Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I swear

I believe in swearing. I take great pleasure, when I'm with Ben or other close friends, in really letting it rip. When I became a parent, this began to pose a problem. Suddenly, instead of "Oh my god", I felt obliged to say "Oh my goodness". "Damn" became "darn" and "shit" became "shoot". "Fuck" never became "frick" because, for some reason, that particular compromise drives me apeshit (or should I say apeshoot). And while my girls were very small, this censorship felt right. They seemed too vulnerable to be exposed to rough edges of any kind. I saved my potty mouth exclusively for the grown-ups.

As they grew, as they became people with opinions, people with whom I could have thoughtful conversations, I stopped editing myself quite so much. And when they hit three and it was all about toilet talk, I felt hypocritical proclaiming certain words "bad". I imagine my love of swearing is part and parcel with my love of language. Using the f-word as an adverb can sometimes get your point across like nothing else. And I feel that parenting is about teaching your kids how to navigate the adult world they'll one day enter. They need to know what's coming or the teenage years are going to be shocking for everyone, parents included.

When the girls starting talking about poo and nothing but (no pun intended), it seemed to make sense to limit the use of those words to the bathroom. You could talk about poo if you were going poo. And if you really just needed to say "Poo, poo, poo, pee, pee, pee" and giggle, the bathroom seemed as good a place to do that as any.

But when they got a little older and could handle a bit of nuance, I made this rule. They could swear. They could use any word they wanted. But it was all about knowing when it was appropriate. They couldn't use those words to intentionally hurt someone's feelings (i.e. "You bitch, you stole my Barbie!") and they couldn't swear anywhere outside the house and if they were swearing in the house, it had to be just immediate family present. Grandma, the reverend, might not delight in this language as much as we do.

Of course we've had our slips. Mae at five, at a birthday party, being told her turn on the trampoline was over and mumbling resignedly as she jumped to the floor, "God damn it", sounding for all the world like me after the third glass of spilt milk in a single meal. And later that same year, after a harrowing two hours in an urgent care exam room with my Alzheimer-stricken and highly irritated mother, encapsulating the experience as "fucking awful". The truth is, she was right. And, lately, of course, Mihiretu yelling, "Dammit!" at any possible opportunity.

But on balance, at least for our family, our peace-making with foul language seems to be working, at least for now. And, hallelujah, when we get all the way to school and realize we forgot the lunches, I can say, "Shit". Not meanly, not loudly, not accusatorily, but with the utterance of that word, a tiny bit of pressure escapes and stops me before I blow.


  1. Hi there -
    I've just come across your blog and read through the first number of posts - and laughed a lot already! I can tell already that yours is a blog I will enjoy following...I look forward to getting to know you a bit.

    My husband and I (and one bio son) are in the process of adopting children from Ethiopia (we don't have a referral yet but have been waiting almost 23 months); their ages will be anywhere from 0-5. So I'm looking forward to reading more about your son, too, as we prepare to meet our own.

    Thanks...if you want to check out my blog, you're welcome to, but no obligation! Take care.


  2. Hi I came across your blog from another adopt blog (I'm an Ethiopian adoption blog stalker. LOL!). Anyway, I LOVED this post! I'm a big time swearer too and agree that sometimes the F word gets the point across like no other word can, it's just the truth! I cracked up with your kids swearing - never heard that before, ever, but it's awesome! I would love to get my daughter to swear but she hates curse words so no such luck! :( Ha-ha! Look forward to reading your other posts!