Can I Start Saying ‘Crap’?

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“Mom?” Sophie looked up from her iPad game and glanced over at me with her big brown eyes and a sheepish grin on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked, girding myself for a request I would not want or be able to fulfill.

“Can I start using the word crap?” she asked, sheepish grin still glued on her face.

Before opening my mouth, I did a quick calculation. If I accede to her request, how long before she graduates to obscene vulgarities once this first domino falls? I ruminated for about two seconds.

“OK. But only at home,” I responded, happy to oblige under certain conditions. She caught me on a good day.

Sophie rolled her eyes. “Obviously. Only at home. I promise.” She returned to her game, reassured that she had received the official ok to yell crap! the next time something annoyed her.

Sophie Point Pleasant

What are the odds of raising a kid who actually seeks her parents’ permission to curse (or, in Sophie’s case, use a mildly inappropriate word)? Let’s face it, Sophie’s a child who still worships her stuffed animals and sleeps with her now-ancient burp cloths. I suppose having free reign to say crap makes her feel like a grown-up. If that’s all it takes to make her happy, I’m in.

Perhaps Sophie was emboldened to ask permission by Chloe, who now curses, with perfect enunciation, openly and energetically in front of us. We’re beyond the point of berating her for it. How could we? It would be the height of hypocrisy if we did. The girls have grown up with two parents who swear with abandon – in two languages. To the point where the words no longer have any meaning or impact.

Sophie Point Pleasant 2

Until Sophie’s request, I hadn’t really thought of cursing in front of one’s parents as a rite of passage.  Yet receiving the green light to use expletives does mark a certain point of no return when it comes to freedom of self-expression, doesn’t it?

Sophie asked to add crap to her lexicon four days ago. “Have you used it yet?” I asked her.

“No. Not yet.”

“So, you’re keeping it in your back pocket for when you really need it?” I asked.

“I guess so.”

“It feels good to know you have official permission to use it, doesn’t it?”

And with another sheepish grin, she looked at me and nodded her head.


Do you allow your kids to curse in front of you? How old were they when they started?


14 thoughts on “Can I Start Saying ‘Crap’?”

  1. Hi, Jennifer.

    I found your post via the Women Writers Facebook group. I’m only 23, so don’t yet have children, but I love this post for a couple of reasons. The fact that Sophie respects you enough to ask whether she can use the word before she does is a sure sign of brilliant parenting.

    The fact that you respect her enough to allow her to make that decision when she can and can’t use it is fantastic, too.

    Thank you for sharing this post,


  2. My 9yo used the word @-hole – on Skype – with my MIL – the other day. I Didn’t Know whether to be proud she had used it in context or be mortified she had used it at all! We ended up laughing about it and confirming it wasn’t age-appropriate just yet 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Vanessa. Great anecdote – I love the “used it in context” part. That is very important, after all! I think a-hole isn’t too far down the pike for us, although I’d like to delay it at least until she’s in middle school.

  3. Neither my husband nor myself really curses in the children’s hearing, and my 9,7,and 5 year olds still refer to STUPID as “the s- word,” and yet I know this is all on the verge of changing. My eldest reads at a middle to high school level, and us familiar with plenty of curse words and ADR concepts from them – she just hasn’t realized yet that she could be a person who says them. I am savor ing the remaining days until she does. Arguing with her younger siblings about why she gets a later bedtime is draining enough – arguing about new vocabulary is going to be hard work!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Katey. My oldest (now 14) was an advanced reader, too – and I can only imagine some of the words she discovered when she was 9! I’m glad your 9yo hasn’t yet made the connection between the vocabulary she’s reading in the books and her own ability to use that vocabulary. Good luck to you as you navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence.

  4. Ah, the power of curse words–the forbidden fruit! Unfortunately, my language has become a little too relaxed around the kids lately; mainly as a result of stress and frustration. But the sh*t hit the proverbial fan last week when I heard my (barely) 11 year-old daughter yell something that ended with either a**hole or godd*mn. The fact that I don’t remember which one also speaks volumes. Anyway, since cursing as harmless as “hell” had already been nixed, I had to sit down and explain that I shouldn’t be using these words either and I apologized. Let’s hope that did the trick… Not my best parenting moment!

    1. Oh, Rachel, I can so relate. That happens to me on an almost-daily basis. I have so worn out my filter that my 9yo doesn’t even bother asking for more quarters when I use an expletive. At this point I probably owe her about $100. Good luck to you as you attempt to rein it in – I’ve tried so many times, but I’ve decided that you truly can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

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