I like to think I possess a fairly extensive vocabulary (I mean, that Facebook quiz I took the other day couldn’t have been wrong). I write for a living, so I’m well-versed in the use of adjectives — and I have taught my kids to use a wide variety of words as well. From the time they were toddlers, they could tell you something was “scrumptious” or “delectable” just as easily as they could say “It’s yummy.” I believe that a strong vocabulary is an asset, one that can influence the way a person is perceived, so I’ve worked hard to make them understand how powerful language can be.
But all that being said, I also believe in swearing like a motherfucker. Certain occasions just call for a good stiff curse word. It’s like seasoning food: You can make it bland or spice it up a little. And like my dinner, I prefer my vocabulary on the salty side.
I have boundaries, of course. I don’t cuss in situations where it would be deemed inappropriate. I wouldn’t go up to someone at church and say, “How the hell are ya?!” or report to my server at a restaurant that my meal is “fucking delicious.” And before I drop an eff-bomb in front of a new friend, I make sure they’re not opposed to cursing, because some people just don’t like it, and that’s fine. I’ll never understand why, but I’m not here to be an ass, and I’ll respect their feelings.
So when it comes to my kids letting a swear word slip occasionally, I’m not bothered by it. How could I be? They hear it come out of my mouth all the time: Who the hell left the milk out on the counter again? I am so tired of this shit! If I were to forbid them to say those words themselves, I’d be a hypocrite of epic proportions, which is one example I definitely don’t want to set.
Like any responsible user of profanity, my kids know that there are non-negotiable ground rules. We don’t say swear words anywhere but at home, and not even there, if there’s company present. We don’t swear just to be swearing — peppering their sentences with cuss words just because they can would go against everything I’ve instilled in them about the value of an extensive vocabulary.
Most importantly, we don’t swear at people (even if they are actually being a dickhead) because words carry weight, and even ones that aren’t classified as outright curse words can cut deeply. My children will get into more trouble for calling their sibling an “idiot” than they will for saying “shit” when they drop something. And they know there are far worse, infinitely more damaging words that we never, ever use — any type of derogatory term or racial slur is grounds for swift and drastic punishment. I would rather hear them say “fuck” a billion times than to say something hateful once, and they know better. Just like they’re prohibited from hitting each other (or anyone else, for that matter), they’re prohibited from using words in a way that could hurt. And that means any words — four-letter or otherwise.
You might think my relaxed attitude toward cursing means that my kids are constantly foul-mouthed, but you’d be wrong. Despite my allowance of a more…colorful vocabulary, my kids rarely ever utter a bad word (and oddly enough, usually ask permission before they do). I think it’s because decriminalizing it has taken away the appeal. To them, cursing isn’t an exciting forbidden thing; they’re just words, like every other word they say, no more thrilling than saying “darn” or “fudge.” And they know that no swear word they could say would elicit as much as a raised eyebrow from me, so there’s no chance of them doing it in an attempt to get a reaction.
But they know that when they really need to emphasize their feelings about something, they can feel free to let the expletives fly. Because no matter how many words you have in your mental arsenal, sometimes there’s just no better choice than a well-timed eff-bomb.