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One of the things I had to get used to when I started dating my husband was his family’s relaxed stance on profanity. My husband swore in front of his parents. They sometimes swore, too. Not just damn, either. The big ones. (Do I really have to list them?) Not all the time. Not every day or even every week, but if the word fit the situation, they used it.

At my house, my mom was good for a damn or an S-word, but she never dropped any F bombs. Meanwhile, I never, ever swore in front of my mom. Still don’t. Of course, I am weird in that I never swore period until I was like 18. I have no idea why. (Okay, well, maybe the memory of me as a 5-year-old having my mouth washed out with Ivory Soap might have something to do with it.) And there are some words that I won’t ever, ever say. (And my game night pals will back me up on that since they always write the most disgusting swear words as answers trying and get me to say them. But as always, I digress!)

Not surprisingly, my husband swears in front of the kids sometimes. It’s part of his regular vernacular. No C-bombs, but he will say all the others when extremely agitated. Me, I am a crap gal. As in, “Don’t eat that candy in the party goody bag. It’s from China. It’s crap!” Or, “Uggg, McDonald’s. I would never eat that crappy food.” It’s my go-to word. And now I have to decide if I am going to break my crappy habit, or let the kids expand their vocabulary as well.

Let’s look at Little Girl’s take on it. Today Mommy dropped the mayonnaise bottle on the floor. I screamed, as I watched white stuff fly all over my newly washed floor, “Oh, CRAP!” So why wouldn’t Little Girl be compelled to scream the same expletive? It sounded funny. Mommy — I — looked funny when I said it. And of course, when I told her not to say it, it must have been really, really funny watching my face as Little Gril yelled, “Crap, crap, crap.”

Then there’s Big Girl. She asked me outright why I am allowed to say crap when she’s not. I tried to explain how coarse and unsavory it sounds when a pipsqueak like her says something like crap, but it doesn’t really ring true to her. Why is it a bad idea to say that when you’re little, but okay when you are big, she wanted to know. (How could it be okay for me to say just because I forgot to call my friend back, but it’s not okay for her to say when her sister tries to run away with her Zhu Zhu pet. A good question actually…)

I don’t have an answer, but I do wonder if profanity has anything to do with maturity. As in, my husband has always been treated like an adult by his parents. My mom, however, still reminds me to put a sweater on before I go out, and asks me if I want to sleep over on the off chance my husband needs to go out of town. Does the fact that my in-laws and my husband speak to each other as equals — swearing included — help them see him as an adult? Just as maybe my avoidance of all things crap and crappy around my mom contributes to keeping me a child in her eyes? And if that’s the case, do I let my little ones say the occasional crap? I’m thinking no, but maybe that’s a crappy answer?

What’s your stance on profanity and children? Do you swear in front of your kids?

4 Responses to “Aww, Crap. (And Other Expletives)”

  1. That’s an interesting correlation you make between not cursing in front of your parents and being treated like a child by them versus your husband cursing in front of his parents and being treated like an adult by them. I never thought of it like that. I guess it’s true that there’s some level of acceptance of cursing by adults from adults. But something tells me that those parents who treat their adult kids like kids would still do so, f-bombs or otherwise. But it would be a fun experiment to try! :)

  2. I curse in front of them occasionally. I have been very very good lately, but it’s my go-to defense. My big word is “GxxDamnit!” It’s not really cool – especially since I’m raising them Catholic. LOL. When I do it, they say, “Mommy, give us a quarter!” If I curse more than one time, say…”Sxxx I dropped the GxxDxxxed pot on my toes!” they add it up. “Mommy, you owe us 50cents!” Hey, I curse a bit, but they get math skills out of it.

  3. Shari says:

    Weird but we had a similar conversation 2 nights ago here. My big guy asked what crap means, after either myself or my husband had said it (who can keep track). We explained what the word actually means- poop- and then a little history lesson blossomed about John J. Crapper and the origin of the word crap. I also told him that now the word is used as slang and it is not the nicest word to say. For now I have told him he shouldn’t say it, although when he is in high school I am sure I will be glad if that is the worst he says!

  4. Bevie says:

    I have never forbidden my daughter to use coarse language, that would be the quickest way to be certain she did as often as possible when she believes I am not listening. “The” conversation happened when she was about 9 and we watched a program with a few of the big ones in it and her father and I turned to her afterwards and explained that they had said some things that were very impolite and/or undignified (to a child that worried about how other people see her the way GirlyGirl does, it seemed that the best way to prevent the problem was to emphasize how silly it would make her look). I though to drop the subject there, because I certainly wasn’t going to give her the “Handbook of Words That Turn Mommy’s Face Purple”, but she apparently needed clarification. The next thing that popped out of her mouth was “Oh, so (insert four letter word here) is a bad word?”. Um. The conclusion we eventually came to was that any casually used words that Mom and Dad did not use at home was likely to be among the “undignified”.
    A bit more clarity was required a few weeks later when she informed me that something from school had a “bad” word in it. I asked cautiously and red-faced, she spelled out H-A-T-E. (I was actually kind of proud that that one had missed our everyday vocabulary)
    Moral of the story: kids don’t necessarily grasp the significance of the words they use. It may be best to encourage a view of the vocabulary that brings about the desired results without strictly forbidding any. It has been 3 years since the incident above and I have not once heard GirlyGirl use any four letter words (including “hate”) despite the fact that I know some of her friends do. The look on her face when she hears someone else use them tells me that she thinks they sound silly and (let’s face it, my girl does have a dose of conceit at times) less intelligent than she is.
    That said, if she hears it from someone she respects it may have already taken on a “respectable” aura by association. At least you have the comfort of knowing that if you are unsuccessful at discouraging this bad habit, they also have many good habits to pick up by the same method!

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