My prodigious use of profanity is one of my many shortcomings as a human being and as a mother.
No matter how many times I’ve pledged to stop swearing, especially in front of my daughters, I have always failed. (Honestly, I am only partly to blame as it would be much easier to quit cussing if area traffic, cable news, Windows updates, and people, in general, were not so fucking annoying.)
When my daughter was about three-years-old, after hearing me honk my horn at the unwitting fool who made the huge mistake of getting in front of my car while driving around my insanely congested suburb, she muttered, “asshole” under her breath. She had no idea what she was saying, or why she said it. Her reaction was purely Pavlovian, an instinct over which she had no control: Hear horn. Say asshole.
Over the years, I have tried to explain to my daughters that those are “mommy words,” just like the liquid in the special glass with the long stem is “mommy juice.” Now that they are teenagers and listen to Drake and use Twitter and communicate with teenage boys, I no longer worry about my use of foul language. And although they have grown up with a mother who can occasionally unleash a profane tirade reminiscent of a character from “Goodfellas,” they are well-adjusted children (for the most part) and my oldest will be heading off to a good college in the fall. No harm done.
Which, of course, leads me to the outrage du jour from the Puritanical Prudes on both the Left and the Right about “oh-my-heavens-what-will-we-tell-the-children?” regarding the president’s alleged use of the word “shithole.” (Jeremy Carl has a solid explainer here.)
I will not add to the overwrought debate about whether this comment was racist, or why it made Anderson Cooper cry, or where would you rather live in Haiti or Norway because this has all been exhausted over the weekend. (There is now a dispute between senators who attended the meeting about whether Trump used the word at all.) Regardless, I just want to say this to the parents who are clutching their pearls and covering their children’s ears because a grown man—yes, the president—used a swear word in a private meeting to discuss a highly contentious political issue: Grow the fuck up.
I mean, seriously? I could go in a few different directions here, such as asking those who claim that word is offensive if they’ve ever used it to describe an inner-city neighborhood (I have) or a downtrodden white town in central Illinois (I have), or Costco on a Saturday morning (I have), or my daughter’s bathroom (I have), but let’s stay focused on the idea that this word is so heinous that family newspapers struggled with how to print it, and parents rushed to turn off the television to prevent their precious children from hearing it.
On Monday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the “public discourse is pretty low” and that “it’s pretty embarrassing when you have to take your children out of the room to report the news.” (In April, Graham told Chuck Todd during a “Meet the Press” interview that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was basically saying “F you” to President Trump. Todd said Graham’s reference to the F-word was “a first for ‘Meet the Press’” and that it had raised some eyebrows in the studio. I sure hope no one’s children were listening.)
The Resurgent contributor Erick Erickson was really on his soapbox over the weekend, posting several woeful tweets about how sad he was over the president’s potty mouth:
We live in a world where we shouldn’t directly quote the President of the United States in front of our kids.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) January 11, 2018
(I am not sure whether to be angry or amused that people like him seem to believe that previous presidents have never used naughty words in a private discussion in the White House. Does Erickson think Obama and Biden used G-rated language in their weekly meetings? How do you think they described the towns where Tea Party activists or working-class Trump voters live?)
That wasn’t all. Erickson agonized that the younger generation thinks swearing and talking about sex in front of kids is OK, even bewailing with Kurt Eichenwald (yes, that Kurt Eichenwald, the Vanity Fair writer who was busted for looking up porn on his computer last year) how the degradation of political discourse is hurting our children:
Noticing a trend of childless millennials in the media who think it is totally cool to cuss in front of kids and talk in front of them about sex, etc. It’s like they’re kids themselves.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) January 12, 2018
CNN contributor and NeverTrumper Amanda Carpenter also scolded the president because she was unable to watch the news with her child:
Sorry, Mr. President. I can’t watch the news tonight. Not even on mute with captions. My daughter now is old enough to read four letter words you use.
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) January 12, 2018
(Psssst, Amanda, the president didn’t say those words on the news. He didn’t tweet it. He said it in private. The news is reporting it on a 24-hour loop. See how that works?)
Amy Siskind, head of something called The New Agenda and an LGBT activist, thinks the president should have to go in time-out for teaching our children a bad word:
Thing is, if a middle school student said “shithole” in class, he or she would face consequences – and yet, yet again, Donald Trump faces none. Think of the lessons he is teaching our children in bullying, bigotry, lying and hate. Will take decades to repair.
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) January 12, 2018
Nancy French, wife of National Review contributor David French and mother of a daughter adopted from Africa, tweeted this:
I was fixing Naomi’s hair when @DavidAFrench was on a radio interview this morning… and I had to protect her ears from hearing that the President of her new nation believes she is unwanted because she’s from a ‘sh-thole country.’ https://t.co/a6geLdQeLQ
— Nancy French (@NancyAFrench) January 12, 2018
I have tremendous respect for the Frenches for adopting an orphan from another country. We did, too. But there is no evidence that Trump said anything about children adopted from oppressive, destitute countries in Africa being “unwanted.” (I have explained to our daughter many times why she’s lucky to be here instead of living in her birth country. That’s partly why we adopted her—to give her a better life in the United States.) Nancy French’s tweet is in no way a fair assessment of Trump’s alleged remarks.
Now, keep in mind, many of these news outlets have used the word “pussy” as a term of solidarity and resistance over the past 12 months. Some of the same women who are so outraged about “shithole” dragged their children to a march nearly one year ago while wearing a hat in the shape of a vagina on their head. I also noticed some of the “what about the children?” virtue signalers happily retweeted the article about Trump’s settlement with a porn star. Selective Moral Indignation is the new Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Back to swearing. We live in a crass culture, whether we like it or not. I respect the efforts of parents who are trying to shield their children from it, but it will only be a temporary respite. I would argue that it could backfire; children who live in a bubble have a hard time adjusting to reality when it smacks them in the face. Plus, teaching your kids swear words could make them smarter, according to a University of Rochester study. (I feel much better now.)
So, save the earmuffs, moms and dads. If you are the parent of young children, protecting your little ones from hearing a foul language used in private by the president will be among your easiest tasks. And save your outrage for stuff that really matters—like corruption at the FBI or appeasing mullahs. Those are far bigger threats to your child’s well-being than are a couple of swear words.