Constance Hall, an Australian mom blogger, has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of likes (over 28,000) for a viral post she wrote about cursing in front of her kids. If you read the entire post, it’s actually less about cursing than about teaching your kids to be respectful and kind to each other, and, hey, who doesn’t agree with that? But some of the conversations her post has generated seem to play into the idea that to be a really cool mom, you have to pepper your everyday speech with every version of the F word you can think of.
Then I guess I’m the least cool mom on the planet.
Oh sure, I’ve let out the occasional, “Oh, sh##” when I’ve stubbed my toe tripping over a wayward backpack (to much gasping and giggling from my kids), but I have never intentionally used a curse word in front of them. I believe words are incredibly powerful and uniquely hurtful, and I believe it’s a very slippery slope between using the F word as an adjective (“I’m so f***ing mad about that mess you made the kitchen”) to using it as a weapon (“F**k you!”).
One non-negotiable rule we have in our home is that everyone must speak respectfully to each other. The result is, my kids may bicker (put two adolescent girls into one bedroom and see the sparks fly), but I have never heard them call each other anything worse than “butthead,” a term of endearment they picked up from binge-watching The Wonder Years. Do I think my kids never hear a curse word or use one when they’re at school or with friends? Of course not. They live in the real world. But I do think they are far less likely to use those words, since they do not slip out naturally or easily.
Now, I have plenty of good friends who have very different feelings about what kind language is appropriate to use in front of their kids at home, and as long as they don’t curse at my kid, I try not to judge. Each family is different.
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But what does drive me absolutely stark-raving bonkers is the people (most of whom, I would guess, are not parents) who curse loudly and epically in public places, with absolutely no volume control or awareness that other people can hear them, particularly small kids with big ears. I’m talking about packs of guys in suits, young women grabbing a coffee, college students. When my children were toddlers, I would find myself staring down strangers almost every day who apparently could not tell their friend about the party they went to last night without employing an endless barrage of obscenities—all while sitting across from us on the bus, walking down the street just inches from my child’s head, or browsing the Greenmarket next to a gaggle of school kids on a field trip. I can’t really tell if they think they exist in a plastic bubble where no one else can hear them, or they believe the world is their audience, and we have all paid for an R-rated show. But am I crazy in thinking that a civilized human could hold off on releasing an ear-splitting “F***!” until he’s out of the obvious earshot of a toddler?
Maybe people spoke like this in public all along, and I only noticed it when I had children, but it really does seem to have gotten worse in the last decade. Maybe the very act of shouting into a cell phone while walking to work has turned what used to be private conversations into public domain. I don’t know the answer. But I do have a plea: Curse all you want at home, in front of your TV, at a party or bar with an entirely adult crowd, but when there’s a child around who can hear you, and that child is not yours, keep it PG.
The uncool parents of the world will thank you.