The parents curse.

When you find out that you’re going to be a parent, visions of the mom or dad that you’re going to be form in your mind. All of the screwing around you’ve done up until that point in your life? It’s in the past. You’ll eat right. You’ll figure out your finances. You’ll learn about property values. You’ll draw up a will. You’ll curb your smoking, drinking, or whatever other vices don’t mesh well with providing the safest environment for your children.

You’ve been given the greatest gift that you could possibly imagine, so why wouldn’t you pledge to prove that you’re up to the task? Your child may be born on a day some nine months in the future, but you? You will be reborn.

Each parent has their own list of these self-upgrades. One of the things that was going to magically change for me as a father was that I would no longer curse. Somewhere along the line in my childhood, the precise moment lost in the haze of my prepubescence, I developed the mouth of a sailor. Why? I don’t remember. Maybe it was because I was a scrawny kid, and I thought swearing would make me appear tougher. Or maybe it was because cursing was so satisfying.

Even today, nothing indicates emphasis better than a well-placed swear word. And it’s no coincidence that the worst ones are the most fun to say. Those monosyllabic expletives with the delightfully hard consonants. They have an impact. They feel dangerous and edgy, especially when you’re angry.

Plus, they can be comedy gold. There’s a reason that many fledgling stand-ups or improv performers subscribe to the “F*** is Funny” school of comedy. Because it is. Funny. Lazy and with a limited shelf life, but funny.

But then the babies came, and I realized the obvious: they didn’t understand anything I was saying. Whether I was fouling the air with obscenities or reciting Shakespeare’s odes, it was all the same to them. This was a relief; during that first month, when you’re getting four hours of sleep a day split into multiple cat naps, nerves will fray and curses will come. Since then, I haven’t gone out of my way to swear, but I haven’t gone out of my way to rein it in, either.

But now Emme and Jack are starting the talking process. The babbling is becoming more frequent, and a few words are solidifying in their vocabularies. More importantly, they are starting to understand us when we tell them something. Phrases are gaining meaning. And are starting to be repeated.

My mother has frequently told me of the joy she felt when she returned from an errand one day to discover that my grandfather had taught me to say a word that rhymes with “wit.” She found it anything but witty, especially when I then shared it with all of our neighbors at the grocery store. This is the story that floats through my mind every time I’m colorfully telling Lara about some idiocy at work or when I have a particularly bad game of Ascension on my iPad. The moment it all comes out of my mouth, I quickly scan the room to see where the twins are and how well they’re tracking the conversation. More and more often, I’ll find them looking at me intently, as if trying to soak in every word, the coy smiles on their cherubic faces giving new meaning to “the sacred and the profane.”

stasia - April 24, 2012 - 10:30 am

I LOVE THIS POST!!! Well played, sir.

wendi - April 24, 2012 - 8:22 pm

Q*Bert! I hope you and Frogger are having a drink somewhere in arcade heaven…
the language issue is complicated, isn’t it? is it wrong for the babies to say Bad Words because Bad Words are wrong or because others will judge your parenting skills? if this is the worst vice you’re afraid of contaminating the babies with, then I think you’re doing pretty well. Jeezum Crow! as they say in Maine. (sorry, that’s a whole ‘nother category of offensiveness…)

Richard Ragsdale - April 24, 2012 - 8:47 pm

I sweat, V dropped an f-bomb the other day. Oy.

Janie Hightower - April 25, 2012 - 7:08 pm

This was a great post!! I certainly identified with it!