When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately started to watch my words. Not swearing around children seems to be a widespread social agreement, so my first instinct was to repress any bad words. I even looked for a chart to help me with that. On a normal day, I don’t really say that many curse words, but sometimes it is the best avenue to express a feeling or an idea. Excitement, frustration, joy, grief, or even love. Think about it. Cursing can be a tool, and like any tool, it needs to be practiced to be well applied.
Today, what keeps me up at night is not that my son will say a bad word in an inappropriate circumstance. I worry he will be racist. I worry he will be sexist. I worry he will be homophobic. Now that he is born, I don’t worry when people say a “bad word,” but I am mortified at any racist/sexist/homophobic joke or comment.
I find myself reading and thinking about philosophy and sociology a lot. If I am going to be careful with the example I can be for him, then surely omitting curse words is the least of my worries. If a baby is still full potential, why perpetuate social pacts mindlessly? Is it really our one dream to live in a world without curse words?
Of course, it is impossible to shield a child from hearing anything we believe is bad. I want my son to feel like he can ask if he doesn’t understand the meaning of a word or expression, not to repeat it because it was repressed and that feeling of it being prohibited made it funny or compelling. I rather spend my energy asking people to not treat others disrespectfully than asking them to use “shucks” when they spill coffee all over their work (or whatever situation calls for a well-applied curse word).