I’m not a perfect mom. I try hard, but there are times (days? weeks?) when I don’t get any part of motherhood right. I know how hard it is. And I’m the last person who would badmouth moms or add one more thing to their already too long to-do list.
There is one thing I really wish mommy bloggers would stop doing. Stop calling your kid an asshole.
Some people have always used profanity in their everyday conversation but still chose more careful language when at work or in situations that called for decorum. In civilized society, we’re taught to use our best words when we’re at school or work, when we’re talking to our boss (or anyone in a position of authority), the elderly, or society in general — we want to appear educated and well-mannered. Not anymore.
Civil discourse and respectful dialogue have gone out the window. We can guess at the cause — point fast fingers at social media and reality TV, or more seriously consider the rise of postmodernism and the decline of moral order. (It’s always easier to blame something else than to look in the mirror.) Regardless, the trend to be purposely offensive is no longer limited to anonymous keyboard warriors who post vulgar and profanity-laced comments online. Blogs, short takes, and even full-length articles in mainstream media have lowered the decorum bar: Cursing is cool. Hell, even respected news anchors and politicians fling the f-word at people (and Presidents!) they disagree with.
I don’t deny that genteel language sometimes fails. I’m a teacher, a writer, a lover of language — and I’ll admit that sometimes the best word is a cuss word. But, like any vocabulary, if we use profanity all the time, these once potent words lose their power. Then what?
Then you get the stuff we’re reading today: writers who are dull instead of cutting edge; writers who bore instead of provoke; writers who sound like everyone else riding the W.T.F. Express. Trying to shock and hoping to go viral, their words fall flat — we’ve heard it all before.
I remember a poster in my high school locker room, taped to the concrete block wall by coaches who made us run laps when we swore: Profanity is for those who lack the creativity and intelligence to otherwise express themselves. Maybe. More likely, Mark Twain had it right: “Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” These days, we’re surrounded by urgent and desperate circumstances, but we’ve already rubbed the lamp too many times. Commonplace and trite, cursing has lost its magic.
Unfortunately, society isn’t likely to have its collective mouth washed out with soap any time soon. Not when there’s a new article every week claiming that scientific research proves smart people swear more. But if moms are smart, we’d stop calling our children assholes.
That screaming two year old who throws himself down on the floor in the grocery store when you won’t let him eat a cookie is not an asshole. He’s a toddler. The little girl who scribbles all over your living room wall and then throws the markers at you when you mention timeout? Not an asshole.
Kids are wildly uncouth, but that doesn’t make them assholes. It makes them children. It’s our job as parents to teach our little ones how to behave, to treat others with kindness, to respect people — how to use their words instead of fists, to share their toys, to stop pushing Johnny down the stairs.
It’s human nature to be selfish and demanding and cranky. If all goes well, we learn to amend this nature as we grow up.
The term “asshole” is best suited for adults who still act like toddlers.
[This article first appeared on Blunt Moms and is reprinted with permission.]