I will be the first to admit that I curse like a sailor. Sometimes because I’m pissed off, sometimes for emphasis and sometimes just because. And my husband thinks it’s hot, FYI. Fucking sue me.
Actually, most of my family has major potty mouth. We are a mishmash of loud mouth South Floridians/New Yorkers and it’s just the way it is. But somehow, we have all managed to pull it together, turn into nuns around my child, and keep that explicit language away from her, and she has the mouth of a saint. It’s really a miracle that she wasn’t born sounding like a mini Andrew Dice Clay.
So you can imagine my surprise as we headed to Disney World, the happiest place on earth, and as I was getting visibly frustrated with the stupid navigation, I hear a little voice from the backseat say, with pigtails and perfect annunciation – “Fuck!”
At first I pretended not to hear it and calmly said “What did you just say?”
She looked like I just told her Mickey Mouse died and I could tell she was scared to engage in this line of questioning. She turned mute and deflected all of my questions with sheepish looks and welled-up eyes, only giving me a thumbs-up when I asked if she said a bad word. I told her she cannot say bad words and I didn’t want to hear it ever again.
Meanwhile, in the front seat, with my mother sitting next to me, it was taking everything in me/us not to laugh out loud. Because you know what? It was funny and caught me off guard. I’m human and while I’m sure there are some mothers who are getting riled up just reading this, I’m not sorry. It’s the same kind of inappropriate laughter you may have when someone takes a really bad spill.
I was doing the silent laugh thing where you turn purple and tears pour out of your eyes and you snort, while you try and get your shit together. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was also stunned that she used it in the perfect setting and context. Had she NOT been in the car, it would have been exactly what I said to the annoying bitch who constantly screws up my voice-activated navigation efforts.
Seven years of a pure-as-the-driven-snow vernacular destroyed in 2 seconds, and she didn’t hear it from us, so what happened?
After a few hours, when we were alone and my mom was in the hotel room, my little angel asked me what “it” meant. How the fuck do you really explain “fuck” to a 7-year-old? I took a breath, looked at her and told her that it’s what lots of people use instead of saying something like, “oh no!” or “oh shoot!” when they get super frustrated or angry. No need to delve into the “other” meanings right now. I asked her where she learned it and she said, a friend at school. (I’d also like to say that I’d much rather be the one whose kid is on the learning end than the one getting the phone calls for being on the teaching end.)
The way I saw it, I had two choices here. I could shame her for saying it. Make her feel really sorry and scared and never say it again. Or, I could engage in open dialogue to put an end to it. While I do not condone my child cursing, I’m not the “wash your mouth with soap” kind of mom. I’ve never used words like “hoo ha” and “pee pee” to describe body parts. I’m a straight shooter so I decided to stay true to that. I told her that she was probably going to hear A LOT of other words and weird things at school and that I always wanted her to feel comfortable asking me what they mean or if they are okay to say. That’s when she said, “You mean, like the word ‘Fuck’”.
Yes, just like that word I said, and you will never get in trouble if you are asking me about a word like that. I realized I needed to be more clear though because she “mouthed” it once more, as if the lack of audible noise made it okay. And I could tell she wasn’t trying to necessarily push boundaries. The kid was curious.
Curiosity is fine, I told her, but you will be in big trouble if I hear you using it after I’ve explained that it’s wrong. Capiche?
It wasn’t uttered again and we went on to enjoy our weekend. But I kept replaying it in my head. Did I answer correctly? Did I get the point across? And for the love of god, if she already knows the F word, where do we go from here? It’s like she skipped the remedial cursing. What happened to “shit”?
I know this isn’t the last of the cursing convos but I’m pretty proud of how I handled it. As a parent – strict or laid back – I don’t know if you can ever prepare yourself for that first dirty word leaving their innocent little lips. I feel like it’s a weird rite of passage and can only imagine the words currently swirling around 1st grade recess. I supposed I should feel thankful it took this long!