Top News

HEATHER HUYBREGTS: When your child learns the ‘F’ word

My baby knows the “F” word.
My baby knows the “F” word. - 123RF Stock Photo

Warning: Insinuated curse words used liberally herein.

The other day, my six-year-old proclaimed, “I know the 'F' word." 

It was just as I was dropping him off for his first day of camp, which left me with no time to question him. Apparently, his little buddy taught him the word on the school bus. 

We had been through a similar situation a few months ago with the “S” word (he took a deep, trepidatious breath before leaning in and whispering “stupid”). So, this was probably another one of those situations, I thought. My money was on “fart.” I hugged him and told him, “we can chat more about it later.” 

He ran to join his friends then stopped, turned and called out, “Mommy!" He hesitated. "I know it in the word AND in the finger.” 

Jesus in the garden. My baby knows the “F” word. 

Later that evening, at the supper table, I sensed the re-emergence of the subject before he even spoke. Quietly staring into his plate, he asked, “Do you want me to tell you the word now?” 

My husband’s knee-jerk “yes” trumped my panicked “no” and, before I could protest, my sweet child leaned in and whispered the word. THE word. Directly into my brain. I desperately summoned a poker face.

Do I say the “F” word? Eff yes. At least eight to 67 times per day. 

My instinct was to tell him how evil the word is; how, if anyone hears you say it, you will likely be expelled from school and, inevitably, thrown in prison with a face tattoo. But, just as I opened my mouth, my words were stifled by the realization of my own hypocrisy. 

Do I say the “F” word? Eff yes. At least eight to 67 times per day. 

In front of my children? Never. But otherwise, plenty. 

The alarm clock goes off and it feels like you’ve been sleeping for three minutes? Effing eff!

It’s a hot, sunny Friday and you’re offered a cold, adult-beverage? Eff yeah! 

Your email password is suddenly not working? What the eff?

Thoughts on the Game of Thrones finale? What the ACTUAL eff?

Someone is being mind-numbingly rude to you? Tell him right where to go AND suggest what he can do to himself upon arrival (just in your head, though). All thanks to the versatility of the “F'” word.  

For centuries, it's been there for us. Our ancestors likely exclaimed it in pleasure, growled it in anger and wailed it in sorrow. 

It's even available in universal sign-language that every human (aged six and older, apparently) understands.

But there's a stigma still, even for some of the most laid-back amongst us. A friend of mine (mom) once read one of my particularly "eff"-heavy blog posts and asked, rhetorically, "What would Ellen do?" Ah yes. The beloved Ms. Degeneres, queen of daytime television, praised to near-sainthood by North American masses. And don't get me wrong: I love me some Ellen. And my mother was right: as a writer who strives to highlight the funny (albeit difficult, exhausting and unpredictable) parts of life, I do drop the occasional “F” word into my work. But I don't swear gratuitously - just for the sake of swearing. I strive to use it strategically - sometimes ironically - to better drive home a point. 

Ellen doesn't say the "F" word on daytime television because it's daytime television. But, riddle-me-tickled if I didn't watch her Netflix special, Relatable, a few days later and get my validation (ego pacification). After about 45 minutes of clean-but-edgy comedy, she dropped it: one, sweet, solitary “F” bomb, right when the audience least expected it (she was discussing socks). Boom. The place went up. If used thoughtfully, the "F" word can be brilliant.

For centuries, it's been there for us. Our ancestors likely exclaimed it in pleasure, growled it in anger and wailed it in sorrow. 

But hearing my six-year-old say it still made me feel like a slug in a salt shower. 

It's an important word, regardless of how it makes us feel. And its users must be keen enough to discern where it is welcome and where it is not.  

Back to the supper table: I steered clear of my original reactive pathway which delved into the textural details of prison meals ("if you think MY cooking is bad…") and the possibility of solitary confinement, and opted, instead, for honesty.

I told him that I say it. Sometimes. Many grown-ups say it. But only when they're alone, or with people they trust. I would never use it in public. Never at school, or a library, or in a store, or on public transit, or with a child, or with a stranger… But I say it. With my husband. With my closest friends/family members. Because sometimes, despite my penchant for words, it's the only thing that works. 

I told him that, even though it doesn't seem fair, I would be very upset if he said it while he was still a little boy. He shook his head, baffled; he thought it was absurd that I would even suggest he would do otherwise. 

He’s way more mature than me. 

And to his equally lovely bus companion: thank you for adding to my son’s ever-evolving vocabulary. All the same, much obliged if your future bus rides are less educational. Cheers!

Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger, wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook, N.L. Her column appears biweekly.


Recent Stories