Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Running Off At The Mouth

I have been known to curse. I have been known to curse a lot. But I curse only under very strictly controlled circumstances, which is to say, only in the company of close friends and/or in situations where the cursing will be received as the colourful flourish of language that it is meant to be and not taken in offense. This, I know, sort of defeats the purpose of cursing, but still. It's cursing.

I like cursing, when it is skilfully deployed. Cursing that issues from poor language skills and a want of vocabulary is not interesting to me. I like creative cursing, cursing that adds colour, cursing that makes a point. I like the cursing of dirty-minded old professors and grannies who like to shock. More than this, I like the cursing of pre-pubescent boys, of children who are just learning that there is a world of language beyond the polite language that is encouraged at home and in schoolrooms, a world of language that is dark and dirty and forbidden and thrilling beyond measure. I like the delicious thrill of using such forbidden words, of lacing a statement with unexpected threads, with vowels and consonants that - when put together just so - shock.

I could offer all variety of academic defense for this taste - the greatest comic poet in Western history, Aristophanes, was a master of the profane, of the extraordinarily profane; the second greatest comic poet, Shakespeare, was a skilled practitioner - but at the end of the day, it comes down to this, I think: that part of my soul which responds to comedy is inhabited almost entirely by the spirit of a twelve-year old boy, a youth who leaves his home each morning well-scrubbed and well-schooled in his manners but who spends his time between schoolroom and home scrambling up trees and tearing holes in the knees of his trousers and sharing dirty jokes and dirty stories and using filthy language with his friends before returning home to his parents in dire need of a hot bath and perhaps a soapy scrub-out of the mouth.

This boy is well-disciplined: he knows when to hold his tongue and he knows that the joy of cursing and the thrill of dirty stories are directly proportionate to the discipline with which language and comportment are otherwise held. That's what makes the cursing fun, what makes it exciting: the contrast between it and the larger share of his developing verbal skill. He plays word games with the words that are forbidden, in the recesses and lunch-breaks of his day-to-day discourse. He passes notes when he get away with it; dirty puns scratched out in crumpled paper and passed covertly to comrades-in-arms, ever careful to not let anyone see or hear who shouldn't see or hear. It's a secret language, a fun language, the language of play. He never swears in front of teachers or authority figures or anyone with delicate ears. And never, ever in front of small children.

Never, that is, unless he's caught in a maelstrom of hormones and loses hold of the discipline that otherwise serves him so well. The hormones catch him up and he loses control, gets caught. The hormones do it; hormones of the sort that plague pubescent children, and pregnant women.

I am ordinarily so well-disciplined when it comes to cursing that you could get me stone drunk and, if there were anyone at the table who I felt should not hear me curse, not a single profanity would issue from my lips. Not a single one. Now, the tiniest surge of hormones and the slightest provocation and I'm cursing like a trucker in front of my toddler:

Spoon hurled from toddler seat: SHIT.

Macaroni hurled from toddler seat: OH SHIT.

Banana hurled from toddler seat: GODDAMN IT.

Masticated bananas hurled from toddler mouth, after toddler gags self with spoon: F*CK (while running off to toilet to retch.)

My husband gets cross. You shouldn't swear in front of her, he says. She's listening to you.

I KNOW she's listening, goddamnit! I say. I KNOW I shouldn't swear. I KNOW. SORRY! GAWD! (stomp off to retch in toilet.)

I know she's listening, because she laughs. She knows good cursing when she hears it; she knows that Mommy's not supposed to be saying those things; she knows that this is all somehow forbidden in the very best, most delicious way. Sometimes, now, when I'm just at the end of my rope, she'll look me in the eye and hold her juice cup out in front of her and then - still looking me in the eye - tip it over, dumping the contents on the floor, and say OH SHIT.

Then she says, uh-oh, made MESS, paper towel peeeease. SOWWY! GAWD!

(Then, crouching on the floor with her paper towel, because, no, I am not above letting my daughter scrub the floor if she asks: cleeeeean up! cleeeeean up! in a cheery sing-song voice. It's a lot twisted, I know.)

I think that it's a sort of Pregnancy Tourette's Syndrome. It's not that I'm wandering around blurting random profanity; it's that I've lost all control of my emotions and and have completely lost place of my censor button. I never know when I'm going to burst into tears or giggle inappropriately, and I certainly don't know when I am going to respond to some real or imagined disaster of any real or imagined magnitude (toddler hurling banana, me spilling tea, Blogger losing my post, cat meowing too loudly) with a staccato round of curses: shitdamndamnshit!

I don't want to do this; I really don't. I want Wonderbaby's exposure to cursing to be limited, so that she can come to know it for what it is, a forbidden language, one that you only get to play with once you've grown up and proven yourself able in the practice of bidden language. I don't want her to understand curses as adjectives that serve any purpose, anywhere, anytime; I don't want her ears to become to dulled to their edge.

But at the moment, I don't know how to curb my profanity, how to stop running off at the mouth, how to get my emotions back in check, how to regain control.

Short of duct-taping my mouth shut - which would, I'm guessing, only aggravate the nausea and vomiting - what can I do? And, is it just me?

53 Comments:

Blogger verybadcat said...

Hell, no, it isn't! :) No advice, just sympathy. Said MF in front of my boss one day. Highlight of my career.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicken said...

There is nothing quite as satisfying as a well-placed profanity. My parents swore around me, and I knew what was naughty and what I wasn't allowed to say.

You know?

12:10 PM  
Blogger ALI said...

my son says f*ck, that used to be my favorite word, and i miss it...'nuff said

12:13 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Oh god no! I have tried to keep my cursing down since having the girls, but it is not always easy.

While driving one day we heard a little voice from the back say, "what the f*ck is that smell?" We both looked at each other...uh you mean what is that STINKY smell?

Of course we both blamed each other.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

You know she's young enough, that when your Pregnancy Tourette's Syndrome (snort) is over, you'll still have ample time to curb her saying those things. Toddlers love to curse, they love the reaction. But by three, she'll know the difference between curse words that adults can say and what they can't say.

I have a twelve year old boy in me too. In fact I found a website where you can hear the computer say cuss words, which is just too funny. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ if you're interested. :)

1:29 PM  
Blogger b*babbler said...

Since I'm currently in the process of coming to terms with the thought that the Peanut's first word is likely to be something profane, I'm probably not the person to ask... Sigh.

1:30 PM  
Blogger liv said...

"Cursing that issues from poor language skills and a want of vocabulary is not interesting to me."

Yes, when one has a vague idea that a person otherwise would have nothing to say, cursing is off putting. But when it's artfully delivered, oh, yes!

I knew I was bad when I was back tracking after being side swiped in traffic and my 3 year old son asked, "What's a DUCK?" to the tune of WTF!

1:50 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Don't ask me, I'm also pregnant and hormonal and have been swearing in front of my two year old too much. To the point that he now sprinkles his conversation with fuck at every opportunity.

But it's always in context, and used correctly. My baby's language skills are so advanced.

2:11 PM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

i found I had to come up with other things to say. My daughter now says "Holy Canolli" a lot, which gets some strange looks, but it's better than the alternative!

2:14 PM  
Blogger hello insomnia said...

I say, "Shut the front door!" But is there anything better than a good curse?

2:44 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I'm not sure about pregnancy tourette's.
But, my son does have some interesting work choices. Last week my husband told him to brush his teeth and he said "f*ck you, Daddy."
He also loves saying stuff and then asking "is that a bad word?"
What can you do?
Personally I just pray he doesn't use these words in front of my parents or (minister) uncle.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Lydia said...

HA HBM!
I am also finding the same thing.

I just don't react when the 3 year old apple of my eye curses. Like if he says "stupid f*ck" I remind him "we don't say stupid".

He says "I'm sorry, I won't say stupid". A Pyrric victory, but a victory nonetheless.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Amy Jo said...

I can't offer any advice on the cursing. I'm horrible about swearing in front of my kid.

What I can say is that WonderBaby is not alone in her love of cleaning. My 21 month old l-o-v-e-s to sweep and wipe up spills. Kids are weird, aren't they?

Feel better!

2:58 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

I still remember my mother, 8 months pregnant, driving in a snow storm with an 11-year-old me and my 12-year-old sister in the back seat of the car. As we rounded a corner, the car sputtered to a halt. She realized that the car was out of gas, despite my father's assurances before we left home without him that there was plenty of gas to get where we were going. All she said was "Fucka fucka fucka."

I have never heard her say the F-word since. There is something to those pregnancy hormones. God speed.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous pkzcass said...

My 8-year-old son thought cursing was fun till about the age of 5. Then he learned that there are things we don't say in public.

Now, he just curses with his expression. I can only imagine the expletives going through his brain when he gives me his "angry squirrel" look.

Don't fret. Wonderbaby will learn someday too, but only after she's cracked you and HBF up about a hundred times. Enjoy it while it lasts!

3:38 PM  
Blogger Noe said...

This is when being bilingual comes in VERY handy.
If you've read my blog you know I curse. I have a bad mouth also in real life, which sucks for the type of job I have.
I curse in Spanish when i'm around the kids. I don't even let them say stupid. But I do curse in Spanish.
I'm sorry... No good advice for you...
My parents never cursed in front of me. NEVER. I know more cursing words than I'd like to. :(

4:12 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

God. I love to curse. I LOVE IT.

I don't, however, do it in front of my kid.

Maybe it's very used to it from working with kids a lot or something.

I don't know how I control it.

BUT I usually do. Keyword -- usually.

4:19 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Lately, I've been finding this harder. I've been biting back swearing with a muffled collection of random syllables. mfmfblaggafluffermumble! It's pathetic, but I know that kid is a sponge and she WILL say it back to me!

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Assertagirl said...

Swear Jar?

6:50 PM  
Blogger Maman said...

Well here is the thing, I swear like a sailor... I was all alone during my girls toddlerhood and in fact during both of my pregnancies because Fun Daddy travelled... It is IMPOSSIBLE to travel Chicago traffic with two infants and NOT swear.

My older daughter has picked up the habit, but then she is almost 13... the 11 year old thinks the word "crap" is a swear word...

They will do what they want no matter what you say or do... Relax and feel better soon!

7:03 PM  
Anonymous sam said...

I swear like a sailor constantly. Utterly and completely swear. No holds bared. All the time. Even in front of Carter.

He's only said "crap" and "shut up" which I don't even consider swears, so I think we've done alright. So far.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Oh my goodness, you are not the only one. I have completely lost my censor button, its gone, vanished. Never thought to blame it on the pregnancy until I read this post though, you got me thinking and it did happen when I started to throw up!
My darling Jboo (2) now thinks that f**k and f**kin 'ell, are great fun, and those aren't the ones I use the most. They do however cause a sharp intake of breath or smirks and giggles depending on whose company we are in!

8:00 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

B sometimes works swear words into her songs. It's kinda cute, kinda scary. Whenever it happens, SB and I always look loving into each others eyes and simultaneously mouth "she got that from you" while pointing a finger with love.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Been there, done that. Spilled more profanity than should be legal.

9:37 PM  
Blogger LD said...

I'm so sorry that you're still sick-- but you're providing me with the best birth control...

9:38 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Kyle gets cross with me too for the same reason. As if he's so innocent. ;)

Interestingly, Tacy has never repeated the word f*ck. Somehow she knows that when I let that one fly, I've crossed a line - with her and with myself.

Most of the time, she breaks out the curses to make us laugh. Like writing them, over and over and over again, on the paper table covering at a restaurant.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Mac and Cheese said...

Around my daughter, I curse in German. A well placed "SHIZA!" can feel just as fulfilling as the real thing. Do you think I've found a loophole or am I screwed too?

10:35 PM  
Blogger flutter said...

rubber band snap? No? Fuck.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Hmmm, swear jar....

Bilingual swearing won't work, because WB knows almost as much Spanish as she does English. But perhaps I could work on my spoken German...

10:46 PM  
Blogger Lisa b said...

Sorry no ideas. I haven't been able to hold a thought in my head for at least a year now. Hence my swearing.
it sucks.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Lotus Siva Carroll said...

BWAHAHAHA!

Oh, and the 12-year old boy inside of me always giggles at any instance of "69." Heh.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Oh, it is not just you!

Just yesterday my toddler (two and a half-ish) says, "Mom, can I say goodness?" Yes. "Can I say god?" Uh, I suppose. "Can I say god gammit?" Uh, no.

I'm in serious need of some self-control myself.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

I am going to hell. The Mormon Elders were here tonight in the middle of the Red Sox game, and I let the f-bomb drop.

Seriously. I felt the floor open up, and Joseph Smith was pointing his finger at me saying "NO CELESTIAL HEAVEN FOR YOU!!!!!"

Hell, I say.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Mrs. Chicken's got it right. Kids have a keen understanding of what is naughty and what is not, demonstrating that you are human is fine. Besides, I think there is scientific proof that not cursing increases phsiological toxicity, which is bad thing during pregnancy...or at least that's the line I keep giving my trucker mouthed self.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Avalon said...

OK. HBM, could you please clarify something for me? Is there something wrong with incessant cursing? Is that what you're saying? Because if that's true, I'm pretty much going to become a mime. I'll be all out of words.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Cursing Mama said...

I have no advice; I have been teaching my children the English language one colorful word at a time for 15 years.

9:42 AM  
Blogger chicken said...

I plead guilty to letting my kids swear...only in front of me...I love it when the little one asks if he can swear...the proceeds to call his older brother a big fat asshole!! Then the big one says...yeah? well you are a son of a bitch...Wait a minute...that offends me...nah!
As long as the swears don't spill out into their everyday life, I feel like it is fine.
Go ahead...judge if you must!!

9:51 AM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

I can't blame pregnancy anymore, but chronic sleep-deprivation is a good excuse too. The other day I overheard the princess saying to her baby brother "Don't say f*ck Sam, f*ck is a bad word. Mummy said f*ck,f*ck,f*ck when you were bad, but she should no better." It's bad when you get etiquette lessons from your four year old. sigh.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Pregnancy Tourettes. LOL

Hey console yourself:

1. They will learn these things anyway; where better than at home from mom? This way you have Measures you can take.

2. We ALL do it. In some way.

I like creative cursing too.

Julie
Using My Words

10:13 AM  
Blogger Perky said...

CutiePie's favorite word right now is "bitch". He even uses it correctly in sentences, such as:

* "Who's that bitch?"
* "You know, you're a bitch!"
* "Mommy, why is it bad to say bitch?"
* (to his brother) "Now, don't say bitch. You'll get in trouble if you say bitch. Because bitch is a bad word. It's not nice to say bitch. Do you understand why you shouldn't say bitch? I'm not going to say bitch anymore. Because bitch is bad and I don't want to be bad" ..... rinse, lather, repeat!!!!!

1:32 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

i have the most rotten mouth in the world as did my mother. i have no cure.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definately not alone there. I like to blame my small town upbringing. heh. My sister and I both swear like truckers and there is usually nothing disciplined about it. Now that Mister Jakob is two and is parroting most of what we say, I'm finding it very difficult to remember to monitor myself.

I did have an interesting thought this morning after mulling over your post and your wondering what you could do....(what i could do) ...and i thought...hmmm, Mister Jakob's nu-nu (soother) does well to soothe the sometimes savage beast. Pop that sucker in his mouth and he's happy as a clam...calm, quite, relaxed....And what comic relief would that bring, knowing YOU would look somewhat foolish with a nu-nu in your mouth. But hey, if it can calm the jagged crying of the tiny beast, why not the Pregnancy Tourette's Syndrome??

Sharon

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Stacey said...

I leave my kids in the gym playarea when I work out. Yesterday when I pick them up my 3 year old drops a toy while running over to me and shouts "OH DAMNIT!". My 4 year old says. "Don't say damnit. Damnit is a bad word. You can't say fuck or bullshit either." The childcare ladies are absolutely aghast & looking at me at if I am the worst sort of mother ever. All I can say is "At least he knows he isn't supposed to say them."

4:10 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I curse in front of my son. But he's not allowed. He knows they aren't nice words and that he definitely shouldn't say them. He admonishes ME for saying them!

I was really lucky in that my son couldn't pronounce "f" as a little boy. Once while walking to the car after a very heated discussion with my hubby via cell phone, I hit my hip with the car door. "FUCKING CAR!" I said. The whole way home and for days after my not yet 3 year old son said, "BUCKIN CAH!" Brilliant. My hubby and parents didn't think it was nearly as entertaing as I did.

4:56 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

snort.

this summer littlegirl asked me, in front of uptight Nana why FUCK was such a bad word to say.

sigh. I will TRY and stop swearing in my comments to you. But you are so goddamn funny I cannot help myself.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

Not just you. I finally gave up and used random explosive syllables as substitute swear words. It works, even though it sounds stupid.

Once in a Hebrew Bible class, I heard my teacher use a racial slur to translate a Hebrew word. It was a real eureka moment for me, realizing the times (especially when translating) that curse words are necessary. I learned that foul words are right and proper for expressing foul ideas, and I still use them for that purpose.

And maybe for when I drop my keys.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Veronica, I had a series of similar eureka moments when studying ancient greek and Roman comedy using the ancient Greek and Latin texts alongside new translations. Filthy, filthy, filthy - and such delight in the filth. Language such as is suited for the sentiment.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

It's not just you. I think that being home with little ones (and paring down my intellectual life in the process) one often feels the need to verbally explode with words that create an immediate impact and are just as immediately understood. I'm so there with you.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Jozet said...

I don't curse or swear very often in real life. I am a Virgo through and through.

However, my blog is written by a 12 year old boy, and boy, is that ever f*ckin' fun!

BTW, Preganacy? All bets are off.

F*ckin' A!

11:13 AM  
Blogger kgirl said...

In real life, I curse like a sailor. At home, well, maybe a sailor on leave? I get into trouble because, while Bee may not echo everything I say, other children in my presence have been known to pick up a, er, colourful word or two.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Staci Schoff said...

Sometimes friends who don't have kids will get all disturbed and apologetic to me when they let off a round of swearing in front of my kids. And I always have to say, don't sweat it, they could probably teach YOU a phrase or two.

Not that I'm proud, but I can't just become a brand new person now that I have kids.

5:49 PM  
Blogger the mad momma said...

you know, i read another post somewhere on using bad language. will try and hunt up the link. i think we're a paranoid generation. always trying to do what is right. sometimes its okay to swear. and its okay to tell the kids that grown ups are allowed to swear but kids are not. its not hypocrisy. how do you explain driving, smoking and drinking to kids. dont we tell them they're simply not allowed? that they can do it when they are older but not now?!

i cant believe we're letting parenthood suck all the pleasure out of our lives GODDAMMIT!!! :)

stay well.

3:17 AM  
Anonymous Momish said...

I don't have pregnancy to blame. I curse like a sailor all the time in front of two year old.

I now tell her those are "at home" words whenever she repeats them. She's learning, little by little. Eventually, I am hoping I can take her out in public again.

4:35 PM  

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