Two years ago, if you’d asked me whether I ever swore in front of my kid, I would have said no. I didn’t swear much at all – at least not out loud. I had nothing against profanity; it just didn’t feel genuine coming out of my mouth, so I mostly abstained.
Then I had a second child. And postpartum depression, which came with some pretty dark times. It turns out that during times of trial, my inner self swears like a long-haul trucker who’s just dropped a cement block on his toe. And sometimes, despite my desperate attempts to maintain control, that inner monologue came out into the world.
Up until Monkey was three or four months old, the only way I could get him to nap for more than 20 minutes at a time was to take him for a walk in the Ergo carrier. This period of time coincided with a particularly terrible two year-old phase for Bean. Leaving the house was necessary for my sanity, but getting Bean out the door was like pulling teeth. Without anesthetic. The battle would begin over getting dressed and continue through coming downstairs, coming to the door, sitting still to put shoes on, getting in the stroller, and every other tiny step that made it possible to leave home. During the typical hour of painful negotiation, Monkey’s wails would grow louder, Bean would grow more defiant, and my already-weak grasp on self-control would slip. On one occasion, I muttered under my breath (okay, probably more over breath than under), “Every fucking time.”
I knew that I should stop swearing in front of Bean; I knew that it would catch up with me someday and he would repeat what I’d said. Everyone would know he was copying me, because my husband never swears. Every time I let an f-bomb slip I would feel guilty and ashamed, and wait for the inevitable repetition from my toddler… and every time I dodged the bullet. He didn’t seem to notice.
Until that day. As we walked down our street with Bean finally in the stroller and Monkey snuggled happily against my chest, Bean sang loudly, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”
“What’s that, Bean? Duck, duck, duck?”
“Yeah, duck, duck, fuck.”
At that moment I vowed I would never swear in front of the kids again, and I’ve mostly been successful in keeping that vow. After our walk, Bean seemed to have forgotten about his new word. I listened for it for the next few days, and finally breathed a sigh of relief.
Later that week as I put Bean to bed and went through the usual dance of please-one-more-song-no-I’ve-sung-all-the-songs-what-about-rockabye-no-I’ve-sung-that-already-what-about-lullaby-no-it’s-time-to-go-to-sleep, Bean looked up at me, shook his head slightly, and said softly, “Every fucking time, Mummy. Every fucking time.”
Please, tell me I’m not alone – have your kids repeated anything you didn’t want them to hear? What did you do?