Childrearing

Modern Family Spotlights Shame Of Your Kid’s Potty Mouth

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On next week’s Modern Family, toddler Lily is going to drop an f-bomb, to the utter horror of her parents. The character is two-and-a-half-years old. The episode’s title? “Little Bo Bleep.” This will be the first time a scripted family TV show has had a child utter the profanity that rhymes with puck. (Don’t worry, it won’t be audible to the viewer.) As the owner of a horrible potty mouth, I could not relate to this more.

The fact is, actually, that I have dropped my cussing dramatically since the birth of my first child. And yet … it was just a couple of years ago that my parents were watching my children when my then two-and-a-half-year old said “sh*t.” The worst thing? She used it correctly. Like, she broke something and dropped the s-bomb. My mother is a public school teacher who has literally never cussed. My dad is a pastor. When my mom politely told me the news, I just immediately responded by apologizing. There was no use pretending that she had picked it up from anyone but me. Everyone knows I have problems cussing.

Still, it was an important moment that led to further efforts to stop my sailor-level vocabulary. But apparently it’s not enough. During last week’s Broncos game, I think I lost years off my life as I cheered. Every time something bad happened — a Steelers touchdown or a Broncos fumble — I modified cuss words. Or, well, I cussed in foreign languages. Scheisse! My husband told me to watch it around the kids. I hate it when he’s right.

Another friend told me about how her kids were playing with friends in the neighborhood while parents sat outside and chatted. The kids were on bikes and one kid cut another kid off at the end of the cul-de-sac. “Get out of the way, ASSH*LE!” one little boy exclaimed, not even particularly upset. The father of that child, blushing, told the boy to watch his language and then said something about how he’d have to talk to him later. But everyone laughed nervously because they knew the kid had picked it up from his parents.

And this is the shame of the child’s potty mouth. It’s almost always a complete reflection of our lack of control as parents, our inability to speak kindly to our neighbors and fellow citizens or, worse, the members of our own family. We like to pretend, particularly among our peers, that we’re great examples to our kids. When our children reveal that we’re not, it’s embarrassing. But it’s also chastening and a great reminder of why children are such a blessing. They frequently help us become better people.