– My Family Calls Me “Uptight” for One Simple Request

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Dear Care and Feeding,

This past weekend, my family gathered for our annual pre-Christmas get-together at my mother’s residence. With five adult siblings, each with kids of their own spanning ages from 9 to 17, the house was bustling with activity. While we were seated for dinner and later socializing in the living room, a few of my brothers and the older kids engaged in storytelling laced with loud and frequent profanity. Given that my 2-year-old is in the phase of mimicking speech, I light-heartedly suggested toning down the language to prevent her from echoing those words at daycare the following Monday. One of my brothers dismissed my concern, advising me not to be overly strict and asserting that hearing a few swear words wouldn’t harm anyone at our “upscale preschool.” The majority of the family chimed in, concurring with his viewpoint that it was impractical to abstain from swearing entirely for the duration of the gathering. I clarified that I didn’t anticipate complete abstinence from profanity and acknowledged that our children are not shielded from such language, but I believed it was reasonable to request a level of self-censorship for that day, avoiding explicit stories in the presence of my young children. Was my expectation unrealistic for a family gathering?

—Stop the F-ing Swearing!

Dear Stop,

While it may be reasonable in many families to expect a level of caution regarding language in the presence of young children, the dynamics within your family could alter this norm. Have there been instances where your siblings refrained from excessive cursing when their own children were younger, or is profanity a common thread in your family gatherings? If profanity is deeply ingrained in their communication style, they might comply with your request out of affection. This situation seems to extend beyond mere swear words and hints at underlying tensions. The reaction to your lighthearted approach suggests a deeper issue. Perhaps a direct conversation like, “Could you please refrain from using explicit language in front of my kids?” would have yielded a different response. Therefore, the question remains: Is it realistic for you to expect your family to respect your boundaries? The answer lies with you.

—Michelle

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