Thursday, 22 October 2009

Minding my language in front of the kids

It’s funny how having kids changes you in so many little ways. I used to swear like a trooper. Obviously, not in front of my mother or the parish priest, but at work and out with friends I effed and jeffed without a second thought.

Now I have my kids, not only have I metaphorically washed my mouth out with soap and water, but I expect the rest of the world to do the same. Suddenly I am horrified at people who use expletives in public. Yes, it’s true – I am turning into my mother. She has always said that bad language offended her ears, and I used to laugh. But now I know exactly what she means.

There are even some words that are not technically swear words, but which I discourage my children from saying. Words that are generally used as insults such as “idiot” and “stupid” are not allowed in our house, despite the fact that these type of words often crop up in films aimed at very young children (which really p*sses me off!).

Of course the problem is that in moments of pain or frustration, some kind of swear-like word still needs to be uttered. Recent research carried out by scientists at Keele University found a link between swearing and the an increased ability to tolerate pain. They had people stick their hands in buckets of iced water and discovered that the group who were encourage to use a swear word could keep their hands in the water longer than the group who used a neutral word. Must have been quite an entertaining spectacle for the scientists!

It is probably for this reason that I have invented a whole vocabulary of pseudo-swear words that I can use in front of my kids. I try not to “take the Lord’s name in vain” as my Mother calls it, but I do quite frequently shout, “cheese-us!” - which actually sounds so similar when spoken out loud I wonder why I bother! I also still rely on old favourites like ‘Fer-crying-out-loud’ and ‘shine a light!’ but find ‘sheesh’ or ‘sheesh kebab’ are also very satisfying.

Last weekend though, the moment I was dreading arrived. My 6 year old son, announced that he knew a naughty word that began with “sh!”
We all tried to ignore him but he repeated the fact over and over with increasing insistency.
“Shall I tell you what it is?” he asked.
“No thank you,” I said as firmly as I could muster. The table fell silent as he blurted out,
I can tell you it took a great deal of control on my part to prevent myself from falling about laughing and instead to say with a poker straight face,
“Now you know we don’t say stupid!”

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