Friday, March 14, 2008

Scenes from Our Morning

R: "What the F*@* was that?"

S: "What the hell does Sam have in her mouth" (proceeded by much scurrying and frantic scraping of Sam's mouth only to find the contents--an errant cheerio.)

R: "Not that Sh*# again."

S: "Why don't they ever shut the F@*@ up."

The preceding was meant to illustrate the level of potty-mouth-syndrome that flies around our quickly-learning-to-mimic toddler's head in just the first 10 minutes of her day. Imagine how much more she hears over the course of the day:

R: "Honey, could you pass the Fu##(&@ peas?"

S: "I F@*@*( love you, R."

Okay, so I am kidding, but it is true that R and I have a very bad habit of cursing non-stop around the kid.

But is it a bad habit?

The obvious disclaimer is that I grew up in a cursing home. My first word may well have been shit. My grandfather, a very successful first amendments lawyer who once represented Larry Flynt, was not about to censor himself. And his son--my father--was the same. I grew up thinking that cursing was a normal part of the everyday vernacular. I was once heavily reprimanded by a friend's father for calling her older a brother a ShitFuckMotherFuckingShitbag. And no, I am not kidding. I was six.

R, on the other hand, had the opposite experience. No cursing, no foul language. And yet... we are both bad to the bone when it comes to profanity.

Prior to Sam's birth, I assumed that we would censor ourselves around our babies. I even once called my father out on cursing in front of my pregnant belly. But as time wore on, I began to see the error in my ways. There is not much that annoys me more than some prissy little kid who who is clueless as to the way real people speak and act. I am not advocating letting Sam see horror movies or anything that would scar her, but I also can't shield her from every trash talking teenager we pass in the mall. And I hate when kids get all freaked out about "Timmy saying a four-letter word." Give me a break you little tattle tale, I feel like saying most of the time when I hear that kind of thing.

On the other hand, I am a writer. I ought to know better. Words are my life. I love them. But I also love cursing. They are certainly the "easy" way out. They lend emphasis quickly without having to really search my vocabulary for the word. Why say "Myriad" when "A fu%&ing lot" will do? Cursing is one of those things that it seems people think the intellectual elite refrain from, when in fact the smartest people I know often have the biggest potty-mouths. My father, for instance, is a successful lawyer with a Harvard University appointment who curses more than a drunken sailor. And he is not alone. I have worked in academia with some of the most intelligent minds in the world, most of whom can curse with the best of them.

So, what gives? Last night R said his main concern is that Sam not get into trouble at school for cursing. I agree. That would be embarrassing. On the other hand, I do not want her to be one of those tattle-tale priss kids either. So what is the right amount of cursing? I hate to be one of those parents who casts mean looks on errant passersby as they scream profanities into their cell phones. I can't control the world. And I don't want to, either. I happen to like colorful language. So what is an honest parent to do?

As yet, we are not stopping... but we are a long way from decided on this issue. Perhaps when Sam starts dropping F-bombs that little priss girl will start looking pretty appealing. Or maybe not. Maybe she will be fine, learn to love words and learn to curse in moderation. And I, for one, really F##*#ing hope so.


Kristi said...

I have a horrible potty mouth, and while I didn't grow up with a family that cursed, I left the stifling cover of 13 years of Catholic education to attend a public college, and picked up an extensive swearing habit there. I swear all the time in front of Isabella. The f bomb is my word of choice. It's only a matter of time before she, too, starts swearing like a sailor. Mommy's little girl, indeed.

Lis Garrett said...

HAHAHA! Both my husband I am swear a lot. Although he loves the f-word, I like to say "Jesus Christ" a lot. Although some might not consider that foul language (and some might), there is a certain amount of hilarity when your toddler says "Jesus Christ" in the right context.