Sunday, January 11, 2009

Swearing Kids

A few days ago my husband told me our son overheard "fuck" on the television and repeated it.

Happens, right? I asked him how he handled it, and with a smile he said "Just told him we don't say that." I know he smiled to my son as part of his reaction. I love this man, and am so glad we've both - well, I've - loosened up.

A new thought entered my mind as my ever-curious daughter responded to what was intended to be a quiet remark between her parents. "What did he say?"

"Not a nice word," I answered.

"What word was it?"

For the first time, I considered telling her and glanced at my husband. He shrugged. The public setting gave me pause, however. "Don't worry about it."

If I had this to do over again, I'd offer to talk about it at home. Chances are she'd probably forget about it, but I would want her to know I'm willing to talk.

My daughter's question was perfectly acceptable. The next time she asks me I'm going to tell her and then we'll talk about it. Do I need to give her the definition of "fuck"? No, she's not ready for that - and besides, there are so many. Other words would prove easier. Some, like damn, I wouldn't really be able to give her a good reason other than some find offense with it.

As we're counseled to with sex and the parts of our bodies, I think we should be frank with our children regarding the vocabulary they will hear in school, and if not in school, than when they visit with friends or, in the case of my son, while channel flipping. It will happen no matter our attempts to keep them from it. In time I imagine I'll give her the definition of the sketchier words, but I'd rather do it than have her friends tell her.

Gasping and freaking out will not help. Being blunt with them will. This may mean we will need to say the word.

I know my kids will go through a phase where they will curse like little sailors and think they're cool. Fine. I want to teach my kids, help them understand things. Children who know tend to lay off the immaturity of childhood a bit more than others. I also believe in the importance of explaining things to our kids. I've found they're more apt to do what is right when they understand better.

Some may say "I'm afraid that by being frank I'll come across as flippant, and if they think I don't care then they won't care either, and they should." That's not it, though. We can express our distaste for certain words, but we must be able to discuss matters with our children. Dismissing them, ignoring them, or tip-toeing around them won't work.

I refuse to condescend to my kids. I respect them; I respect them as growing human beings who long for knowledge, who are part of this world and who will be exposed to this world; I respect them because I want them to respect me and others around them. I've so far to go, but this has always been forefront in my mind. Explaining the more colorful, itchy, and perhaps inappropriate things of this world is a responsibility of mine and my husband.

Children rebel (it's healthy) but they really rebel when their parents and other authority figures make such a big deal out of everything. I also believe the same thing happens when we make every disasteful word illicit, such as "jerk" or "fart." In picking our battles the war will be easier to win.

And frankly, I think we should be more honest and up front with each other about these words. Petting them with the "f-bomb" serves little purpose. Just say them. I believe, and maybe this is just me, that the sin is in the intent of the word, not necessarily in the word itself.