You would have had to have been living under a social media free rock this week to miss the furore that surrounded an article written by Em Rusciano (writer, comic genius, singer and all round top chick in my opinion). It was all about how she doesn’t lose the plot when her kids swear. I read it and concluded that it was well thought out and posed some very interesting points.
As I waded through the social media chatter that surrounded this piece however, I almost got whiplash from the opinions that swung wildly from “hells yeah sister” to “we should be praying for this poor family’s soul” with very little in between.
The thing that didn’t shock me though, was how quickly all the holier-than-thou-self-declared-expert-Mummies condemned Em and how she raised her girls. They always seem to scream the loudest as they try to constantly pound home the fact that their way of raising a child is the only way.
The realistic Mums out there would know better than that though. I’m right in amongst them.
Having children taught me one thing insanely fast. You cannot do everything perfectly when it comes to parenting. Right when you think you are juggling all those balls in a perfect rhythm and have this whole motherhood thing sorted – along comes life. That bitch is going to throw another dozen or so awkwardly shaped, sometimes spiky balls into your juggling routine and will then smack you in the face with any of them that you drop. Every. Single. Time.
I know because I’ve been there more times than I can even try to remember.
Before I had my two children I thought that I would be a fantastically perfect Mum. I thought my kids would listen to me; learn from me; obey me and generally bask in my awesomeness. Obviously the complete opposite happened. It turns out they have their own little minds and apparently they like to use them. Shocking.
My Mum is possibly one of the wisest people I know. In fact Mum managed to raise eight children to adulthood with very few visits from the Police/Fire/Exorcists. Mum regularly offers me advice when I’m wallowing in my “I’m a terrible mother” moments. One of the earliest things she shared with me has become a bit of a mantra for me. She told me to pick my battles. She’s right.
Once when my boy was in Kindergarten, he cleaned out his closet all by himself. In the process he managed to find something in a plastic container. I think it may have originally been home to some fruit (?) but now housed a flourishing ecosystem which I’m pretty sure had started to form basic organised religion and language. He was so proud of himself that he finally found his missing container we had been endlessly checking for in the lost property at school. I looked at his glorious little head beaming up at me and I thought to myself that how I react to this is important. So I praised him enormously for finding the container, and reminded him gently that it’s a great idea to bring them to the kitchen before they start plotting to overthrow our civilisation.
I choose my battles.
Then there’s my gorgeous teenage girl. I often refer to her as my social hand grenade. If you throw her into a room it can go any which way of a hundred directions. You just never know. What I do know though is she is funny, smart and freely speaks her own mind which may or may not be peppered with some colourful language and/or liberal descriptions of what‘s going on with her body parts. 99% of the time she does not behave inappropriately in polite company. She can be charming and witty and a joy to be around and I praise her for these things. Then there’s the other 1%…..and then I try to gently remind her that there are times and places for that kind of talk. Because I know that how I react to these scenarios is important.
I choose my battles.
In the grand scheme of parenting does it really matter if your child swears? If it’s an abnormal amount and there’s violent intentions behind it, then probably it does matter, yes. But for the vast majority of us out there, we know our kids swear like hardened troopers with their mates, so it’s fairly natural that they will occasionally use these words in your presence. It’s normal. I for one would much rather save my frequent rants for the things that really matter when you’re raising a child. Like the importance of honesty. Or how not to be a bully. And how to be kind.
These things matter more than swearing. Most kids know that you don’t go around shouting profanities from the rooftops. They know this even without us badgering them every single time they drop the f-bomb. They should also know one more important thing though. If they do drop the f*#king ball once in a while that they won’t be faced with a screaming, ranting parent’s overreaction. They need to know it’s ok to come to you with anything and you won’t blink. Because life has also taught me that our kids will be confronted with things they need to admit to us which are so much more terrifying than bad language. How you’ve reacted to the little things dictates if they will, in fact, talk to you at all about these things. After all, if you’ve completely banned them from expressing themselves in any way other than what you want to hear, that’s ALL you’re going to hear. Not the truth.
So I say to you all, go forth and encourage lively discussion. Prepare yourself for the fact that when a child is enthusiastically engaged in this discussion they may let slip with an expletive. That’s OK.
Because the most important thing is that they’re talking to you, not how many times they swear.
Lastly, to Em Rusciano I would like say, good on you for being brave enough to put your parenting style out for public examination. And stuff those people hating on you for your methods. I’d much rather have mothers like you in the world. Focussed on what’s important. Choosing your battles.
You are a great Mum.
Go get ‘em girl.