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Monday, March 18, 2013

Compromises: My F*cking Language

I'll say it now: I like cussing. I saw a bumper sticker that said "Everything is funnier with the word 'fuck' in it", and I'm inclined to agree with that statement. Many words are improved with the addition of some slang fornication thrown in there. (And as Mythbusters showed, cussing an be a helpful stress reliever!)

But when you have little kids, having a recreational cussing habit becomes as problematic as a roomful of over-caffeinated parrots with Tourette's: they loudly and continually repeat everything they hear, and they have absolutely NO discretion.

"Hey. Hey! HEEEYYYY! Guess what?! Mommy got stuck in traffic and I learned a BUNCH of new words!"

So when I first found out I was pregnant with v.2.1, I immediately began working on editing my  very adult vocabulary, and began creating "substitute words" to take the place of my preferred verbiage. Nowadays, around my kids, my frustrated outbursts consist of exclamations of "son of a birch!", "fudgeballs", "criminey", "geez louise", and "aw, shi-- I mean... oh nuts!". (I never got around to coming up with a good substitute for "shit"; someone suggested "sugar", but my brain never quite gets it to my mouth fast enough.)

Yeah, they're stupid. They're cheesy. They sound like something a bunch of goody-two-shoes kids at a Bible camp would say, instead of an adult with an affinity for George Carlin's humor. And when the preschooler deliberately wakes up the soundly sleeping baby from a nap (again), I have to exercise some massive self-control and refrain from bursting into the room and yelling, "Dude, what the FUCK?!"

Why is it such a big deal to me to watch my language around my kids? It's not because I think cuss words are "bad". In truth, cuss words aren't bad in and of themselves, they are merely words, and words are neutral things. It's how you put them together in a certain context that can make them good or bad. 

What it really comes down to is respect for other people. As an adult, I know who I can and can't cuss around, and when it is and isn't appropriate. Unfortunately, my little caffeinated-Tourette-parrots are too young to understand either of those; as a parent, it's my responsibility to teach that to them.

Example: NOT okay to cuss around (but if Granny hits the bourbon, you'll probably learn some new words.) 

Simply saying, "Don't say that!" doesn't teach them anything except "say those words when Mom and Dad aren't around". But if I explain what words mean (their definitions, connotations, and implications) then my kids will have something more powerful... a real understanding of the power of words. 
Some of the most hurtful things don't involve a single word of cussing, blasphemy, profanity, or swearing; rather, it's usually when normally-innocuous individual words are combined to make hurtful sentences spoken in anger or pain: You're fat. You're ugly. I wish you'd never been born. I don't love you. You're stupid. 

See? No cussing! But still hurtful.

I want to teach my children that words themselves are incredibly powerful, and that certain categories of words (in this case, cuss words) need to be used more responsibly out of respect for other people, because they're more inflammatory. I'm willing to compromise by NOT cussing around my kids for the next several years, if it means that I can use that time to teach them a.) words have meaning, and b.) you need to try to be respectful of other people when you talk.

So, that means for now --while my impressionable little Tourette-parrots are young-- I'll have to keep saying "Boogers!" when I stub my toe, or yell "Watch where you're going, you stupid politician*!" when someone cuts me off in traffic. But I know there will come a time when my kids will be old enough to be allowed to cuss around me, and I'll be free to cuss around them.

And when that time comes, I'll be so fucking happy!

*- my brothers and I developed an elaborate set of insults when we were kids. We considered "stupidhead" and "butt monkey" to be too juvenile, so we resorted to calling each other: lawyer, politician, news reporter, Barney the Purple Dinosaur (if you really wanted to get personal), chemistry teacher, used car salesman, etc.

Image credits: parrot (everywhere on the Internet);;;

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