No f#cking way are my kids allowed to swear

Last week, I met Jane Kennedy who, aside from writing the busiest cookbook in my kitchen, also wrote one of my favourite movies of all time: The Castle.

I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to watch it again, and to show it to my kids (12, 10 and 7) as an iconic piece of filmmaking and proof that a great story will smash a big special effects budget every time. I also thought they’d think it was hilarious.

So I popped out to Blockbuster and rented it. I was surprised to see it was rated ‘M’.

It’d been a while, but I’d seen The Castle many times and couldn’t for the life of me remember anything rude or confronting about it.

I asked my husband, ‘Can you think of a reason the kids shouldn’t watch The Castle? It’s M.’

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‘Nope,’ he said, and we settled onto the couch like the Kerrigans watching ‘The Best of Hey Hey.’ All was well.

Until lawyer Dennis Danuto’s photocopier jammed.

F#ckin’ hell. F#ck. F#ck. F#ck this fucking piece of sh#t.

Aha. That’s the M rating explained.

As things got worse for the Kerrigans, and Dale got his sweary-pants on too.

We kept the movie going though, and we all enjoyed every minute.

Our youngest will now say, ‘What do ya call this, darl?’ when I put dinner on the table.

Our son will say his footy medal is going, ‘straight to the pool room.’

It’s like they’ve learned a dialect their dad and I have known for 16 years.

But let’s talk about the swearing.

I try really, really hard not to swear in front of the kids. It’s an effort because with adults I swear quite a lot. If something slips out in front of them, I apologise.

Working out your swearing-line is tricky and I’m always interested in how other families handle it.

My friend Lou is the mother of four sons aged 11 to 19 and says she’s all right with her boys swearing as long at it’s not AT someone. For example at her place you can say, ‘I have to finish my fucking geography assignment’ but you’re not allowed to call your brother a fuckwit. Lou also counsels her sons not to get in the habit of swearing, ‘It’s too easy to slip up, and if you drop the ‘f’ bomb in front of the headmaster, or Nana, life won’t be worth living.’

I think that’s sage advice.

Personally (and perhaps hypocritically) I don’t like to hear kids swearing. To me swearing is like coffee and sex: an adult privilege.

I don’t like hearing strangers’ sweary shouting either. I’ve been known to ask people at the beach or in a café to tone it down if their conversation is loudly loaded with f#cks and worse (yes, I believe the ‘c’ word is worse. I never use it).

Like Lou, I’ll swear about things, with people who I know won’t be offended – people who share the same swear-line.

After The Castle credits rolled, I had a chat with the kids about swearing and why the way it was used in the movie didn’t bother me.

‘They were about to lose their home,’ I said, ‘That’s pretty bad.’

‘What about the photocopier?’ asked my daughter.

‘Well, he might have had a really bad day and the photocopier was just the last straw.’

That all made sense to them, I think, but the swear line is being pushed lower every year. In the thirties, there was no way a seven year old would have been permitted to see Gone With The Wind, because Clark Gable said he didn’t give a damn. Also no one would have wasted the price of a movie ticket on a seven year old, but that’s another post.

Setting their swear line is something every family needs to do. I’m going for a ‘selective swearing for adults is all right,’ rule. I think it should work.

You can tell me I’m dreaming.

What's the swearing rule in your house? 

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