That Freeing Feeling of Untethered Verbal Expression

. January 3, 2017.
kids-swear-words-column

We all have parenting moments we aren’t proud of.

Most are “one and dones” – you speak sharply to your child when you are tired or overwhelmed, you bat away a hand that reaches for a hot stove, or you compare your children in front of them.

One of my bigger parenting fails is one I don’t normally publicize. It’s something that will bring out the judges to look down on me for doing something that we all do. And don’t even bother saying never have you ever.

I swear in front of my children. A lot.

When they were smaller I made an effort not to. As they’ve gotten older, however, there are times I let loose with my own special brand of communication. I don’t swear AT them, of course. But in moments of frustration, I will swear like no one else.

It wasn’t always like this

I was raised not to swear. I heard my parents curse, but knew that I had better not. Having grown up in an Italian household, I became bilingual in my cursing. And Italian swearing is some of the best, most descriptive swearing around. I was pretty naïve and genteel until I went to college, and started working on the student newspaper.

As any good reporter will tell you, cursing is just part of the job. After more than 30 years reporting and writing, you wouldn’t believe what I’ve encountered. On a daily basis, I dealt with elected officials who felt they could work in secret, horrific accidents, insane deadline pressures and the general amazement at what people will do to each other. Instead of reaching for a bottle of Jack Daniels in the lower right drawer like old time reporters, my colleagues and I would blow off steam by sitting around and talking. And mostly cursing.

That didn’t segue well into parenting, so I had to change my ways. I really made an effort not to swear in front of my children when they were younger. My children heard it everywhere, of course, even in the school hallways.

I do not lie to my children – ever – and if asked I would explain what certain words and terms meant, even if it made me blush to do so. I also explained why they shouldn’t use those words. It was less what the words mean, and more that they could certainly find another way to express themselves if they tried.

The damn – oops, dam – bursts

As they got older, I got more lax in my language. It started out slowly ….. a mild four-letter word here or there. Now, as teens, they know they will hear just about anything from me. It ranges from the mild to the multisyllabic “I can’t believe Mom said that.” And if I swear in Italian, watch out.

I have yet to hear my older teen say something the general public would consider offensive. Her speech is angelic compared to what she hears in the hallways every day. I hope she can go through life continuing to express herself without relying on the lazy language of expletives. But if she can’t, I understand that sometimes only a curse word will do.

Like mother, like daughter.