November 14, 2012


I stopped swearing in 2004. That was the year Zachary popped right out after four-and-a-half hours of pushing, an episiotomy, and a c-section. I swore a good deal that night. Once he was in our household, however, we stopped swearing. We didn’t want our kids to learn those words, because there’s nothing more distasteful than a kid who mutters, “Motherfucker” under his breath when he screws up his Harry Potter Lego kit. We don’t have a problem with adults swearing, or even teenagers, for that matter. We just don’t like to hear it in kids. Some things are meant for adults: alcohol, nail polish, designer clothes, and screaming “Shithead” at the guy who cuts you off in rush-hour traffic.

We knew he would learn to curse eventually. We were hoping it would take awhile because our youngest is still in preschool, and we’d like her to be at least five before she starts dropping f-bombs. I guess I figured somewhere around middle school, the kid would start cursing and then we could have an earnest, intellectual discussion of why those words are appropriate for some settings but not others.

I didn’t anticipate it would roll out the way it has.

“Swearing is when you say ‘blahblahblahblah,” he told his brother.

I asked, “Who told you that?”

“That’s how it looks in books.”

Oh. “Do you know what swear words are?”

“No, but the other kids talk about it.”

“Well, they’re adult words that aren’t appropriate for certain situations. It’s not blahblahblahblah.”

So, we sort of skirted the issue for a few days, until he came back from religious school today and said, “What’s the f-word?”

“Who was talking about that?”

He named a few kids. “So what’s the f-word?”

I’ll have to admit that I never expected my kid to learn about cursing at religious school. They didn’t mention that in the brochure.

This puts me in kind of an awkward situation. Do I answer him honestly, as has been my policy? Or do I evade it by saying, “It’s a word for adults”? Do I teach my kid the word “fuck” or do I increase its mystique by not telling him it?


You Might Also Like


  • Reply Devon November 14, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Teach him. Explain to him exactly what you believe about language which (I suspect) is pretty much what I do – there’s nothing wrong about those words but people find them offensive, and for that reason we don’t do it. It’s very much like walking around naked in public. You’d be hard pressed to explain exactly why it would hurt anyone, yet people do find it offensive so we don’t.

  • Reply Poker Chick November 14, 2012 at 2:09 am

    That’s one tough motherfucking problem. Let us know what you decide.

  • Reply Catherine November 14, 2012 at 4:34 am

    I vote tell him.

    As an aside, my eldest came home after his first week of school telling me that the kids on the bus were using bad words. I thought, “here it starts.” When I asked him what they were saying he said “nah nah na-nah nah!”

  • Reply Heather November 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I agree with Devon.

    My youngest child has selective mutism and the first time she ever spoke at religious school she said “give me the f-in doll!” I think there is a lot more swearing going on with the older boys on the trampoline than I realized!

  • Reply Brigid November 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I vote to tell him also. We like to think not telling them will keep them young, but I think hearing it from us is as important.

  • Reply Móna Wise November 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Tell him Emily – words only have the power you give them.

    When you explain how this word is used he will either understand and go with it or he will drop the f-bomb at that perfect moment and embarrass you.

    Then years of effort in keeping them from hearing (hats off to you by the way) swear words will have been somewhat in vain, because sure enough there will be a Mum in line at Wholefoods right behind you tut-tutting about the whole ‘kid swearing’ thing and then you will be just like the rest of us.


    We swear – Ireland has a potty-mouthed race of people – but our kids do not swear (they are not permitted) and are a little numb to it.

    PS – I know I haven’t commented in an age – it is only because I am back in college for final year slog. I am still reading your blog posts xx

  • Reply fiwa November 15, 2012 at 12:22 am

    I vividly remember seeing the word “fuck” printed on the bathroom wall in grade school, coming home and asking my mother what it meant, and her refusal to tell me. I, of course, figured it out on my own by asking other people until someone finally explained what it meant.

    It remains my favorite curse word, and I have a terrible, terrible habit of dropping it in conversation ALL THE TIME around my sweet mother. It’s a knee-jerk thing, I swear. I know it offends her, I normally would bend over backward to keep from offending her, yet it pops out of my mouth with regularity when I am around her.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.

  • Reply The f-word November 15, 2012 at 1:03 am

    […] it fascinating that not one of you thought it might be even a little inappropriate for me to sit my eight year old down and say, “Sweetie, the f-word is fuck. That’s a c and a k.” Here’s how the conversation […]

  • Reply WendyElissa November 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    My 4 year old thinks “darn” and “dang” are really bad words and she’ll say it thinking she’s being rebellious. I don’t mind “darn” but I do mind “dang” only because it’s some weird midwest slang that just annoys me.

  • Leave a Reply