Okay, I have to admit this before I say anything else. I think little kids swearing is hilarious. Like, I can’t stop laughing. I know that laughing is literally the worst possible reaction to a swearing kid, but I seriously cannot control myself. And I’m not talking about a little chuckle or giggle; I’m talking full on laughing. And yes, this applies to my own kid as well. Sometimes with him I can hold it together enough to get out of his earshot before I crack up, but it’s not always a guarantee. When it comes to my kid and swearing, I don’t really care, unless it becomes excessive.
To me — and again, this is just how I feel — swearing is just a word. As a person who works with words, there are true “bad” words. Racial slurs are bad words, but that’s about it. I never understood why someone decided that the word “fuck” was a “bad” word, because, really, it’s just a word.
Obviously, I know words have meaning, but swear words are actually some of the most versatile words out there. It’s all about context, and that’s the thing that I try to teach my son. If he uses the word, he needs to be able to use it in its proper context. And he does…repeatedly.
His favorite sweary phrase is “What the hell?” I know, in the grand scheme of sweary words, that’s really quite tame. The phrase itself isn’t what’s bothersome; it is the amount of times he can say it in a short period of time that drives me up the wall. When I swear in front of him, I don’t walk around saying “fuck, fuck, fuck” a million times. I may drop one very loaded “fuck” and then move on to something else. But not this little boy. It’s like he’s playing a game of “how many times can I swear in a five minute span before Mom totally loses her shit?”
For those who are wondering, the answer is about three. Then I turn to him and say, “Seriously? If you say that again I’m going to scream.” He knows that I will actually scream, so he usually stops, but then maybe 20 minutes later, he’s at it again. What the actual fuck? I swear he does it just to annoy the fuck outta me.
Sometimes I wish he would switch it up just for shits and giggles. I am a very sweary person; I have been since I was a teenager. And even though I have no problem dropping an f-bomb or saying “oh shit” when I’m frustrated, he never ever uses one of those words in his regular vocabulary. Occasionally, he may repeat what I say, like one day we missed the bus, and I said “AW, SHIT!” and he turned to me and said, “Shit what Mommy?”
After I chuckled (I told you, I cannot help it!), I told him that I was upset we missed the bus. He shrugged and pressed the crosswalk button. For days, I waited for him to shout “OH, SHIT” when he got frustrated, but it never came. What did come, however, was a million “What the hells.”
As annoying as it is, he uses it so perfectly every time, that as much as I want to tell him to shut the fuck up already, I usually don’t. He’ll drop something and there it goes, “What the hell?” as he picks it up. He sees something unexpected, “What the hell?” One of his friends does something that annoys him, “What the hell?!” followed by an eye roll.
His timing of the phrase is seriously impeccable. And it comes out of him so naturally, people don’t even realize what he’s saying half the time. It has become as natural to him as saying “Mommy,” and apparently more natural than saying “please.”
Of course, if I feel that he’s getting a little too enthusiastic, I do put the brakes on it. I tell him that he needs to slow his roll and maybe we try saying something else instead for a while. And he never gives me a hard time about it. He may not say it for a couple weeks, and then I’ll hear him mutter it to himself, “what the hell?” and I laugh to myself.
That’s the thing about swearing, it’s really all about context. If he just walked around saying “fuck” all the time, it would be a lot more annoying, and for that, I’m super relieved. Because if he was dropping f-bombs like that, I would probably be a mess from trying to keep it together. I also have to remind him that saying his sweary phrase is okay when I’m around, but otherwise, keep it to yourself. He’s surprisingly good about it — or at least, if he’s said it when I wasn’t around, no one ever told me. They were probably too busy laughing.