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Mommy, the Potty Mouth

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True Confession: I swear in front of my kids.

Mom yelling infront of kids

Beth Falkenstein: True story: My father, who was a lawyer, used to tell us about the time he went to battle with our school district because they had suspended a boy for wearing a T-shirt to school with a swear word on it. He called it his "F**k Trial."

So it should come as no surprise that as a parent, I'm pretty laid-back about the use of "bad" words. (And as a writer, I don't believe in the existence of "bad" words.) Yet despite that upbringing, I did not grow up swearing like a sailor. Some words just didn't feel right coming out of my mouth. However, I did become comfortable with a few that I found personally very useful: "a**hole" was really the best word to describe someone driving like a maniac down the street; "s**t" was particularly cathartic when a carefully-laid-out plan goes awry; and "f**k"? Well, it's a multipurpose expletive in my book. There is a certain joke about a polar bear that just isn't funny without it.

But I nevertheless understood that there were rules. There are certain times when certain words are flat-out inappropriate. (That's why "flipping" and "freaking" were invented.) Consequently, I was careful with my speech when my children were young and still in the language-acquisition phase of their development. I knew they didn't understand that there is a difference between, for example, "Daddy's peeing" and "Daddy's pissing." So I made sure that Daddy always peed. And I never said my Big Three around them.

Eventually my kids got older and I suspected they had heard all these words at their school (mostly because I had heard them at their school). I allowed my self-censorship to relax and committed some lesser violations, like "crap" and "damn it." Finally, in a pique of utter frustration, I let the F-bomb slip. There was a moment of charged, amused silence between my kids. I apologized, but they quickly assured me there was no need. "Daddy says that all the time when we're in his car."

I knew a bridge had been crossed ... and burned. I became much freer with my language around them. That's when I knew it was time to teach them "the rules." I told them exactly what I believe: that I think there is no such thing as a bad word.

"But," I added, "some a**holes wouldn't agree, so you have to be careful."

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
dannihanlo July 24, 2009, 7:01 AM

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Steph July 24, 2009, 1:25 PM

I love this! I feel the same way! And I have 3 children, 12, 6, and 2 and not one of them uses curse words, even accidenlty. Although my 13 year old and I are fond of WTF, short for what the f*ck.

Rebecca July 24, 2009, 10:01 PM

LOVE THIS! I’m sure there’s many more moms that are “closet” swearers. I do in front of my daughter all the time, and she knows the difference…

cyndi July 25, 2009, 12:40 PM

I think that people who use foul words just don’t have an adequate vocabulary and are therefore dumber and less educated. If a swear word is really all you can come up with, then you aren’t very smart…

judgejudy July 25, 2009, 5:40 PM

Like she said, some a**holes wouldn’t agree.

maeby July 27, 2009, 6:46 PM

meh, they’re just words.
apparently cyndi never gets really upset or frustrated. i think she also poops flowers.

Candie May 21, 2011, 5:23 AM

Good to see a tealnt at work. I can’t match that.

Brandi May 22, 2011, 11:51 AM

Posts like this bigrhetn up my day. Thanks for taking the time.

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