Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Swearing in front of children is, by and large, frowned upon. Which is why I am so ashamed of my inability to keep my language from turning blue on an embarrassingly regular basis when there are small people in my vicinity.

One early warning sign that perhaps I should project a more clean living image was when my eldest son announced that he couldn't wait to be an adult because then he could "Drink, swear and gamble". How to make a maternal heart swell with pride. I should point out that this was declared after a trip to Las Vegas where he had been endlessly shooed off the gaming floor by zealous security guards keen to retain the casino's gambling and liquor licences.

But even so it is shaming that at his tender age he saw swearing as sign of maturity (let's not get into the drinking and gambling here). I had taught my little boy that swearing was both big and clever. This is surely not the job of a good mother? Then only problem is that I find it hard to work up much of a head of steam about the use of bad language.

Of course I don't like to hear it from the lips of little children, and have made this crystal clear to my boys. They know that swearing is for adults only. I accept this is a deeply hypocritical line to take, but I find it nigh on impossible to keep the odd naughty word from slipping out under duress, so what alternative to do I have? I do try self regulate, and make sure the really strong words are kept under lock and key, but I suspect that my children learned the word shit at about the same time as they picked up mummy and daddy.

Sadly the oldest's nosy eavesdropping means that now even the strong words are popping out of Pandora's box. During a recent stressful house move I felt moved to insult our potential buyers by declaring them them to be "a pair of C**TS" over the phone to my husband. Only to discover my eldest lurking outside the door, grinning gleefully that he had added another profanity to his growing lexicon of curses. Ooops indeed.

He did get the lecture that this is the nuclear weapon of expletives only to be unleashed in the most severe of circumstances by adults well over the age of 18. I think he understood, but such words are sprinkled with the glittering the allure of the illicit. I think using a hardcore swear word is the 2014 equivalent of taking a puff of a cigarette behind the bike sheds for my generation. Possibly naively  I don't think many modern kids would give this a try, but using a naughty word seems to hold the same fascination - or perhaps it's just my eldest who is drawn to the dark side.

In fact my middle boy is the polar opposite and is one step away from introducing a swear box to at least profit from his mum's bad language. Every time I employ the mildest oath he snaps "Mummy" at me in the disapproving tone of a prim maiden aunt. He takes a very dim view of rude words and is forever trying to wrench my language out of the gutter.

I fear that he is fighting a losing battle though. I am part of a hard swearing bloodline where the air in the family home was often turned blue with casual obscenities. My mum's favourite was the inventive phrase "Fxxxing Shaggers", which was employed at the drop of a hat, glass of milk, chest of drawers on her foot and so on. I then worked in magazine offices where every other word began with the letter F and as a freelance I am at liberty to swear at my screen as much as damn well like. I am a lost cause when it comes to dainty language.

I will just have to hope that my boys' teenage rebellion is to become as different from mummy as possible. A bit like Saffron in Ab Fab, they will decide that to be as square as possible is the best way to show their old mum the error of her ways.

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