When I first heard my daughter Edie drop the f-bomb, she was only 20 months, and it came seemingly from nowhere: as crisp as an elocution lecturer; as chunky as if delivered from Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson’s bearded gob.
At first my partner Tash and I stifled laughter under covered mouths. To hear her chirpily navigate many words with difficulty but execute the dreaded f-bomb like some sort of angelic Chucky doll seemed hilariously funny.
But then she started using it in context.
After dropping one of her dolls: “F**k”.
Having fallen over: “F**k”.
While standing up in the driver’s seat of our car and mimicking me behind the wheel: “F**k.”
“It’s your fault,” Tash said.
I disagreed, suggesting she was around her mother more than her father. Tash stood her ground. “I don’t swear around her.”
As if to bring closure to the argument, Edie upped the ante, dropping the f-bomb upon seeing me when I walked in the door from work.
Me: “How’s my little girl?”
Edie: “F**k… f**k… f**k.”
F**k, indeed. Far from a squeal of “Daddy!” as she ran into my outstretched arms for a cuddle, I was instead met with a smiling, blue-eyed bombardment of f-bombs, each ending in a sharp, emphatic ‘k’ that felt like a jab to my gut.
With slumped shoulders I sat down and thought about swearing and, in particular, the ‘f-‘word. I blamed society; the word was so embedded in the Australian psyche that many of us – including me, obviously – say it without thinking. Heck (sorry, ‘f**k’), many of the nicknames we blokes bestow on each other contain the ‘f-‘ or, worse, ‘c-‘bomb. Even our TV networks, historically filter-friendly, have become more liberal in allowing certain words to air (especially after 8:30pm, and keeping the camera focused on AFL players’ mouths for missed-goal reactions.
I was met with a smiling, blue-eyed bombardment of f-bombs, each ending in a sharp, emphatic ‘k’ that felt like a jab to my gut.
Then I got thinking about the filters we impose on ourselves. Was swearing a release for having to hold in our curses after spending most of our waking hours around soul-sapping bosses and dippy workmates? Why then, if my filter’s on while at work, or while visiting my grandparents, is it off when I’m around my little girl?
Inexperience, I decided, was the major factor, but no amount of earnest resolve could quell the feeling of helplessness as the days rolled by and that word didn’t go away.
Tash’s parents, visiting when Edie unleashed one of her more savage Big Lebowski-esque routines, told us to ignore her; they said she’ll eventually forget the word.
Oh, and to watch our swearing.
Funny, how certain situations as a first-time parent has led me to back to my own childhood. My dad is a straight-down-the-line, beer-drinking country fisherman who swears like a trooper with his mates, and yet, as kids, he’d order my sisters and I to bed if the video we’d hired had too many expletives. It only took two or three bad words and we’d be on way (we lasted around two minutes after sitting down to Platoon).
Now I understand his motives.
Since then I’ve uttered more f-bombs than I’ll ever have dollars in my bank account, and it’s done me no good. Strange, really, how something that serves no purpose can be one of the staples of a whole cross-section of vocabularies.
I’d like to say I’ve ceased using the f-bomb in front of Edie and her subsequently-born sisters – but I haven’t. I’m mindful of it, and I try hard not to, but sometimes it just slips out. Despite this we’ve kept the little people of our house at bay in regards to swearing. Edie quickly grew out of her habit, and the next two, well, they seem to know which words are forbidden.
It would be great if things could stay that way. But I’m a realist: in the wink of an eye they’ll be bombarded, and that will be that.
Which, when you really think about it, is truly fire-trucked.