I’m playing Polly Pockets with my five-year-old, because I’m such an attentive and devoted mother. Just kidding, I’m playing on my phone while occasionally cramming a tiny doll into an even tinier rubber dress, an act which I’m certain is a reenactment of the goings on in the ninth circle of hell.

As Mari plucks off a doll’s head to replace it with a new one (See? Hell. Evil.), she says, “Mommy, why is the F word a bad word?”

***screeching brakes sound***

Me: “Ruh???” (Like Scooby Doo.)

Unfazed, Mari continues: “The F word. Why is it bad? Like why are there bad words, anyway? What makes them bad?”

Quick. Think of something momentous to say. THIS IS IT; YOUR CHANCE TO SHINE AS A MOTHER.

I put down my phone. “Err… can you tell Mommy exactly what word you’re talking about?”

Her eyes bug out. “No. No, Mommy, it’s a very bad word and I don’t want to say it.”

“Huh. Okay, well, to answer your question, bad words can hurt people’s feelings. That’s the main reason we don’t say them.”

“Yes, I know that. And I know the F word is the worst one of them all, just like sticking up your middle finger at someone. That’s also a really mean thing to do, right mommy?” …I nod, but my heart is racing and I’m wracking my brain trying to think if I’ve ever flipped the bird in front of her … I can’t remember ever having done so… “But I still don’t really understand why bad words are bad. Like what makes them bad? What do they mean? What does the F word mean, Mommy?”

Dafuq? “Uh… well, if you say it at someone, mostly it means that you think poorly of that person or that you are intentionally trying to make them angry or sad. It’s like telling them you don’t like them.”

“Okay, mommy.” She callously rips another doll apart. I stare on in horror.

“So… where did you hear this word, anyway?” (Please don’t let her say me. Please don’t let her say me. Please don’t let her say me.)

“From Emma. She says it sometimes, and I tell her it’s not a nice word.”

What the what?? I like Emma. Really? She says the F word??? I cannot believe it. “Mari, can you tell me exactly what word Emma said?”

“No, Mommy. It’s a bad word. A very bad word.” She will not make eye contact with me. Her mouth is set into a tiny line, almost disappearing into the perfect baby skin of her round face.

“Are you afraid you’ll get in trouble if you say it aloud?”

She whispers: “Yes.”

“Then I give you permission to say it just this once. I promise you won’t get in trouble.”

She takes a tremulous breath, still unsure.

“How about if you whisper it? Would that make you feel better?”

She nods.

I lean towards her, ear first.

She leans in too, pushing her somber eyes as far to the right as her little eye muscles will permit, so that I mostly see whites. She takes another shaky breath and whispers, so softly I can barely hear:


— — — — —

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  1. That is hilarious!

    I’ve always thought that the idea that there are “bad words” is ridiculous. But, as ridiculous as it is, people are offended by that shit, so I didn’t want my kids to make it a habit. But I didn’t want to feed into the idea that some words are worse than others. So…..

    When my kids discovered curse words I let them have what we called “bad word minute.” Whatever curse words they’d heard, and wanted to try out, could be said for one minute and then put away until next time. I’m not going to lie, watching a child scream curse words is hilarious. And also, it didn’t take long for “bad words” to lose their appeal. 🙂

  2. Clearly she’s referring to the original Olde English spelling of the word which everyone knows was “fshit” and the f was silent.

    The (k)nights often sat around the round table at the cas(t)le talking about (p)sychology and (f)shit.

    Your daughter’s adorable — profane li’l doll-head decapitator that she is…

    • Darcy, you might be right; she has been brushing up on literature of the Renaissance period. lol

  3. Wait! Shit DOESN’T start with an F? So funny!

    • Oh god, I almost died. I didn’t want to laugh, because she is so sensitive, but it was REALLY hard not to. lol

  4. We got to visit the Dalles Dam in Oregon one summer and my young 7 year old would not say where we’d been. He would call it, ‘that place at the Dalles’. Another youngster I know grew up in a family that allowed inappropriate words to be used commonly, he was not clear in his diction. I was positive one day he said, ‘Fuck you.’ I responded, ‘not today.’ My favorite DUH moment was during a Christmas play rehearsal. We’d just finished the song ‘Silent Night’ and this young girl piped up, “What the heck is virgin anyway????”

  5. I just died. Laughed so hard I choked on my popcorn…

  6. Victoria

    I guess I’m fashionably late to this party. After 5 years in the Army, curse words are a regular part of my vocabulary. I’ve been trying to cut back and watch what I say around my son because I don’t want to explain why Mommy can say certain words but he can’t. Alas, I have horrible road rage. Last week someone cut me off and nearly broadsided my car. From the backseat I hear my 15-month-old angel yell “Bech!” The only upside is that he used it correctly.