Now that our daughter, V, is learning words at the rate she gobbles down french fries, my husband, M and I have to commit to watching our language. Neither of us abuses the English language to an extreme, but we have our moments, particularly in the car.
Two such moments brought this decision to the forefront. The first was when I accidentally dropped something and then I dropped the s-word. V promptly mimicked me very proudly saying “sit, sit” (her version). So yes, I was the first person to take her down the path of cheap, but oh so fun words to say.
The second incident occurred in the aforementioned car. When we became pregnant, my husband and I started joking that we would have to put headphones on our child in the backseat of the car. He is notorious for his “road rage” rants and many an unsuspecting person has witnessed the crass but effective stream that pours forth when another driver inevitably offends him. Sure enough, unable to turn left in a strip mall parking lot because of traffic, he lets out the mother of all bad words, the “f-bomb.” And it lands…repeatedly. Over and over, my innocent little 18 month old girl proudly pipes up from her car seat in the back, “f, f, f, f, f.”
Stifling waves of shocked laughter, we looked at each other, “that wasn’t good.” We agreed we had to return to watching our language. Watching our language proves more difficult than you’d think, even with the best intentions. When we knew we were going to have V, M and I started substituting words for well, the bad ones. “Piece of S” became “piece of rock.” “F-ing” became “sparkling.” “Son of a B” became “Son of a Biscuit.” These were some of our creative choices and we truly did make an effort…at first…after all, our child was in utero. If we believed reading to her in utero would make a difference, surely she could hear the staggering outbursts that accompanied our daily car rides.
9 months of pregnancy and 18 months of parenting later, we are still trying and still failing. Though we are aware of our foibles, it seems what has to change is our mentality. Sleep deprived and emotional are not a good combination when trying to break out of bad habits. The underlying motivations for swearing are what we have to examine in order to keep telling ourselves to chalk it up and try again.
In the meantime, I hope our child doesn’t one day show up in the principal’s office at age 5, with a shame-filled explanation to the administrators: “but Mommy and Daddy say it!?”
Maybe muzzles are a good option…