We have had a very lazy weekend; pottering in the garden, cleaning the cars (Hubby), doing the laundry (me), the kids have been out on their bikes with some of the neighbourhood children. Archie has played football with our neighbour Harry (and destroyed all of Harry’s dad’s beautiful border flowers), Mabel has fallen over a lot and has grazed knees and a bump on her head and Martha has had a successful riding lesson.
On our return home from said riding lesson, Hubby followed me into the kitchen. “It’s nice that someone has written ‘COME’ on our driveway” he said with one eyebrow raised. Ha! How I howled with laughter – despite checking that it was indeed the innocent 4-letter spelling and not the 3-letter slang word, and despite it being done by Archie for no reason other than to invite his friends round to call for him – my God I laughed! Its unintentional rudeness made me properly belly laugh. A lot.
We have had a day of teetering on the edge of naughty words. Hubby was annoying me earlier, teasing me about something or other, something so innocuous I can’t even remember what. “Prick!” I muttered to him under my breath. He laughed (he sometimes finds me funny) and then asked Archie if he’d heard the naughty word Mummy had just said. Archie’s face was a picture, slightly embarrassed but also flushed with intrigue and of wanting to be part of the joke, of wanting to know more.
It reminded me of a couple of years ago when our son came home from school one day and whilst having his bedtime story told Daddy that he knew what the “f” word was. “Oh?” said Hubby. Trying not to sound too concerned. “Tell me what you think it is, but you mustn’t tell Mummy,” he said. “She’d be upset.”
“Okay,” said Archie. “Is it…..ummmmm….is it……errrrrr…….flippin’?”
“YES IT IS YOUNG MAN, AND I DON’T EVER WANT TO HEAR IT COME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH AGAIN,” responded Hubby assertively and authoritatively. That man is (sometimes) a genius.
I don’t have a problem with swearing when it is appropriate. I think sometimes there are times when only a “f**k!!!” will do. But, I want my kids to respect language and learn to use it properly, resorting to slang at an early age because you cannot think of another word to describe your emotion or to explain your frustration is, in my opinion the lazy option. Anybody can swear, but not everyone can use the English language properly. Being able to do both effectively and accurately is a skill I hope my children will acquire as they grow up. Treating both with the respect they deserve.
I remember telling my brother to “piss off” at the top of my lungs when he was winding me up once as a teenager. We rarely heard my dad cross as kids, he was always kind and helpful, the Joker and the Educator. But, this one particular day he was standing at the bottom of the stairs and he heard me and I have never felt such fear ripple through me as when I heard him say, “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” I can’t remember even answering, I think I just ran to my room and stayed there for most of the day. Humiliated by being caught out. Embarrassed at being so naughty!
Mum was a little more forgiving, when it came to bad language. As a teen, I do remember my mum would let slip the odd “bloody hell” which she would quickly follow up with, “pardon my French!” I thought it was marvellous. I thought she was marvellous and probably like Archie this afternoon, I was delighted to be thought of as old enough, or responsible enough, or wise enough to be in on the joke.
When we were young adults, Mum would always enjoy big family occasions – sometimes that would be a dinner at home or sometimes we’d all be out for dinner for a special occasion. She was such a great host and loved it, loved being surrounded by her whole family. She would drink wine and talk and laugh so loud the waiters would have to apologise to the other diners. She’d lose some of her inhibitions and talk about sex (which would make my dad squirm and he’d order her a coffee or pour her some more water), using naughty words, just because she could. She was bloody good fun. My God, I miss her.
I remember being on the phone to Dad last summer and swearing down the phone. I remember thinking, mid-swear that it was quite possibly upsetting him, my naughty language, my disregard for using the English language properly to describe my exasperation, my fear and my anger at what was happening with Mum. “It’s just bloody shit, Dad,” I remember saying. “It’s just so bloody crap and shit. It’s a whole new world of shit and it’s not bloody fair!”
The teenager still hidden deep inside me, blanched at my own words, cowered down slightly at the crassness of me, of the cheek of using such words with my father. I think I even physically hunched over slightly, surprised at my own boldness and waited expectantly for his response.
“Yes it is,” was all he said.
And it still is.