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Have you hit that point yet? That point where your beautiful babe has taken in a breath of air and then exhaled with a slow and deliberate “Fuck”?  I just got there.

It happened last week. My son, Henry, has been a little slow to talk (he just turned two-and-a-half) and he didn’t seem so concerned with our “bad words” — and I’d be lying if I said that we’ve held anything back. I mean, I use the “C word” on a regular basis so it could have been worse. But yeah, he said “fuck.”

Is it weird that I didn’t really care? Those bad words, they’re so fun to say.

I have a vivid memory of the first time I consciously swore. It was the first day of grade four, the day that I moved from the little kids school to the big kids school. I was catching up with last year’s friends over a game of soccer and I just let out “bastard!” as though it was my destiny. It felt great!

Every family has their stories, their favourite anecdotes about the big milestones. My mother’s absolute favourite is the time we went to see a matinee of The Fox and the Hound with my then best friend Crystal. I don’t want to ruin it for you (the fox dies) but something pretty awful happens at the end of the second act (the fox dies!). Anyway, Crystal got very scared and kind of leapt through the air towards my mum. Her ass managed to make contact with my mother’s thigh right before I screamed at the very top of my lungs, “Fuck you, Crystal! That’s my seat!” I was three.

Our friend Danielle, one of the first of our circle to have a baby, has always insisted that we not censor our language around her child. Every time I’ve ever apologized for the incessant stream of filth that keeps racing out from my lips she just waves it off.  I haven’t seen her in over a year, not since she moved to New York, but her kid still seems really sweet in pictures.

Recently, on the subway, I watched as a dad held his two young daughters close to his chest as he rode with them during rush hour. One foot away from his two-year-old’s face a twenty-something dude expressed himself with abandon. Whatcha gonna do? The fact of the matter is that we live in cities where our bodies often press against those of strangers, where it is not uncommon to witness all sorts of public acts from sandwich eating to defecation.

Some are appropriate and some are not. Expecting our kids to make it through a childhood of city life without ever hearing or repeating a swear is like promising them that they’ll never see a handlebar moustache or a homeless person.

A friend of mine had a great idea when dealing with her own toddler and “bad words.”  She told him that potty mouth was for the potty. When he’s in the bathroom he’s allowed to say whatever he wants. The rest of the time those are “grown-up words” that he can look forward to using once he’s older. I can live with that.

Carla Mundwiler is a restaurant industry lifer and an occasional artist who lives in Toronto. She grew up in Winnipeg.

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