Monday, April 29, 2013

Swear Words

Dirty words.Bad words.4-letter words. 

I just read a thread or blog or whatever about swearing around your children, which you can read here  if you are so inclined.  If you want to skip the article and have me get to the point, click HERE. Actually, there's no second link. Sorry, I made the text blue just to mess with you - just keep reading.   

The Point = the author states that swearing in front of children is a complex issue.  Really?

I didn't think there were masses of parents promoting teaching your children to swear.  It's like writing about the "complex issue" of poking your kids with sticks because they irritate you.  We might do it, but we know it is wrong. 

Mama:  Hey, kids! Come learn some new words for the next time you are hit in the head with a football!

Kids: We already know asshole, douche canoe and mother-fucker from you. What new words do you have for us?

Mama: I was going to suggest "jeepers."

I swear a lot.  I try not to swear in front of the kids. I wish I swore less in polite company, like at work.  I blame my mother for this.  My mother let us swear as children, and by that I mean the traditional four-letter words everyone knew were swear words.  She thought if she didn't make a big deal of it, it would lose all shock value.  She was wrong - it made it so swearing became part of my general lexicon.  I wish I swore less, or at least could control when it slips out. My mother, incidentally, rarely swears.  She believes that over-using a word detracts from its shock-value.  When my mom drops a swear word, everyone pays attention.

Even though I am a chronic swearer, I do not think it is appropriate to do in front of children.  Do I actually swear in front of the children? Yes, yes I do.  I swear while talking to grownups when I think the kids can't hear me.  I occasionally swear when someone on the expressway tries to kill us with aggressive lane changes.  I try very hard not to habitually swear in front of them.  I think it is bad parental behavior, but not akin to beating them or riding around with the baby on the hood of your car. 

Perhaps the issue isn't dropping the F-bomb at play group, but in regard to the gray-area swear words. You know, the words some people think are swear words but you don't.  

For example, one point that Daddy and I differ on is the word hate.  I think you can hate things.  I hate a lot of things.  I'm not going to water down emotion  and not give my kids the vocabulary to express large emotions.  I hate injustice.  I hate bullying. I hate running out of ice cream.  We don't hate people in the house, but we do hate when it rains on Saturday.  Daddy hates nothing, ever.  Daddy has no emotion. (That's a joke, the last sentence.  He has emotion, even strong emotion, he just doesn't express it in  front of the children using the "H" word.)

I suppose if I were a more creative parent, I would teach them to abhor or detest  things instead of hating them. 

I also don't tolerate put-downs in my house, or in my hearing. I do understand that children need to vent and rant as much as grown-ups do, and they might really need to express their intense dislike for a person, but they can do it without hiding behind the knee-jerk reaction of attacking someone based on things they can't control - weight, ethnicity, religion, sexuality - and instead attack them for being an asshole.  Wait, I'm not supposed to say asshole in front of the children.  Change that to being a piece of snot. Snot is ok, right? No - I am supposed to teach them, as my mom did me, that the other person wouldn't be such an asshole if they were happy all the time.  I'm not to teach them various names for bodily fluids as descriptions of people. 

However, my children are young. As they get older, they will swear more as they are exposed both to harsher language and also to the hardship of life.  Life sucks sometimes, sometimes a potty-mouth helps.  Sometimes you need a forbidden word to express an emotion that feels larger than you.

Uh-oh.  Maybe swearing is a complex issue, and my kids aren't old enough for me to know that.  Maybe I need to get off my high horse.

I can see how being a superior swearer could aid my children socially at a certain age. I also think allowing kids to express negative feelings can be as important as positive emotions. But, and I think this is the important part, I think it is equally important to teach them where and when such words are appropriate, and to save them for special occasions.  

Most of the time, swearing is lazy. It's an easy reflex. Really, swearing is all about creativity, or the lack there of.    Will I freak out if my kids swear?  No.  I'll just make them take a thesaurus and sit in a corner and expand their vocabulary.

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