Monday, 1 February 2010
I am rather a prolific swearer.
It's my mothers fault. She's far worse than me - honestly, she could make a navvy balk with her foul mouth.
I first realised that perhaps this was going to be an issue in terms of my parenting when Middle Son, aged four, began to refer to our local garage as 'The bloody garage'. As in, 'Look mummy, there's the bloody garage' each and every time we drove past it on the way to the supermarket. At the time we had a car that was continually dying a death, and then being resurrected with the aid of enormous amounts of money, only to promptly die again. Hence we were spending an awful lot of time at the bloody garage (and probably single handedly subsidising it aswell). I hadn't even been aware that that was what I called it untill it came out of the mouth of my four year old babe.
I really do try not to swear in front of the children. But obviously not hard enough, as last night Eldest Son threatened me for the umpteenth time with a swear box. The idea apparently is that every time I say a 'naughty word', I have to put fifty pence in it. Then at the end he, I presume, gets to collect all the money.
I'm not agreeing to that. I'm not fucking stupid.
The thing is, if I'm honest, I like swearing. It's expressive. It's cathartic. I don't just swear willy nilly, I mean there are rules - well one actually, which is that I never swear at anyone - and it's always in an appropriate context, for example if I've dropped something on my foot. That was in fact two rules wasn't it... The point is that it's not, to my mind, excessive. The excessive curser is lacking in both imagination and finesse in my opinion - in fact my favourite line from anything ever was: 'See you, you need a fucking thesaurus' from the brilliant The Thick Of It. No, swearing only serves its purpose if used judiciously and with precision. Dare I say it, there's an art to it.
But I digress. In this post I am primarily concerned with discussing the issue of swearing in the presence of children, and finding out what other parents views are on the subject.
The other day you see, I was having coffee with some other mums (the conversation, aswell as the threat of the swear box, providing the prompt for this post) and one of them declared - rather sanctimoniously I thought - that she never swore in front of her children. Her body language was all wide eyed and shocked, as if indignant at the mere suggestion that she could ever do such a thing, and to be honest, although I was a bit taken aback by what I felt was her slightly pious attitude, I also felt suddenly self conscious. I mumbled something about how I never swore at my kids, whilst simultaneously praying that social services would take a liberal view if she pounced on the phone and called them in horror, the minute I left. Now, I happen to know that this woman smacks her kids, which is something I genuinely never do, as for me, hitting children, even if it is 'just a little tap on the bum' is unacceptable. That doesn't mean I judge anyone who has, on reaching the absolute end of their tether, smacked once or twice and then gone on to regret it terribly and vow never to do it again, (I think lots of us have been there). It means I believe it is wrong to use it deliberately as part of an ongoing strategy to control behaviour. I certainly believe smacking to be far more harmful to children than hearing their mother say the odd 'Oh fuck it' when she spills or breaks something.
I suppose that ultimately this woman and I simply come from two very different points of view, and although I do disagree strongly with any use of physical punishment, I have no desire to get into a competitive 'I'm a better mummy than you, nurny nurny nur nur' discussion. I accept that we are all doing our level best with a difficult job. But I have written this post with the specific intent of asking others for their opinions on the issue of swearing. How do you feel about swearing in front of your kids? Relatively harmless on occasion? Or setting a really bad example? Is it naive to think that it's really no big deal? Feel free to throw any and every shade of grey into the mix. Let me know what you think.