I’ll never forget that day. Big Brother was about three years old, and I can’t remember exactly what we were doing, but we were sitting on the dining room floor, arguing about something — a toy, a snack, a TV show — it was so ordinary it doesn’t even matter anymore.
Then it happened.
My son, my sweet first-born, dropped the f-bomb.
Only, it came out something like this: “Fox!”
Despite his mispronunciation, it was pretty clear what he intended to say.
How did I raise a child like this?
I never set out to be The Swearing Mom. You know, the kind that takes pride in being so cool she dresses her baby in black. I was the Mommy who read Mother Goose and Momotaro and only let my kids watch cartoons on PBS. Until middle school, I was pretty sure muttering”Son of a Gun” was considered swearing. My parents, being non-native English speakers, never used foul language (at least I didn’t think they did– until I later learned the meanings of some of their choice Taiwanese phrases).
But who could blame the child? I’ve been known to blurt out the word in front of my kids — behind the wheel, in the kitchen, when a baby cried just as my head hit the pillow. I know. It’s not something I’m proud of.
Still, the sound of that little voice yelling a clearly adult word echoed in my memory. I blamed my own vocabulary on the fact that I spent my impressionable twenties in television newsrooms where the air was so thick with obscenities, no one noticed it anymore. But I couldn’t be The Mom With the Cussing Toddler. I had to change. Like the BYU graduates I worked with at the TV station in Idaho — the ones who uttered “Fudgesicle!” when a newsreel didn’t roll — I tried euphemisms. Or I literally bit my cheeks or gritted my teeth when I felt a swear word coming on. I wasn’t going to be that bad of a mom.
At the time, I explained to my son, “That is a really bad word. Adults say it sometimes when they’re mad, but it’s not for kids. At all.”
And he seemed to forget about it.
Until last week. Big Brother is now a nine-year old who’s almost as tall as me. It was just he and I in the car, driving home from somewhere, when he blurted out, “You know what day I’ll never forget from when I was a little kid? The day I learned the F-word!”
“Umm, why?” I asked.
“I remember some kid at preschool told me what it was, and that it was a bad word. So when I came home, I tried it out to see what you would say.”
WTF? Maybe I’m not that bad of a mother, after all.