I'm a big fan of four letter words, and use them rather frequently. Of course, I am aware that certain situations are and are not appropriate for said words, but when I'm in the comfort of my home, talking to friends, enjoying a happy hour with coworkers or watching a football game, I'm peppering my sentences with some, um, rather colorful language. Sometimes, in the aforementioned situations, my son is around. Still, I don't worry about swearing in front of my kid and, honestly, I don't think you should worry about cussing in front of your kid, either.
Of course, there are "right" and "wrong" ways to go about evoking those four letter words. While I'm usually not one to tell others how to act or what to say or even what to think, I would like to assume we can all agree that calling other people names or using certain words to demean, degrade and otherwise hurt others, is never OK. While I will let a cuss word fly around my kid (especially during the NFL regular season because hello stress), I will never use one directed at or toward him. Same goes for my partner, or any one else in around me. I don't want my son to attach a moral implication to words (as I don't think there's such a thing as a "good" or "bad" word. They're just words.) but I do want him to know that you can use said words in appropriate or inappropriate ways.
So, no, I won't be turning "shit" into "shoot," or "damn" into "darn," anytime soon. My son is going to learn about cuss words and, like most of the lessons I hope he learns as a young person, I want to be the one to teach him. For that, and the following reasons, I just don't worry about cussing in front of my kid.
The World Isn't Going To Censor Itself For Your Children
For me, personally, this is why I believe cussing around my child is not only not harmful, but beneficial. My partner and I have taken him to baseball games, park outings and museum exhibits. Whether we were in the stands, on the subway or just walking down the sidewalk, we have all heard other people use curse words. It's going to happen. The world, and the people in it, will not censor itself just because I would appreciate someone not using a four letter word around my kid.
So, not only will my son have heard those words before, they won't phase him, he won't be enthralled by them, he won't be tempted to use them himself because they're "taboo," and he will know what they mean and why, sometimes, they truly are inappropriate.
It's Good For Them To Learn That Some Things Are Appropriate For Adults, But Not Children
I will have a glass of wine around my son, and my son knows that unlike the water he can share with mom, he can't have a drink. There are some things, my two-year-old son already knows, that are just for adults. Turns out, curse words are one of those things, and my son already knows that there are words mom and dad get to use, that he doesn't (just like there are movies mom and dad can watch, that he can't.)
There's A Right And Wrong Way To Use Certain Words
I'm a big fan of words (I blame the fact that I'm a writer). I know that certain words can mean certain things in certain contexts, and I admire and love words for their, um, flexibility. So while I don't see anything wrong with using a curse words to voice a frustration, I do see something wrong with using a curse word to demean, degrade or hurt someone else. My son will know what is and is not appropriate in any given context, as I (and my partner) have already set an example of how we use certain four letter words. If we stub a toe, we might let one fly, but we will not use a four letter word to talk ill about someone around us.
My son will know that you can use certain curse words at certain times, but verbally assaulting someone is never, ever, OK. (Kind of like my son will learn that, when you're of age, a drink here or there is OK, but having a drink at nine in the morning or drinking to excess is probably not the best idea.)
You Don't Need To Be "Perfect"
I'm not going to create some fictitious persona in an attempt to appear "perfect" to my son. I'm a flawed human being, that curses on occasion (read: regularly) and makes mistakes and will be horribly, unequivocally wrong. I am not going to give my son a false impression of me or my flaws, as I want him to know that I don't expect him to be perfect either.
You Have The Opportunity To Teach Your Children What Certain Words Mean...
Again, there are right ways and wrong ways (for lack of a better explanation) to use words. I'm not a fan of censorship, but I don't want my son using words to hurt others. He will learn that even "bad" words can be used in completely appropriate ways, and even "good" words can be used to hurt someone else. I will do whatever I can do to make sure that regardless of the "good" or "bad" words my son ends up using, he never uses them for hurtful reasons.
...Instead Of Letting Ill-Informed Peers Shape Their Thinking
I also don't want my son to think that certain words means certain things, when they really don't. Honestly, there's nothing like an ill-informed, ignorant middle schooler teaching others what words mean, even though said middle schooler has no idea what they're talking about.
This is how misinformation spreads (I mean, I was very confused about sex for a very long time because of some stuff I heard in the 6th grade) and how children end up doing things they really shouldn't be doing (or saying things they really shouldn't be saying).
You Deserve To Vent Your Frustrations...
I'm sorry, but parenthood is difficult and overwhelming and exhausting and I get frustrated. Like, the most frustrated. I could either bury that frustration deep down in the belly of my gut until I die inside, or I can voice that frustration (in a healthy way that doesn't demean my son or my partner or myself) and move on. I've found that letting a cuss word fly helps me deal with some pretty frustrating situations.
...Because, Hey, You're An Adult
Look, I spent my entire adolescent life wanting to be an adult. I couldn't wait to move out of my parent's house and be on my own and make my own choices. Turns out, adulthood isn't all it's cracked up to be. Yes, I have my freedom, but I also have bills and responsibilities. So, I'm taking my wins when and where I can get them, and the ability to cuss is one of them. After all, I'm a big kid now.