Mom, When Can I Start Saying 'Crap'?

3 years ago
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"Mom?" said my 9-year-old Sophie, looking up from her iPad game and glancing 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?" Her sheepish grin was still glued to her face.

Image: Kid swearing photo via Shutterstock

Before opening my mouth, I did a quick calculation: If I accede to her request, how long before she graduates to obscene vulgarities once the 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 okay to yell crap! the next time something annoyed her.

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 her 14-year-old sister 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 -- and in two languages -- to the point where the words no longer have any real meaning or impact.

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.

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