I don't give a damn if my kid cusses

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of listening to Jessica Mills read from her parenting manifesto, “My Mother Wears Combat Boots,” at Broad Vocabulary. Aside from being a writer, Mills is a 37-year-old mother to two daughters and political activist. She is also a smart and likable person.

I went to this reading because Mills writes about some of the issues I feel strongly about, and I thought the event would be a feel-good reinforcement of what I already knew and thought. What I didn’t expect was to radically change my stance on the issue of kids and swearing.

Prior to her reading, I was struggling with my son’s experimentation with the seedy underbelly of the English language, but after hearing Mills’ thoughts on kids cussing -- and then thinking about it for a few days -- I came to the conclusion that I don't care if my kid swears. As long as he’s not using the words to name call or hurt someone’s feelings.

During the reading, Mills read one of her chapters titled “Who gives a sh*t about kids swearing.” In short, she believes that bad words are those that hurt or attack other people. Name-calling is not acceptable, but if a kid stubs his toe, it’s not a big deal if the F-word slips out.

“What’s the difference, really, between ‘fudge’ and ‘(expletive)’?” she asks.

The truth is, even though I try not to, I swear. My husband is much better than I am at yelling “nuts and bolts!” or “mac ‘n’ cheeses!” when the bottom drops out on a bag of groceries. However, I put my kid in a “time out” when he uttered a word that I knew he mined directly from my vocabulary. That doesn’t seem fair, rather the old “do as I say, not as I do,” and I don’t want to be that kind of parent.

That’s not to say I feel this way about everything. For example, just because I drink beer doesn’t mean I’m going to serve it to my son with his pizza bagel.

Also, I think that kids should know that certain words should be avoided around certain people, like teachers and grandparents. Guaranteed, this is tricky, and probably difficult to achieve. Basically, it means that swearing is another dicey topic that should be discussed and explained to a child. 

They should also know that swearing could offend some people. I know that a lot of people don’t like to hear a  kid swear like a wasted sailor, and I really don’t want to offend anyone, but in the grand scheme of things, who cares if they express frustration with the occasional cuss word? And I really don't think word experimentation has anything to do with family values.

I'm not going to encourage it, but swearing just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me anymore. Plus, my guess is he’ll  be less likely to do if I don't make a fuss.

Talkbacks

ttt | March 6, 2008 at 8:16 p.m. (report)

Interesting blog. I find it surprising that so many folks who make comments on this site do so in such a knee-jerk fashion. It's almost like they read something and have this desperate need to take a shot. Molly has the courage to share her ideas, observations and thoughts about a topic that is always going to be controversial--parenting. And here, she has raised a point that whether you agree or disagree with her perspective, it has created a discussion, and that's good. It's curious that some people actually need to attack and call her a "bad parent." That stance strikes me as one that feels threatened by a different notion from one's own. I didn't read every comment, so apologies if this ends up being redundant on some level, but I feel it's important to consider a few things. a) Molly is an intelligent person who obviously loves her children and actually takes the time to consider how certain things affect them. b) I don't read that what she is saying here is, "Gee, I think I'll teach my boys how to cuss a good blue streak." So why not try to keep things in context and in perspective? Which leads me to c) There are so many things that cause damage to our psyches as we grow and develop as humans. If a child hears a foul word and repeats it (which, by the way, happens in every home--I don't care who you are or what creed you follow)... seriously, WHO cares? Parroting is part of speech and language development. That's it. A kid can hear a neighbor say F*** and then repeat it, right? So do you shield your child from everything the big, bad world has in store? Some might say that that approach, in and of itself is quite damaging, in fact, a Pink Floyd song entitled, "Mother," comes to mind.

Some children in so-called god-fearing homes that might even live next door to you may never hear a cuss word uttered in their house. But unfortunately, they are getting raped by their father. That might be a little damaging.

Some small children in some parts of the world have witnessed the murders of their families or have had a limb or two hacked off with a machete. Some of these children have been forced to become soldiers, and to take cocaine, and commit similar acts, the likes of which most of us cannot imagine in our worst nightmares--and things like this happen to fund wars over things like diamonds. I don't mean to digress, but maybe--just maybe--you might be wearing a big diamond that was bought and paid for with money soaked in the blood of innocent families--that include children... as you stand and call Molly a "bad mother" for allowing her boys to express themselves as they see fit--with guidance. Maybe you might ask yourself what is you are teaching your child.

Oh, and swearing is not an indication of someone who lacks intelligence. Give me a break, O-Holier-Than-Thou.

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dukefame | March 3, 2008 at 8:13 p.m. (report)

Is this part of your uber-hip, Riverwest, cool until it hurts persona?

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dukefame | March 3, 2008 at 8:13 p.m. (report)

Is this part of your uber-hip, Riverwest, cool until it hurts persona?

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pswatters | March 1, 2008 at 11:50 a.m. (report)

I personally have no respect for you as a parent if you choose to let your children swear at will. There's no place for this kind of language in society and it certainly doesn't reinforce moral teachings. I am not perfect by any means...but I try my best to be a positive influence for my children and other children.

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wiboots | Feb. 26, 2008 at 3:09 p.m. (report)

36632 In my opinion, swearing is an indicator of a persons intelligence. If you talk like you live in the gutter, that is direct reflection of your upbringing and your personal attitude.

Your family name is the only things that comes into this world and stay with you long after you leave. What legend do you want to leave behind?

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