(finding parenthood painfully funny)
“MOMMY WHAT THE F#*K IS THAT?”
Photo: Nicole Blaine Family Archives
When my two year old daughter said her first f-bomb, giant tears rolled down my cheeks. Happy tears. She had used it grammatically correct. (Unlike that last sentence.) Is it offensive when a two year old uses the F-word? I think it’s fucking adorable.
But doesn’t everyone think a blonde haired, blue eyed, chubby cheeked two year old properly using the F-word as an adverb is adorable? Cut to Tegan today, age 7. Still properly using the F-word as an adverb. Adorable? Meh… Offensive? To me, no. Not if she uses it properly without any malice or ill intent to hurt someone. (Unless that person is D-man Trump and deserves a good eff-u. But I digress….)
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” We, of course, know that the actual pen is not mightier, but I propose that the words themselves are not the source of power either. Any 2nd grader (or Fox News correspondent) can string seven words together. That doesn’t give them power (or legitimacy). What you have to say, your meanings and/or intentions, are the source of power. Words, on their own, should not be good or bad. If my 2nd grader uses curse words as adverbs, is she really saying “bad” words?
Tegan had a play date with her best friend since birth. The girl’s mother is a much better parent than me: calm, patient, takes time to find teachable moments when our girls dispute. While in our kitchen,Tegan says to me, “When is lunch ready? I’m so f#*king hungry.” I casually point to the timer and reply, “Two minutes, 34 seconds.” Frustrated, Tegan raises her voice a notch, “But I’m f#*king hungry!”
I don’t flinch. Nor do I see what is coming. The other parent, my good friend, a licensed marriage and family therapist who I always go to for advice and support, bends down to Tegan’s eye level, and says sternly, “Tegan, that word is very offensive and inappropriate. I am trying to teach my daughter it is not okay to use that word. If you use it one more time, we will leave immediately!” I’d never seen her that angry. I understand. That must have really hurt her. I believe the renowned scholar, Sarah Palin, put it best: “Hearing a word that you don’t want to hear is a big freakin’ deal.” I know this “offended” friend of mine swears. She just thinks it’s inappropriate for children to do so. Those are “grown up” words.
I was not mad at my friend for disciplining my child. Even though I completely disagree with her. Unfortunately, a lot of people share her belief about curse words (many of those people also believe in the bible and semi-automatic weapons), but I don’t want people to find my child offensive, so I teach her that curse words should not be said in certain places, or in front of certain people. Thank God (that phrase, by the way, used to be considered worse than the F-bomb) she learned this lesson in my kitchen versus in the principal’s office.
If we can potty train a child, can’t we potty mouth train the same child? Can we teach them how to properly use the word shit while they’re learning how to properly do it? Or is it a case of the old, “Do as say, not as I do” mentality in regards to “grown up” words? A neighbor recently made fun of my husband’s bicycle helmet. The helmet I made him buy after our children asked why Daddy didn’t have to be safe on the bike. How could we teach them to be safe, if we’re not willing to do the same? Why would we restrict their words if we’re not willing to restrict our own?
Of course some people would never use curse words because they think it makes you sound ignorant. I had a coworker once wax philosophical on this point and demonstrate her choice replacement for a curse word: tiddlywinks. You sound fucking brilliant.
Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Intention. My four year old son couldn’t tell you the last time I cursed because those words mean nothing to him. It’s colorful language Mommy uses only on days that end in ‘y.’ But my son remembers, to this day, that one year ago a little boy at a park said, “I don’t like superheroes, and I don’t like you.” Because my son was dressed as Batman. No parent got down into that kid’s face and yelled at him about the offensiveness and inappropriateness of his remarks, but that has scarred my son to a point where he rarely leaves the house in the 27 superhero costumes I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on. I doubt my daughter’s friend will be as affected by my daughter’s precise definition of her hunger.
Intentions give a word power. That’s why curse words in foreign languages mean nothing to us; we have no point of reference to determine the intention. Teach your kids to be nice. Teach them the meaning of words. Teach them the beauty of language. Teach them to express themselves. As Mark Twain once said, “Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” Words are tools and how we use them determines their power and effectiveness. If you find this offensive, go fuck yourself.