Watch Your Mouth Around My Kid

I have a terrible potty mouth. Just filthy.

I’m an educated, intelligent, professional woman with an extensive lexicon. I’m able to expound prolifically using a plethora of words and phrases. And, sometimes, there is no more appropriate a word to use than a well-placed f-bomb.

My family jokingly took bets as to what my son’s first curse word would be based on my most common obscenities. (As a side note, it was my husband who accidentally taught my son his first curse word.)

I should probably explain that I’m not exactly proud of my dirty mouth. But, I’m not embarrassed by it, either. There are worse things that could come out of my mouth.

And, often, there are worse things said in the presence of my son.

I imagine you asking, “what’s worse than an f-bomb in the presence of a two year old?”

I’m glad you asked. Here are just a few “toddler friendly” examples:

“Boys don’t wear make up.”

“Don’t cry. You’re just being silly.”

“Wouldn’t you rather play with a truck than that doll?”

“You can’t wear pink.”

Here’s the deal. Saying “poop” when I drop something or “fudge” when I suddenly realize I’m late for a meeting I forgot about might offend some people because those kinds of words have been deemed inappropriate. But, no one is going to get hurt. On the other hand, telling my son that he should ignore his feelings or avoid otherwise harmless activities could hurt him.To his core.

My kid loves the color pink. And you’ve just told him that he can’t wear his favorite color. What does he internalize? That something is wrong with his favorite color. That something is wrong him for liking that color.

He’s two and a half. So, I’m sure he’s not able to work through those thoughts and feelings the way that I have. Am I blowing things out of proportion? My example might be a bit extreme. Like I said, these are toddler friendly examples.

But, as he gets older, the words will get bigger. More specific. More pointedly designed to control him. So, when it comes down to the underlying issue, my concerns cannot be overstated.

Unkind words. Belittling words. Shaming words. Bullying words.

Not in my gol dang house and not in front of my flipping kid.

We’ve all heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And, I think we all know that those words are cow doo doo. Words have the power to change what we think and how we feel about ourselves. With the prevalence of self harm and suicide among teens and young people, we are inundated with stories about how words can not only hurt, but can kill.  It isn’t necessary for us to be hateful in what we say. We don’t always have to explicitly tell our children that they are stupid or messed up or worthless or bad. We send that message through thoughtless words. Through indirect messages. Like “boys don’t wear make up.”

Right now, my son is little. On one hand, so many things sail right over his head, beyond his understanding. And, on the other, he knows so much more than we give him credit for. He might not realize that when he is told “crying is silly,” he’s being told that his emotions are inconvenient or annoying and that he shouldn’t express them or even feel them. In fact, he’s probably going to keep on crying regardless. But, the more frequently he hears those messages. The more people who send those messages. The more important the person relaying that message. And those messages will start to stick.

My biggest fear as his parent is not that I’ll drop a “mother trucker” in front of him when we’re already late to daycare and I realize I’m out of gas. My fear is that I’ll say something that sends him the message that something is wrong with him.

I do watch my language around him. I choose my language carefully to explain things to him. I choose encouraging words with the hope that he’ll feel encouraged and that he’ll choose encouraging words, too.  My hope is that he’ll know that he is loved unconditionally, and will feel comfortable being himself, rather than feeling he needs to “pass” some senseless rules that the adults in his life have imposed upon him with their bullying words.

My kid says “poop” when he drops a toy.

My kid lovingly feeds and clothes his baby dolls.

My kid is listening when you talk to him.

So, you better watch your darn mouth.

Britt is a former nomad, who happily put down roots in the Kansas City suburbs to start her own family close to her parents and siblings. After three professional degrees and a brief stint as an elementary teacher with Teach for America, Britt now spends 40 hours a week working in the legal world. In what little free time she has left over, she pretends to do yoga, installs toilets, cans vegetables, quilts, entertains family and friends, and seeks adventure around KC and beyond with her two favorite boys. Though she and her husband, David, are new to parenting their 8 month old son, Benja, they already agree that they love him more than coffee. They just not-so-secretly hope that no one ever makes them choose between the two.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I’m much more comfortable with obscene language than gender policing. Yes. We have a family policy of not using words around toddlers that they’ll get in trouble for using- because they literally have no ability to filter in any situation.

    But once they have some filter? The rule is, if you don’t know when it’s appropriate to use the words, you’re not old enough to use them.

  2. One of the most devastating things that was said to me as a young tween and teen was said constantly by my stepfather. “You are a liar!” He said it again and again. It sometimes included words like compulsive and habitual. Well…I wasn’t a liar but after being accused so many times and finding that the truth caused me so much trouble, I would find myself caught in impossible situations where the only option was to lie. I also learned to hate the man responsible for the emotional abuse. That is what words can become…emotional abuse.

  3. When my daughter was too, and it was near Christmas time, every single person would say to her “have you been good?She always looked so confused because we never conflated gifts with “being good” or even the concept that there was such a thing as being bad. Of course there’s doing things that other people fund annoying, but that doesn’t make you bad.

  4. This is a great post. I’m gay and grew up in Kansas City. Once while over at a friend’s house, I got shamed by his mother for not acting masculine enough. She said, “Glad you’re not my kid.” I didn’t have the words to describe how I felt–just a pit of shame in my stomach.
    Growing up gay in the 70s and 80s was not easy. I am so glad that things are changing and there are parents like you. Thanks again.

  5. Man, it bums me out that you have police yourself about curse words to post this. I’m sad that people are more “offended” because of a “bad” word over hurtful actions. A word has the same meaning, doesn’t matter if you say fuck or frack. But you don’t need to curse to put down another human, yet why don’t we show the same offense? Such a double standard. I’d be proud of my kid, even if it cursed, as long as it wasn’t a put down to another human.

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