What the F**k Did You Say?

With the new school year have come new changes. Story is embarrassed to be seen in a dress — “That’s not who I am, Mom.” She has stopped cuddling me (which I’m sure is going to be a future post; pity me, moms, I’m in a bad state). She rolls her eyes and shrugs when I ask how her day was. And she’s started cursing. She’s in second grade.

The curse words have popped up here and there over the past couple of weeks: “That kitten is so damn cute!” and “Oh hell no!” Each time, I snapped sharply, “Story Fae!” and she followed up with “So, so sorry, Mom. It just came out.” Well, I know how that is. Though I rarely use curse words, if the conversation involves politics or specific people, those words certainly escape me. And when I stub my toe, there’s always a “Shit!” that follows. I’m sure Story, being the eavesdropper she is, has heard a few choice words from me but certainly not in any way that would suggest everyday use is acceptable.

Photo by Ally Aubry

So when I heard her say, “What the fuck?!” while playing a video game, I knew I’d have to address this growing comfort with such language. I snapped at her as usual but then didn’t know what to follow up with. Story is the sort of child who demands an explanation for everything. Telling her to just stop cursing wouldn’t do any good. She requires a “why” before her behavior changes. And punishing her seemed wrong as well. Grounding her for using words, even curse words, to express herself seemed over the top. Plus, forbidding it would just make it cool and likely prompt its further use. So, what’s a mom to do? Tell her sisters and BFF, of course, and seek advice. After these conversations I had a game plan.

At dinner, I informed Story that we needed to talk. (She knows this means business.) I explained to her that her recent experiments with curse words must come to an end. When she asked, “Why? They’re just words. I’m not hurting anybody,” I was ready with an answer. I stated that using curse words was bad manners and as unacceptable as farting at the dinner table. This, she understood. This, she didn’t question.

She did question, however, why some words were curse words and others weren’t even though they meant the same thing. For instance, shit and crap mean the same thing, but it’s okay to use one and not the other. While I don’t really know the answer to this, I told her that society deemed certain words as unacceptable in polite society and that’s just the way it was. Surprisingly, this went over pretty well, and she didn’t question it further.

For added encouragement, I told her that kids who use curse words think they sound cool, but they are really just embarrassing themselves and that such outbursts are nothing more than lazy language. If she wanted to express herself, she could use her incredible vocabulary and be clever rather than crude.

So far, so good. She’s not cursed — within earshot anyway — since our talk. But, seriously, what the hell?! The kid is in second grade!