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?