Eldest was five when he came to live with us. He already had an impressive range of swear words in his vocabulary. And he made great use of these words at both appropriate (as far as it is ever appropriate for a small boy to swear) and inappropriate moments. He dismayed my husband by yelling ‘you took my f***ing queen’ when he was learning to play chess.
What he didn’t know, however, were the childish ‘rude words’ that I might have expected to hear. He delighted me by coming home from school one day and asking why the teacher had told off a child for shouting ‘welly’.
I don’t tend to swear really, and nor does my husband, so Eldest’s bad language sort of wore off over the years. Of course, in many cases it was replaced with more antisocial behaviour: physical aggression, destruction of property, taking and hoarding of various things.
He still shouted sometimes, but he mimicked me and began to shout long rants rather than bad language. Very memorably calling me a ‘naked mole rat who walks backwards’.
(Um . . . I don’t call people rats of any description, actually, but I have been known to shout ‘why are things moved when I don’t want them to be moved so I can’t find them when I need them, yet when I want things to be moved because they’re in the wrong place nobody moves them for days on end?!’ I’m not saying it’s inherently ‘better’ than swearing. It’s just my style of stressed shouting.) Though it is probably very silly, I rather liked Eldest being so like me.
But just recently, over the last fortnight, the bad language is back! Real torrents of abuse are hurled at all and sundry. He has – just like he did at five – a surprisingly broad range of words. He has added a few new ones, though. So now he intersperses f**k and d*ck with poop and butt. The effect is rather comical.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this new phase. I prefer unpleasant words to unpleasant actions, definitely. But a part of me is sad to hear that he hasn’t forgotten any of them. This kind of language sounds out of place in our house, it is a reminder of how different his childhood has been from my childhood. My son is the only person who has ever spoken to me like this, which just shows how lucky I have been to be surrounded by kind people all my life.
I am sorry that he knows these words and I am sorry that he feels such strong anger at such a young age. I wish that I could give him back his innocence, but, of course, that’s impossible. Eldest’s past is a part of him, and it always will be.