"If you use words like that in front of your kids now, you can bet they'll grow up to talk just like that," the mom at the dinner party said.
I was 29-years old — a grown-ass woman. And here, this fellow mom was acting like my mother, scolding me in front of my kid, like I was a kid.
Feeling threatened I snapped back, "What word? You mean ASSSSSSSHOOOOLLLLE?" Before she could answer me back, I said to her, "I'm not really worried about it. Swearing is not something I care about."
With that, I got up from my chair and took my two-year-old daughter home.
This woman was swear-shaming me. She was policing my language to make herself feel better and me self-conscious. She was making it seem like all of my hard work as a mom could be erased by the simple fact that I said "asshole" in front of my kid — as if all my motherhood merits should be stripped away.
It's my choice to swear in front of my kids.
While curse words have been considered taboo for centuries, they don't actually cause physical harm to anyone. Using profanities in front of children is a completely benign thing to do.
I mean, c'mon — give me a little credit. Clearly I have somewhat of a filter. It's not like her kids or any other children were present when I said "asshole." We were surrounded by adults that, quite frankly, should be able to handle profanity.
Let me clarify one point here before we move on. I do not think it's remotely appropriate to verbally abuse children using expletives. It's not OK to verbally abuse, period. Verbal abuse can, of course, be done without profanities. But if you're a parent who calls their kid an asshole or a bitch, then you are an asshole and causing them harm. It's completely unacceptable to call your kid profane names to their face or within earshot.
However, if I call my kid a bitch or an asshole while out having cocktails with my girlfriends, that's not hurting anyone. It's a form of self-therapy, and there's nothing a few well-placed "fucks" can't cure.
I'm not "low-class" or "uneducated" because I speak and write using profanities. I read books bigger than your head. I analyze poems for fun. I can break out the Queen's English at the drop of hat, dahling. Fancy that.
Me calling someone a "dickhead" doesn't diminish my college degree in English. Using expletives doesn't erase my semesters in linguistic class. (A class in which we studied profanity!)
It's not like my kids are swearing. I'm not raising young wildlings that walk around the house saying fuck, shit, asshole, etc. My kids have self-awareness. They pick up on social and cultural cues. They understand when it is and when it is not appropriate to exhibit certain behaviors, including cursing.
I don't forbid my kids from swearing or scold them for slips. I suggest they refrain from swearing at school because they will most likely be punished by their teacher if they do so. And I advise them not to swear to their friends because their parents will have heart attacks. Truthfully, we hardly ever have to broach the subject. It's just understood. No big stink is made.
I'm teaching my kids that it's OK to speak passionately and colorfully about a topic. Certainly, swearing isn't the only way to convey the magnitude of one's passion, but sometimes cursing really is the most effective way to express one's feelings adequately. You try screaming "Fig!" when stubbing your toe. Or "Shoot!" after slamming your finger in a car door. Not gonna happen.
How could I ever express my feelings about coffee without expletives? Do I immensely love coffee? No, I fucking love coffee. Do I love my kids? No, I fucking love those cute little motherfuckers.
There are thousands of dialects, accents and languages all over the world. Swearing and slang are part of my voice. And my voice is no less valid or right or proper than anyone else's voice. When a person denounces my dialect, treats it as less-than and shames me for it, they are essentially suggesting my way of speaking shouldn't exist. They are saying my voice shouldn't be represented.
I don't have any less creativity, professionalism or merit than a non-swearer. I'm a writer by trade, which is about as linguistically endowed as one can get. There certainly isn't a lack of vocabulary in my house. I'm extremely self-aware and socially adept when it comes to figuring out when and when not to use swear words. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that dropping the f-bomb during a job interview is probably a bad idea or to know that swearing at the grocery store in front of other families will probably not be received well.
I don't need a non-swearer's stamp of approval in order to have professional acclaim and personal success. And I definitely don't need my kids growing up in an environment where they see people, especially women (men are hardly ever shamed for swearing — or anything else) being shamed for using language that is authentic to them.
If I swear in front of you at a party, I don't need a lecture on what is and what is not proper language for a "lady" — or for a mother — just like you don't need a dissertation from me on why your lack of grammatical proficiency is painful to witness. (Just joking — I don't care about grammar either.) I'm hardly a language elitist. But that's what you are if you demand that others speak the same way as you.
I'm not a bad mom because I curse in front of my kids. My kids are loved, educated and cared for. And so far, I've raised some kick-ass human beings.