast forward to my adult life. You see, I was not an adult that had a lot of kids around. Until my sister had kids, then I’d visit them and be the “cool aunt” who made Christmas cookies and let them eat frosting. One Christmas, my then six-year-old niece and I were making cookies:

Me: “Shit, I fucked it up.” (Meaning, I fucked up the cookie dough.)

Maddie: “Huh?”

Me: “Oh shit, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Oh god, I just said it again!”

Maddie: “I don’t like those words. We’re not supposed to say them.”

I’d like to say my cursing in front of children ended there. But it has not. My cursing slips out from time to time. I have to profusely apologize to parents for exposing their children to obscenities. That and I can just hang out with parents who do not mind occasional slips. Or who also curse on occasion.

Does profanity set children up for a lifetime of delinquency, vagrancy, and or according to the Omaha Police Association, “thuggery?” According to the “Cuss Control Academy” Profanity is bad because it shows a lack of control, lack of character, ignorance, and generally makes a bad impression. They also say profanity indicates the decline of civilization.

Is there “right” time to curse? For instance the season finale of The Walking Dead has been argued to have more impact had Rick dropped an F-bomb instead of “screwing.” Also, it was argued the insanity of potential child rape being allowed on TV, but the word “fuck” was deemed too offensive.

Then again, kids shouldn’t be watching The Walking Dead (even though I know if I was a kid, that would be the show would be my favorite because I LOVED horror films).

I’d like to say I’m going to do “XYZ” when my son gets to be of talking age. But as far as my 9 months of parenting experience has shown me, theories are bullshit. And we can come up with a lot of theories of why “X” works and why “Y” is terrible.

Perhaps at the end of the day, all I can teach my son is not to curse in front of adults until he becomes one… then he should not curse in front of children.

jennineFrom the Mouths of Babes: A Personal Relationship With Children & Cursing

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