I always try not to swear around Tom. I would definitely never say the eff word in front of him. Mum works with young children and says there’s nothing worse than a small child coming out with an expletive they’ve obviously heard at home. I quite agree, but sometimes it is difficult to get through life without swearing. This was a particular problem when Tom was a baby. Getting out of the house having got yourself and a baby ready is quite a challenge. (Nowadays, Tom can dress himself and choose his own outfits, which is always fun, given the fact he thinks co-ordinating means dressing from head-to-toe in the same colour.) It’s even worse when you have public transport to catch. I was forever clattering down the staircase of our local train station, Tom screaming in his buggy, the changing bag flapping against my feet, saying a breathless “shit” for every one of the 31 steps.
Tom hadn’t been at his lovely private day nursery long when he picked up on it. I was strapping him into his buggy at hometime, when he chucked a toy on the floor and shouted “Oh dear!”
“He’s always doing that,” I said to the nursery boss, “Throwing things deliberately, pretending it’s an accident and saying ‘oh dear.'”
“It’s not just ‘oh dear’ he says though, is it?” said the Nursery Boss.
“Oh?” I was genuinely oblivious.
“Yes, we have noticed him saying s-h-i-t a few times.”
I was mortified, but made a conscious effort to stop and happily, seemed to nip it in the bud.
Fast forward two years, and I admit to getting a bit lackadaisical. I vaguely remember saying “shit” in front of Tom a few weeks ago and quickly telling him that it was a naughty word he must never, ever repeat and that I was extremely bad for saying it. Thankfully, he’s got a good memory and you only have to tell him something once. I do try not to swear unless there’s an absolute emergency, but I am only human.
I was talking to my neighbour last night when I slipped up and said ‘shit’.
“Mum!” said Tom, “That is a very naughty word.”
“Yes Tom, you’re absolutely right. It’s a really bad word and I shouldn’t ever ever say it.”
“Why can’t you use one of those other words you’ve got instead?”
“You know: fiddlesticks, crumbs, sugar butties.”
Ah yes. I didn’t realise he’d picked up on those.
“Or Mum, instead of that one you just said, how about ‘Shrek’? It still starts with’ sh’ but it isn’t a bad word.”
“Why did I swear again?” I asked my neighbour. “There was a very good reason, I know that.”
“You realised Bestival clashes with his first day at his new school.”
“Bollocks, yeah, that means I can’t go really can – ” Oops.
The Bestival business is not a real emergency. It’s a bit crumbs, but worse things happen at sea. I need to get better at this. If I do mess up though, I’ve always got my walking, talking swear word thesaurus to give me a good bollocking.