friendship

"Swearing in front of the kids is not a crime."

So, honesty hour: I can be a bit sweary.

Not a lot these days. But a little bit. In my defence, I have three children under four, and sometimes this alone leaves me in a state where expletives just escape my mouth at random.

Not at them obviously, but perhaps under my breath occasionally. Or after they’ve gone to bed in a cathartic purge of the days repressed dose of “are you fucking kidding me????” Or when my neighbour inadvertently catches me swigging $5 cooking wine from the bottle (it’s not what it sounds like, it’s not…!!! I was trying to sterilise my mouth after accidentally eating some raw chicken. Ok that sounds like a lie. But it’s not! I am just that ridiculous).

Sometimes at my husband. Or when Justin Bieber comes on the radio. Once in front of my mother in law; that was as bad an idea as it sounds.

Since having children, however, I have made a concerted effort to swear a lot less. Post-children in our household, there is a lot less fucking (oh stop it!!) and a lot less shit (hang on a minute…) Something seems very wrong with that sentence… but I’m going to leave it with you.

Anyway, I’ve worked really hard on my Jimmy Giggle approved, G-rated vocabulary because I really would prefer that none of my kids be that one in the playground yelling that it’s his turn to go on the fucking swing.

I’m a writer. I love words, I love composing them, playing with them. Using them against my husband three months after he’s said them, etc. There are over one million words in the English language, and yes, sometimes one can (and does) come across as the lowest common denominator when choosing an obscenity as an adjective.

Sometimes it also happens to be the most appropriate word though. It’s a sentence enhancer. Like when someone thoughtfully gifts your one year old a giant two metre fucking stuffed giraffe that you can’t fucking put anywhere and you’re just so fucking thrilled about it.

So, I have two almost four year olds and a one year old, and despite my penchant for contextual profanities, none of these sweet babes has ever uttered a swear word. Or even knows they exist.

Although my littlest does say duck a lot.

Duh duh duck.

I could count on one hand the occasions that I have accidentally dropped a swear word in front of them, and frankly this in itself is a Christmas miracle. Apparently potty training has replaced my potty mouth.

One day though, I know my kids are quite probably going to use profanities. Inevitably they’re going to pick it up from some little asshole at school or some bigger asshole at home (*cough*me*cough*). And that day will suck.

There might be mention of the naughty list depending on the time of year and their age. The bloody elf might have to tell Santa if they’re really unlucky. There will probably a stern and lengthy lecture about choosing ones words wisely and horrifyingly, I may even turn into my own mother momentarily and suggest that only people with low IQ have to resort to swear words to get their point across.

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But whilst I don’t want my kids to swear and I’m obviously going to work hard to teach them not to, there are also words in the English language that I want to spend more time explaining to them, words that carry more meaning and deeper repercussions, on both others and on themselves, words that are bigger than the four letter ones.

There are words in our language that are expressedly used to belittle or to make someone feel bad about themselves.

Words that are cruel.

Words that discriminate or segregate, words that demean; words that are designed to hurt others.

Words that I want my children to be more careful with, if they are to choose them.

Words that when combined with other words might work to negatively describe others around them, or even themselves.

Words that denote an ignorance to the rights, beliefs, values and convictions of people they may not even know.

Words that might replay in someone’s head long after they’ve left another persons lips.

Words like hate.

Words like stupid and ugly and fat.

It’s words like these that, in my mind, need big conversations and big consequences.

Unfortunately one day my children probably will say the word shit. Hopefully in context. And I’ll undoubtedly be a bit pissed off when it happens. But what I’m more concerned with are the words they choose in their lifetime that make a mark on the world. On friends or on enemies alike; on strangers. Words that are longer lasting than the ones that teenage boys choose to carve into public toilet stalls.

I hope I can teach my children not to call someone ugly or stupid. I hope they wont use the word “gay” as an insult or with a negative connotation. I hope they never tell someone they hate them just because they don’t understand them, or tell someone to shut up when they’re talking about something they believe in. Yes, I want them to know that swear words are unsavoury but that words said with hate or ignorance or intolerance, they are the ugliest and dirtiest words of all.

These are the conversations about words that I really want to have with my kids.

And when the time comes, I swear I will.There are worse things a parent can do.

You can enjoy more of Olivia's work by visiting her blog and following her (very funny) Instagram account.

Are you a sweary mum?

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