It’s about time I turn this blog back to another aspect of parenting that I’ve thought a lot about. And, as we’ve already seen in the past, it is quite possible that what I believe to be acceptable might inch me ever closer to the “bad” parent label in the eyes of some. So…what am I talking about?
Cursing. Cussing. Swearing. Profanities. Obscenities. Bad words. No-nos. It goes by different names depending on who you are, but you get the gist of it.
I’ll be upfront and say that, as a parent, I don’t tend to get upset when my kids say something R-rated. Sure, if they turn into George Carlin at the dinner table I’ll tell them that it’s time to dial it down, but only due to the assault on my ears and subsequent headache it gives me. I can tell when they’re cursing just for the hell heck of it and when that happens it just comes off as tacky. That’s what I really object to, I suppose. Language should be used with beauty at all times and sometimes the right F-bomb really gets the point across. But machine gun spraying the word around for no reason is disrespectful to verbiage itself. As if I’m one to talk (I can see my family rolling their eyes now)….but we won’t get into that.
I don’t mind them cursing (and for the sake of reminding everyone, my daughter is 14 and my son 21, we’re not talking toddlers here), because, for starters, they’re intelligent kids. I know this. It’s not like they can’t think of a better word or are only capable of lifting expressions from the last Seth Rogen film they saw. No, they have an amazing vocabulary and excellent communication skills — so if they use a curse word, I assume it’s because that’s the best way to represent the feelings they’re trying to express. Fair enough.
Secondly, they’re smart enough to know to calm their tongues way down when around positions of authority (oh wait, isn’t that what a parent is supposed to be…we’ll get back to that another day) and in inappropriate places. My daughter would never give an oral book report on Pride and Prejudice and litter the essay with profanities. Nor would my son ever make liberal use of the word shit in front of his grandparents. They both know where and when…and in front of me, it’s fine. Why?
That brings us to our third point and one that might be most up to debate. To me, curse words are just that…words. The only reason they have power is because people decided they mean something. But they don’t mean much to me. I refuse to recognize the profound implications of a one syllable word. I understand that not everyone shares these beliefs and I respect that. I certainly am not spilling offensive remarks all over town unaware of how others perceive the words.
Showing respect for the “audience” to whom one is speaking is paramount. I’m just saying that when hit with a cuss word, there really is no effect. I don’t vibrate with any profound emotion because again…it’s just a word.
Now, that being said, and being of the contradictory nature that I am, there are certain words that are indeed off-limits in my house, even with a free-wheeling parent such as myself. This isn’t so much because they are curse words as it is because they are derogatory and hateful words. Indeed, there are some non-curse words that are off-limits in my house for the same reason.
Let’s admit it, sometimes the right curse word in the right situation is the best. Quite often they are the most accurate way to convey a particular emotion (just ask Lewis Black); and why should we limit ourselves by not using what is at our disposal? The trick to all of it (of course there’s a trick, there’s always a trick) is to know, understand, and respect your audience. It’s important to have respect for oneself as well.
As I tell my kids, don’t come off looking stupid just because you think it’s cool to use a curse word when you know very well that a better, more appropriate, word would do — have more respect for yourself. Respect is a great deal more important than freedom of speech. At least in my house…which, contrary to outward appearances, has never been much of a democracy to begin with.