Parental advisory

Those of you who know me will probably know that I am prone to fairly regular outbursts of what is euphemistically known as ‘colourful language’. Actually ‘outbursts’ is probably the wrong word; it suggests my use of swearwords is sporadic or prompted by anger. It is neither. To me swearing is just another part of speech to be employed as easily and naturally as any other words.
I don’t swear because it’s cool (although it undeniably is) or to get attention. It’s just that there are times when “heavens to murgatroyd” just won’t cut it.
I do, however, believe in swearing responsibly. I am happy swearing in most company, but would not dream of it if I thought for one moment that whoever I was speaking to might be even remotely offended. I have always tried to avoid swearing in front of children too, although that is primarily motivated by a fear of their parents being offended.
It was the same before I had any kids of my own, although I often failed, finding myself unable to contain a stream of obscenities that I just could not keep in. It seemed that, maybe being over-conscious of not swearing, I thought about it more and this manifested itself as a bizarre form of child-provoked Tourette’s. As soon as I was in the company of anyone under the age of 10, a stream of unstoppable filth spewed involuntarily from my mouth.
That said, it is futile even trying to prevent children hearing bad words. A few years ago I was at a 5-year-old’s birthday party and happened to pop outside into the garden where the kids were playing without any adults. Away from disapproving ears, their language had become the sort of thing you might usually hear in a dockyard.
I doubt any parent is stupid enough to believe they are going to win the battle to protect their little darlings’ ears from profanities, but I try to respect their wishes nonetheless.
I wondered then whether my attitude might change when I had my own kids’ delicate sensibilities to worry about and whether bad language would be something that suddenly began to concern me.
To be honest, for the first three years of being a Dad, it wasn’t much of an issue. For pretty much all of Minnie’s and Baxter’s lives so far, I have had nine or so hours every day when I am away from them and in which I can treat myself to as many swears as I like.
But, these past two weeks, I am spending every waking hour with them and suddenly I am realising quite how often I do swear. The regularity has increased as there are hundreds of challenges, battles and defeats every day that deserve to be greeted with profanity. Whether I am trying to fathom how a buggy folds up, wiping Weetabix from the wall, or realising Baxter is helping himself to the cats’ bowl again, my day is filled with prompts that would usually have me reaching for the gutter for a response.
I do try to bite my lip, but I don’t always manage it. Here’s the thing though. Minnie has not started running around the nursery playground effing and jeffing to all and sundry as a result. She did once get me in trouble with her embarrassed mum after she spent a playdate loudly reciting Public Enemy lyrics, but so far she hasn’t copied my potty mouth.
I am trying not to swear in front of my children but that’s not because I don’t want them to swear; it’s because I know other people don’t want them to swear.
I also know the best way to stop them swearing is to not make a big deal, act shocked or draw any attention to it when I do let an expletive slip out.
Minnie will, at some point in her life, use “bad” language. So will Baxter. I’d be stupid to pretend otherwise.
Hopefully it won’t be for a few years yet. By then they will be old enough to show a bit more responsibility than their Dad and learn when they can – and most importantly can’t – get away with it.

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