This essay is Not Safe For Work, or really, Not Safe For Home if you have small children. The more horrible words will be edited for broadcast, of course. The less horrible but still very repeatable words will be there in all their glory. Just a head's up.
My husband and I disagree about the word "jerk". To him, it is a mild term, like goofball or silly. I find it more offensive; a jerk to me is someone who is mean, and stupid. This wasn't an issue, really, until we had kids. Whenever he would call someone a jerk, I would give him The Look, and my California transplant husband would roll his eyes at my New England prudishness. Until, of course, inevitably:
"Daddy, you're a jerk!" our 3 year old says, grinning. The adults exchange glances, my eyebrows clearly communicating my vindication. So we sat her down and talked calmly about words that are not nice to say, and how words can hurt people's feelings, yadda yadda yadda. (beat) About a week or so later, she's in the bathtub, covered in bubbles and babbling away to herself. "Jerk. Jerk is a bad word. (pause) Fucking cute. Fucking cute is a nice word to say." (beat), that one is all my fault.
In my defense, she really is that cute; her cuteness needs a strong modifier. And she's not wrong, in that it's a positive sentiment.
which brings us to context. I really have no problem with the use of any words in the proper context. I feel it is inauthentic to say, Oh fudge! when I've just dropped a jar and pasta sauce and glass shards are covering the floor. "Fudge" is not what I mean, and really, who am I fooling? Intent is the important thing here, and so in this case fudge is just as dirty a word as the one I meant. It would be hypocritical of me to swear and then forbid her to do the same. but she and I both must adhere to certain rules: no using words to be hurtful, words are for enhancing the human experience. Consider this: "I just watched Lost and I do not know what the heck is happening." as opposed to "I just watched the season premiere of Lost and I do not know what the fuck is going on." The latter is simply more truthful, more concise.
We never swear when we are speaking directly to her. Well, except that one time when Pete was sick, and she asked him how he was feeling. "I feel shitty", he said. "Why you feel shitty, Daddy?" What I mean to say is, We don't swear AT her. For some reason that makes a difference to me. I know that words have meaning and weight, so it does not feel right to use them with a child, or in mixed company, really. And we have explained that those words are words adults use, much like the wine we have with dinner is an adult drink, and juice boxes are mostly for kids. I don't want her to walk around like a mini-sailor, and for the most part she doesn't. I feel that we are raising her with a conscience, with a sense of right and wrong and fairness and compassion. I don't think that the use of a few choice words will counteract that.
Our friends will come over and drop an F bomb, or S bomb or D bomb, you know, the classics, nothing extravagant, and immediately say Ooops, sorry. and look guiltily at Audrey. We smile and shrug and tell them not to worry. Mostly to be good hosts and not make our friends feel bad, but also because, clearly, we say the same things in front of her. I don't really see anything wrong with it, and kids are pretty savvy. They know what they can say at school and in front of Nana, and I rarely hear her swearing on her own or out of context. (Typically, her swearing is directed at electronics such as the computer games or TV remote. She has been overheard struggling with a game and muttering Fucking Thing. A perfectly natural response, I would say)
I guess it's about authenticity for me. When people say, Gosh Darn It, instead of God Damn It, Who are they fooling, God? "Wha? did someone take my name in vain? That's a sin! Oh, wait, no. My mistake." If there is a god out there that is fooled by that, you can have it.
We are raising our daughter in a thoughtful way, in a way that conforms to our beliefs, our morals. It is not the way everyone does it, but then, everyone does it differently. I think there are worse things to be concerned about. Like what we are going to do when she's a teenager and boys think she's fucking cute, too.
Then, to emphasize the bad (good?) parenting, I said to Pete this morning, “You are super S-E-X-Y.”
Audrey says, “Daddy’s sexy! Ha ha! Daddy’s sexy!”
I did not know she knew how to do that.
Moral: never teach your children to spell or read.