Be warned. This post is all, in its entirety, about the word “f*ck.”
Or maybe mostly about f*ck, but when you read it, know that this could really be about your word. Could be sh*t, or goddamn it or muzzfuzzer. You know your word.
Because every parent has their “word.” It’s the one you often mutter when things go wrong, but it’s also one that gets shouted out the rolled-down car window from time to time. Or it’s yelled at the blackened pile that was supposed to be dinner that is now smoking in the oven as the fire alarm blares so loudly that the kids are covering their ears and calling you a terrible parent.
Your word is one you think makes you a terrible parent because you use it so often. It’s one of the worst parts of you and it’s one you feel bad about sharing with your kids. But your word is part of your DNA, just like your kids. Your word is their word, and they will learn it.
I’m not here to judge, because my word is “f*ck,” and my word is right near the top (but not at the top) of the list of words we think our kids should never learn — or at least never learn from us. It’s a word that hides in between my teeth most of the time, sometimes on the roof of my mouth or under my tongue. And it jumps out at very inopportune times. Like when I’m in the car with my family and someone doesn’t use their blinker to merge, or when the girls have fought for 37 minutes straight about whether the blue table in the kitchen is brown or red.
Or when my youngest daughter says “f*ck,” and so I say, “Oh, f*ck.”
We know our kids will learn these words at some point, and many of us consider learning them a natural stage of development. I remember sitting in class in elementary school (maybe French class) and looking up at the nicely displayed letters of the alphabet that adorned the walls all around the room. Beside “A” was a picture of an apple, beside “B,” some books. Beside “C” was a cat, and so on and so forth. Sitting at my desk, I made it my mission to think of a swear word for each and every one of those letters (often checking with peers for help, because who knows “X” swear words?). I didn’t do this because my parents sat me down with my swearing textbook once my math homework was incorrectly finished; I did it because I liked to push my imagination. Over time, I’ve forgotten many of the swears, but I still hold f*ck near and dear to me.
You see, that word and I have a long history that I wasn’t even aware of until my mother came clean on the way I was raised. Which, ironically (or naturally), seems similar to the way my kids are being raised. I was raised by someone who — allegedly — also had the word “f*ck” hanging out of her mouth. Maybe it was buried a little deeper; maybe it rested in her throat and didn’t make the journey out as often. But it was there. And, I’ve been told, it was used.
My mother told me: “When you were a baby you cried all the time, and I’d get so frustrated that sometimes when I was done with the gentle rocking and singing of Mother Goose songs I’d simply tell you to ‘shut the f*ck up.'”
Because, ladies and gentlemen, that is parenting. I’m not sure if that is my mother’s “word,” because she now hides it far better than she evidently used to, but I’ve read letters she had written as a new parent, and based on this circumstantial evidence, I’d say it’s her word, too. We’ve grown closer recently because of f*ck. It’s become an oft-repeated story and an oft-mentioned word when on the golf course. “F*ck” has strengthened our bond, as these words do. Because we give so much power to them.
Of course, “context” is what we all worry about. Example: “My kid knows the word ‘f*ck,’ but she thinks it means peeling potatoes for a long time and then cutting your finger when you’re almost done. So she doesn’t get it at all” — or so we convince ourselves, happy to go about our days knowing that when it’s mashed potato night, little Florence is going to think mom or dad is “f*ck”ing the potatoes again for supper. It’s all good then.