UPDATE: The hit TV show is causing a bit of a stir in the US for an upcoming episode which features two-year-old toddler Lily dropping the F-bomb. Well, in real life she actually says ‘Fudge’ but the show will bleep the noise as part of the story line which sees her parents Mitch and Cam dealing with a common parent’s lament: their child swearing in a public place. The SMH reported:
“Steven Levitan, creator and executive producer of the TV comedy with Christopher Lloyd, told the Television Critics Association last week that he’s “proud and excited” about the obscenity plotline that ABC was persuaded to allow.
“We thought it was a very natural story since, as parents, we’ve all been through this,” Levitan said to EW.com.
Here’s Daniel’s own experience with the matter:
The first time I heard my 21-month-old daughter, Edie, drop the f-bomb, it came seemingly from nowhere: as crisp as an elocution lecturer; as chunky as if delivered from Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson’s bearded gob.
At first my partner and I stifled laughter under covered mouths. To hear her chirpily navigate many words with difficulty but execute the dreaded f-bomb like some sort of angelic Chucky doll seemed hilariously funny.
But then she started using it in context.
After dropping one of her dolls: “F**k”.
Having fallen over: “F**k”.
While standing up in the driver’s seat of our car and mimicking me behind the wheel: “F**k.”
“It’s your fault,” my partner said. I disagreed, suggesting she was around her mother more than her father. My partner stood her ground. “I don’t swear around her.”
As if to bring closure to the argument, Edie upped the ante, dropping the f-bomb upon seeing me when I walked in the door from work.
Me: “How’s my little girl?”
Edie: “F**k… f**k… f**k.”
Far from a squeal of “Daddy” as she ran towards me for a cuddle, my outstretched arms were instead met with a smiling, blue-eyed bombardment of f-bombs, each ending in a sharp, emphatic ‘k’ that felt like a jab to my gut.
I was to blame after all. With slumped shoulders I sat down in a quiet place and thought about swearing and, in particular, the ‘f-‘word. I blamed society; the word has become so embedded in the Australian psyche that many of us – including me, obviously – say it without thinking. Heck (sorry, ‘f**k’), many of the nicknames we blokes bestow on each other contain the ‘f-’ or, worse, ‘c-‘bomb. Even our TV networks, historically filter-friendly, have become more liberal in allowing certain words to air (especially after 8.30pm, and keeping the camera focused on AFL players’ mouths for missed-goal reactions.
Then I got thinking about the filters we impose on ourselves. Was swearing a release for having to hold in our curses after spending most of our waking hours around soul-sapping bosses and dippy workmates? Why then, if my filter’s on while at work, or while visiting my grandparents, or while writing a column (note my use of asterisks), is it off when I’m around my little girl?
Inexperience, I decided, was the major factor, but no amount of earnest resolve could quell the feeling of helplessness as the days rolled by and that word didn’t go away.
My partner’s parents, visiting recently when Edie unleashed one of her more savage Big Lebowski-esque routines, told us to ignore her; they said she’ll eventually forget the word. Oh, and to watch our swearing.
Funny, how certain situations as a first-time parent has led me to back to my own childhood. My dad is a straight-down-the-line, beer-drinking country fisherman who swears like a trooper with his mates, and yet, as kids, he’d order my sisters and I to bed if the video we’d hired had too many expletives. It only took two or three bad words and we’d be on way (we lasted around two minutes after sitting down to Platoon). Now I understand his motives.
Since then I’ve uttered more f-bombs than I’ll ever have dollars in my bank account, and it’s done me no good. Strange, really, how something that serves no purpose can be one of the staples of a whole cross-section of vocabularies.
So, I’ve decided to cease using the f-bomb. Even if I’m working alone at home and my computer has frozen, or if I’m in the car – especially if I’m in the car – I’m going to try my darnedest to not use it.
Sure, I’ll have to change the way I converse with mates (particularly after a few drinks), and hum along to sections of some tunes (and stop recounting film dialogue, period), but the preservation of my little girl’s childhood is worth it. She’ll be bombarded soon enough.
Daniel Lewis is a Melbourne-based writer, media monitor and dad. He contributes regularly to a variety of publications including the Sunday Age.
How do you handle swearing around kids?