‘I swear with my children. On purpose.’
Sam Wilson has a very unusual parental take on swearing. Is she nuts, or might she have a point?
“How was your day, Benj?” I’ll ask my seven-year-old after school.
“Fucking horrible,” he’ll say, rolling the word around in his mouth and throwing himself on my bed.
Then we’ll catch each other’s eye and giggle. And then we’ll unpack why his day sucked.
I have written before on this topic
, but according to Parent24 Editor Adele Hamilton it’s interesting enough to write on again. (I am pretty sure that “interesting” is a parenting euphemism for “Gaah!”.)
I suppose my family is fairly unusual in this regard. Oh, okay... very. But let me explain.I love to swear...
I have been foul-mouthed since my teen years, not because I have vocabulary constraints but because there is a juiciness to certain swear words, in certain contexts, that I just love.
I like lots of things about swearing. It’s taboo, yet if not directed at anyone else, harmless. There’s also a secret handshake component when swearing in front of a new acquaintance (‘you seem cool enough swear in front of’) that’s kind of interesting.
Mostly, though... it’s highly expressive. Nothing explodes naughtily into a sentence like a well placed fuck.... and I feel teaching disobedience is important.
My partner Andreas and I are pretty unhappy about the way society works. It’s so focused on behaving like everyone else, having the same selfish goals, comparing yourself to ridiculous media-manipulated images of what ‘success’ is... and that’s not what we want to teach my sons.
Mostly, our schooling, media and societal messages gear around consumer culture: ‘Keep quiet. Believe what we tell you. And buy things.” I hate that.
I want to be completely honest with my sons, and I don’t think enjoying swearing is a bad thing. I also want them to question what they are told is acceptable – why is it okay to smack a child, to physically humiliate a person smaller than you, in your care, than to say specific words? It baffles me, and I want them to know that’s how I feel.
By allowing them to swear, it allows them to question – for themselves – a taboo I think pointless. They have decided, in discussion with us, that it’s not a good idea to swear at school or in public, because they know that many people feel very differently to their parents on the foul-mouthed front. They feel comfortable swearing in front of family and close adult friends, but not school friends or teachers. Which makes sense, and may, or may not, change as they get older.
Whatever they decide to feel about swearing as they get older, I like the fact that this fairly simple-to-understand “naughtiness” gives them a chance to experiment with challenging societal norms. Because, looking around at the world, I really think we need to bring up braver, more adaptive children than the adults we have become.Is this really so out there? While I know many will be horrified by this, surely there’s someone out there for whom this strikes a chord?