truth telling and the swear jar…

February 20, 2011

The swear jar found its way to our shelf this week. It is not for my children, it’s for me. I love to swear, I really do. Never at my children or to them, mostly my friends and Jorge. Anytime there is a reason to exaggerate anything, to be funny, to be shocking, it just feels these are the only appropriate words for such situations. It isn’t something I hide from my children exactly, I know, it’s awful on so many levels.

I was talking to a friend on the phone this week about her life, her terrible boss, it was sympathy swearing. After I hung up, I saw Josiah sitting on the bench looking low. I asked him if he was okay, he nodded and off we went to pick up the girls from preschool. As we pulled away from the car pool line, he said,

“Mom, can we talk about something?” (his lower lip starting to quiver).

“Yeah, what is it?” I replied.

“Remember before?….” He burst into tears. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, or make you feel bad, I really don’t, but it just bothers  me when you… when you swear.” 

It was obvious he had been holding it, for much longer than this moment. You could feel the courage it took to tell someone you love that something about them is, well, wrong and not good for you or them. And then I had a strange reaction, I was slightly annoyed, felt terrible and very proud, all at the same time.

“Yes, I hear you. Wow, that was very brave of you, to tell me that, I’m really proud. ” I said.

He nodded his head. “It took me all morning to gather up my courage.” he said,  his eyes full of tears. And I venture to guess it wasn’t because he thought I would be mad as much as he didn’t want to hurt me.

“I’m so glad you did. But I have a question? Does it bother you because it makes you uncomfortable or does it just feel wrong?” I inquired.

“The wrong one.” he said.

“Okay, yes, it is wrong. I never want to make you feel bad either. I will stop but I must tell you, it’s gonna be hard.”  I admitted.

“I know.” he said. And he does know.

“The thing is Josiah, when I was a kid and an adult, I tried so hard all the time to do everything right, and NEVER do anything wrong to feel okay and for people and grownups to like me, to love me even, and because I thought it made me a good person. But then I had to discover that maybe I was a good person even if I didn’t always do the “right” thing all the time. You know what? Swearing was my first try to not be so perfect, to make me feel human and I found out I could be loved and good. But I think I got that lesson down now and it just stuck, so maybe I don’t need to do it anymore. Thank you for helping me to realize it might be hurting people I love and I certainly don’t want that. I love you.”

“It’s okay mom. I understand.” he said with a half smile.

“I’m so proud of you, man that was big. We probably needed it, to tell each other how we feel because we’re headed to all this teenager stuff and were gonna need to do that a lot to help each other, huh?”

“Yeah, I think we can do it.” he said.

“Me too, me too.” and I sighed.

There is nothing like having your ass butt handed to you about the poor, ridiculous behavior that you kinda love. It’s so good/hard when your kid requires you to be a better person than you are ready/want to be at the moment. You discover that your sailor swearing self can somehow still be a good parent,  with the occasional quarter in the jar and all.   

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23 Responses to “truth telling and the swear jar…”


  1. I think that language is so wonderful and fluid and I try not to label any words as wrong, just a different way of expressing ourselves.

    That being said, it was brave and wonderful of Josiah to tell you how he felt about it. That speaks volumes about your relationship.

    Just wait until they are teens, friend. They’ll learn to roll their eyes at your ridiculous behavior and get on with their lives. Which will not include swearing. Mine are rebelling against me by having the cleanest language and scoffing at the thought of tattoos and piercings. Being a screw-up is the best parenting decision I’ve ever made!

  2. Sam Says:

    Wow! What a great kid you’ve got there. I remember that mom swearing made me really sad, too. I would PRAY FOR HER – seriously – for God to forgive her. Of course it hurt my feelings that my normally gentle mother would swear at us – and sometimes I think those prayers worked overtime, now my mother never, ever curses. Good luck as you try to clean up your language! We have worked to clean up our language when our then-2-yr-old (with a speech delay) could say “Oh sh*t!” very clearly. :)

  3. Erin Wilson Says:

    I don’t have kids, but this post of yours (and the words of your sweet boy) really struck me. I’ve developed quite a habit myself. Used to pride myself on being the church-girl who swore. Now I’m just the middle-aged woman who swears. And it completely expresses what I need to get across sometimes.

    But sometimes I think I’m not doing myself any favours.

    So… if you ever decide to post a link to an online (paypal) swear jar, let me know. It’ll curb my habit and support some sort of Kindness Campaign at the same time.

  4. charbatkin Says:

    And here my kids practice their newly acquired reading and writing skills to write dirty little ditties… “My little cat’s-” (hand over mouth giggle) “-ass.” (giggle-snicker-snort rollover laughing…) At least they’re motivated!

  5. Nortehanon Says:

    You son has a sincere and loving heart. It was brave and sweet of him to tell you that.

    P.S.
    Replied to your email last Friday.

  6. Trish Says:

    I’m staring a swear jar for myself today…this is my vice too…thank you for the humility reminder…

  7. Alisha Says:

    Patience, you have touched my little heart again. Every time I see (or hear) a parent do something that really strikes me, I try to let them know. Not sure if it’s odd for these strangers sometimes, but I have walked up to a number of people to let them know that an interaction I just witnessed or overheard between them and their child(ren) was a little something I would be filing away for my future-mommy-years. Thank God I know you, so this is less weird, but just know that this wonderful display of love and honesty has found its way into my mental file of “things to do well” when I have kids. You rock, sister.

  8. beth Says:

    Great, great post on so many levels.

  9. Donna Says:

    You are a brave girl to give up your swearing though if I had a cute quivering lip requesting it of me I probably would at least give it my best shot. For now I just do my best to keep it from the kids. I just love it sooo much! Good luck! Donna

  10. Angela Says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and am continually inspired by your stories of parenting and kindness. Now that I’m a mother myself (although my little one is only 4 months), I find your stories take on a new meaning. I hope that my little man will feel as supported and comfortable as yours to speak with me about things big and small.

  11. brenda Says:

    Okay…I think I might be worse…
    I swear too…but never in front of my kids (11 and 13). In fact, they would be SHOCKED to think that I swear. :) I think this is worse because it is like I lead this super secret swearing life. Like you, I only do it to be funny or extra expressive…I quite like to swear…
    wonder what my kids would think… :) Shhhh…don’t tell!!

  12. brenda Says:

    By the way, your swear jar is as cute as can be!! :)

  13. gina Says:

    don’t you wish i had to give you 50 cents every time *I* swore? you could take everyone to disney world in a matter of weeks.


  14. I absolutely adore your response of why at one point you needed it, but now you don’t. What a fabulous communicator you are with him!!!

    I’m curious if you would like to check this out:
    http://acommunityartproject.blogspot.com/2011/02/project.html


  15. [...] 4. the swearing jar [...]

  16. Amber Says:

    I remember taking up swearing for the same reason. I was so, so tired of being “good”. But I honestly can’t really embrace it. Maybe I still need to learn that lesson.

    But back to you. It sounds like you and Josiah handled this beautifully. It’s really pretty inspiring to read about it.


  17. [...] SOooo, I admitted that I swear, my dear boy gathered up his courage and told me it really bothers him, we made a swear jar and then I saw this from a dear blog reader/friend Erin: So… if you ever decide to post a link to an online (paypal) swear jar, let me know. It’ll curb my habit and support some sort of Kindness Campaign at the same time. [...]

  18. effbomb Says:

    We started swearwordjar.com last month. Check the site out. It is still pretty rough around the edges but has great potential. The site is an online swear jar with paypal capability. For the next month, a portion of the proceeds will go to help Japanese tsunami relief. When you drop an eff-bomb then stop by and make amends.

  19. laura Says:

    Okay~ I had tears in my eyes reading this!!!!!!!!
    Two things going through my head were:
    1) You have an AMAZING son to be able to speak up in such a ‘mature’ voice!
    2) You handled it so amazingly well when talking with him~ all parents should take heed: admitting you were ‘wrong’, accepting & acknowledging his courage!

  20. Elijah Says:

    Your blog is amazing, and it is so kind of you to share your loving heart with us, you truly have blessed me and I am rarely impressed with the actions of others, and oh am I believer in random acts of kindness. Let your love for others continue to be an example to _ALL_ of us

    My little one, he is now 4, has a few really ripe words he uses when he doesn’t get his way, I am have so spoiled him, but his brothers are always there to bring him back to the reality that things rarely go your way when you are a kid and getting everything you want at age 4 is easy, but gets harder as you get older.

    My 4 YO son, Joey sees all sorts of things in TV commercials, when he is not outside playing in the dirt, and he wants everything, and asks if he can get it, of course we tell him sure, and that ends it. Since we live on a working farm, we do not live near the major shopping hub. So it is just not as easy as running out and grabbing it. But teaching kids immediate gratification isn’t so great anyways. I learned to love IG as a youngster but quickly realized life is just not like that.

    But going around your local community and doing random acts of kindness is for certain a grand and even noble act, We love you for it! you are amazing!!!


  21. [...] idea popped back in my mind when we started the Swearing is Caring project. I thought the swear jar needed something special so we made a “Kindness Changes Everything” jar today. All you [...]


  22. What a wonderful son you have. That he was able to talk to you like that. Great job teaching him to speak up. I think that it is so wonderful how you listened and will be respecting his request. My wee one is only 3 and reading your post is getting me ready for the years ahead. So so sweet.


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