Every lunchtime during the working week I walk from my office and go to ASDA. It's the only place within walking distance; which is both a shame, and an indication of the salubrious setting of my workplace.
One day this week, as I walked from one end of the store to the other, I passed a family: Mum, toddler and Granny. This is not unusual in this particular ASDA, lots of people seem to think their kids should learn the ways of Smart Price early on.
A little more unusual was the snippet of conversation I heard as I passed them:
Granny: "do we need to get cutlery?"
Mum: [shouting] "she don't need a fork, she'll use her fucking fingers"
Which was nice.
Now, I'm in no position to give parenting advice, nor am I the sort of person who is likely to tell someone else that what they're saying to their child is possibly, maybe, just a tiny bit inappropriate. But it was, and I didn't think it was a technique Supernanny would have been proud of.
I'm very happy to litter my speech to adults with swearwords, I don't attach any greater significance to them than I do any other word. But this made me feel sorry for the child. Maybe it was the first and only time the mum had ever sworn at her, or maybe it was a regular part of their relationship. I don't know. But it just seemed so unnecessary. It was swearing as filler, swearing as punctuation, not swearing for effect or emphasis. Even if it had been the latter, not in the direction of a toddler surely?
It made me judge the mother too. I wondered what other things she might think were okay which I might not. I wondered what the girl would be eating with her fingers; bolognaise perhaps? A tasty curry? Perhaps this mum also thought that a bowl of cereal should be eaten without a spoon?
Two days later I heard another mother tell her son "you can't go on the fucking ride, and you're not getting any fucking sweets, now shut up". That was in ASDA too. The boy didn't look to be misbehaving, but he did look like he hadn't enjoyed being spoken to like that. Not an isolated case then.
Am I wrong, or being prudish? Maybe everyone swears at their kids (and I don't mean the under-the-breath frustration swearing, I mean swearing AT their kids) and it's all part of their growing up experience.
Perhaps when I'm a dad myself I'll understand it, but for now I'll just remain dumbfounded.