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Parental Indiscretion

Out of the Mouths of Moms

By Rachel Laing

Parental Indiscretion

Joy Radostina illustration

Joy Radostina illustration

Over the summer, I’ve hosted near-weekly get-togethers where much of the conversation centers around politics—a little gossip and a fair bit of arguing. Invariably, one of my child-free pals will drop an F-bomb, then cover her mouth with embarrassment and glance around to see if one of my kids is within earshot.

My standard response is to wave it off. “Oh, don’t worry,” I tell them. “I curse like a mother@$%#er in front of my kids.”

“It’s true, she does,” my son will confirm helpfully.

Most people refrain from cursing in front of their children because they want to set a good example. But I come from a long line of cursers, and I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with colorful language.

“They’re not bad words,” my dad would tell us as kids. “They’re adult words, and when you’re an adult, you may choose to use them.”

“My kids recognize they’re not to drive, drink wine, or use sharp knives until a later date. The same is true of cursing.”

When I expose my children to foul language, it’s an acknowledgement of what I believe is their appropriate place in our family hierarchy. I wasn’t born into my children’s worlds; they were born into mine. Kids are supposed to conform to their parents’ lives.

And here’s the thing about our life: Most of our friends are in politics, law, or journalism, and together they easily counter the notion that swearing is a habit of the uneducated or inarticulate. They sprinkle their F-bombs into eloquent, persuasive arguments—as noun, adjective, and verb—and the content of their speech is often enhanced greatly by their style.

Children are perfectly capable of understanding that some activities are off-limits to them. I drive, drink wine, and use incredibly sharp knives in front of them. They recognize that they’re not to do any of these things until a later date. The same is true of cursing.

There are so many things people do in front of their children that set a bad example. Treating waitstaff or other service workers poorly. Viciously bad-mouthing friends. Failing to pick up the poop their dog just deposited on a neighbor’s lawn. These things are wrong at any age, and I take pains to set the example of a respectful and productive member of society. As I see it, using foul language in your personal life does not in any way impede good citizenship.

But if my kids are going to grow up to have mouths like proverbial truckers, I do want to make sure their curse words are deployed well. That’s why my grammar is always impeccable, and I always choose judiciously between the use of “sh*%tty” and “f@#ked up.” Hey, they have to learn somewhere.

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