When I was young, I remember watching my older sister and mom bake a cake. I got into a fight with my sister and called her a bastard. My mom froze, beaters in hand, and said in a tone I rarely heard, “Where did you hear that?”
“School,” I said, eyes downcast, tears threatening to overflow. I knew I had disappointed my mom. Gravely.
“That’s a very bad word,” she said. “If I ever hear you use that word again, I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.”
Thankfully, I never had to stomach a bar of Ivory. Recently, though, I have had to do some parenting with regards to my own children and swearing. There have been three separate incidents in the past couple weeks, but it started long before then.
Here’s a brief retrospective on swearing and my kids:
Age 3: My husband is driving the kids to their day home and they overhear him “educating” another driver. Later, Vivian asks, “Daddy, what does ‘bucking slow down’ mean? I’m thankful the reverberating bass on our cheap minivan stereo has ruined her hearing.
Age 4: I’m playing a rhyming game with my kids. William suggests truck. We successfully rhyme luck and duck. Then Vivian pauses, “V-V-V-Vuck. Is vuck a word, Mommy? I think it’s a word.”
Age 5: I’ve repressed any vucking bucking bad memories.
Age 6, Part A: I walk in our front door to be bombarded by my two kids, talking over each other to tell me about their day. William played with a new friend at recess. Some little demon on the bus taught Vivian how to give the middle finger and told her it was nice.
Age 6, Part B: Vivian and William are in Music for Young Children classes. They are learning finger numbering through a song with actions. Sing with me now, while extending your middle finger: “Finger three is growing, growing, growing. Finger three is growing oh so tall.”
Age 6, Part C: Vivian comes home from school in tears. A boy at her table group is going to give her nightmares tonight, she says. My mind fast-forwards to dozens of possibilities. I sit down with her and breathe. Finally, she says, “He said a word. I know it was very bad. I didn’t really understand it…I think it started with an F though.” Her phonics have progressed, I think. I ask her if the boy was speaking to her. “No,” she answers, “he was talking to the scarecrow he was trying to make.”
Have you had to deal with swearing? If so, how did you deal with it?