The F Word

My daughter came up behind me while I was brushing my teeth with some important news.

Dad, I was playing outside with Faith and she told me the F word.

What. The. F.

My mind raced. She’s 7 years old. This can’t be right. She shouldn’t know this word.

It has too much power.

It’s like giving too much supremacy to someone who cannot properly understand the value of it. Like Trump as President.

After all, fuck is the best word in the English language.

It can be used in nearly any capacity – noun, verb, adjective – or any emotion – delight, frustration, exasperation, sarcasm, horror, description, and so much more.

This is coming from a writer no less, someone who enjoys a rich vocabulary – just the other day, I used the word “accretive” in a work document. You had to look it up, didn’t you?

But, what other word can show so much and add so much to truly showcase how someone is feeling?

You can scream “Ah fuck!” in anguish, irritation, and happiness, something can oddly enough be both “hot as fuck” or “cold as fuck” or someone can be a “fuck” which can be both positive and negative (“Chuck’s a dumbfuck,” or “Fuckin’ Chuck, man, haha”) and of course you can use it almost as an entire sentence with “Fuck those fucking fucks.” And, when used in anger, someone says “Fuck you!” it’s one of the biggest insults you can hurl at another human being.

All these thoughts were going through my mind. I was glad I was brushing my teeth so I could sit on this for another minute.

How do I explain this word, with so much power, but also so much negative connotation, to a second grader?

I thought for a moment. I imagined myself kneeling down and describing how this word should be used, and that it should not be overused because when you do drop an F-bomb, it should hold meaning and power.

You can’t just be willy nilly with this word.

At its root, it’s a nasty word for sex. So, how the fuck am I supposed to explain THAT to her?

I dropped an F-bomb when I was 16 and mowing the lawn when I went over a stupid fucking sprinkler head, and my mom came out and scolded me. I was 16! My daughter is only 7. 

Holy fuck. 30 seconds left to talk to her.

I gathered my thoughts, knowing in the next minute I’m going to have to look her in the eye and have one of those father-daughter talks that will resonate for life. I needed to approach this carefully because not only would I be telling her the magic of this four-letter word, but she is going to ask What does it mean? and I was not about to have a birds and bees chat with her now.

Fuckin’ hell, 15 seconds left.

This is a kid who isn’t even allowed to say the words “butt” or “fart” because those are bad words in our house. In fact, I told her 18 months ago that she could say them on her 8th birthday thinking that it would put an end to that chat and she’d forget and somehow those words would mix into her vocabulary organically. Now, as she approaches her 8th birthday, it’s all she talks about.

Dad, when I turn 8 I can’t wait to say B-U-T-T and F-U-R-T. Yeah, she’s not awesome with her vowels quite yet. But, still, the power of words are big to her.

So how can we talk about the biggest little word with the most power?

I even thought about one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye, and how Holden Caulfield described the F word, the nastiness of it, and how it shouldn’t really be seen in public, and it stuck with me. This conversation is going to be like that with her.

My electric toothbrush stopped. She and I exchanged a glance in the mirror and I knew it was time to face the fucking music.

I turned around, knelt down, and took a breath. I had another quick thought. I followed this one.

Tell me, what word did Faith say?

She tensed up. I patted her shoulders, and said It’s OK, you can say it this one time.

We both exhaled. Hers was about saying this word in front of her dad. Mine was about the fucking situation I just found myself in.

I nodded at her, the non-verbal queue showing it was, indeed, OK to say this word. Now it was my turn to tense up.


I smiled. Hell fucking yeah, did we dodge a bullet!

Thank you for telling me. You’re right, that is a bad word. Let’s not use it, OK?

She nodded, and smiled. I hugged her.


Fuckin’ A that was close.

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