In one day, I saw two posts on the topic of kids growing up in homes where it was okay for them to swear. The most recent on the website of Michelle Icard, the authors of Middle School Makeover ( a fantastic book for any parent who will ever be living with a kid in middle school).
I was inspired to share my thoughts on this topic.
As a mom who raised 5 kids – all young adults living on their own now with their own unique relationship with swearing, I appreciate this dad’s ability to change some of his core beliefs about swearing and land squarely on what is most important to him, his relationship with his daughter.
I felt the same way with my kids. I was good about keeping the swearing out of the house when they were young, but once I found myself living with three young kids, on twenty uncleared acres and three temperamental horses, whose stalls needed to be cleaned daily and their frozen water buckets emptied and refilled, I resumed my relationship with swearing and started letting the bombs fly.
I heard my first swear come out of my two-and-a-half-year-old son’s mouth one morning when he was trying to drag a hay bale across a three foot sheet of ice.
“What the f… is up with all this d.. snow and ice?”
His two older sisters and I stopped dead in our tracks. Not because of the swear, but because he sounded exactly like his mother. Uh Oh. The girls giggled and I gave them the this is NOT funny look, but they knew that inside I was busting a gut.
Over the course of the next two years, I became more relaxed with my swearing and the kids began to pick up bits and pieces of it. The story continues this way for years and it never really occurred to me to address the ease in which they integrated a few swear words into their everyday conversations at home. That is, until an acquaintance stopped by and was appalled at what she heard.
Like the father in the article above, I began to question my own beliefs about swearing, the correlation between swearing and respect and my beliefs around the idea that I would raise truck-stop-swearing kids who would never be able to hold down a job because every other word out of their mouth would be an expletive.
But that’s not what happened. My kids, having learned swearing from their mother, also learned when to use it and when to keep it tucked away out of sight. They navigated this tricky landscape with ease and confidence. They swore with their friends, and they swore at home. But rarely did they swear anywhere else.
I know now, looking back, that my kids also felt my unwavering support for them as growing, maturing, learning human beings and that my goal in life was to continue to receive invitations into their lives. Because swearing wasn’t something we fought about, they were able to share openly and honestly about really difficult topics.
Every parent, at some point, must wrestle with the beliefs we have about things like swearing, dating, drinking, lying, smoking, cheating, and so on and decide not only how we want to address these challenges, but what, at the end of the day we want most in terms of our relationships with our kids. The answer won’t be the same for any two parents, but I have learned, that swearing is not a good indicator of what kind of human being I was raising.