Tuesday, January 25, 2011
"MAMA," HE SAYS, "WHAT'S A F**K?"
And out of THAT mouth.
And the fact that I didn't run over the jogger on the side of the road, or knock that city worker into the ditch he was digging was not even the most amazing part.
As I tried to maintain my composure, realizing we were only two blocks from home, I desperately scanned my mental parenting toolbelt for something, anything, to help me just, well...stall. And, evidently, my best immediate defense was to feign hard of hearing.
"I'm sorry, son?"
And, of course, what the hell could I have been thinking because it was bad enough to have heard it come out of his mouth the FIRST time, and now here I had just asked him to repeat the thing.
"F**K!" he yells, because...clearly...I'm...hard...of...hearing.
And at that point, I think things actually began to blur. And those little lights started to twinkle behind my eyelids, like right before you pass out. And I tell myself to say something, to stop him, for crissakes, from saying it again, but all that came out was, "Where did you hear that word, Bubba?" Only the voice didn't sound like my own. It was ethereal and distant, like it was being pumped in through the truck speakers. One more block. One more block. Don't hit the dog walker. One more block.
"Oh," he says cheerily, "I got it from Saia," as he turns to look to her for confirmation.
And when I glance up in the rearview mirror at her, she's nodding affirmatively, and then opens her mouth to add to my growing terror.
"Emilie told me about the f**k last year," she says very matter-of-factly, and I realize my knuckles are turning white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly. Did she just say "the fuck"? Like George Bush's "the internets"? I knew at some point I just needed to tell them to stop saying it, but it was all just happening so fast, spinning and whirling and there was no time to stop it, like this huge fucking rolling stone with a whole lot of fucking moss and it was coming down the fucking hill right on the fucking top of me!!!
"Hold on, Beauty," I manage to eek out as we turn into our driveway. "I don't want to interrupt because we need to continue to talk about this, but I need you both to understand right now that that's a VERY bad word and you can NOT say it anymore, ok?"
And if you've ever had or been around 7-year-olds for any length of time, you know the next two words out of both of their mouths, in unison, were "But why?"
So, for the next 10 minutes I was on automatic pilot. We got our things out of the vehicle, got the mail, let the dogs out, gave them treats, kicked off our shoes, emptied out backpacks, washed hands, and then they were both standing right in front of me, like they were waiting for dessert, wide-eyed and attentive, and quieter than I ever remember them being.
"Ok," I begin. "Here's the deal."
And I proceed to explain to them, with as little detail as possible, just why "the f*ck" is not ok. We talk about other off-limit bad words (which, for our kids, still includes "butt," "stupid," and "fat"). I explain that this is the mother of all bad words, that people often use it to be nasty and mean to others, that there is absolutely no reason why any child of any age should be using it, and that it just needs to be put into that bucket and locked up until they're old enough to take it out.
And then, of course, the negotiations begin.
"But, Mama," he says, "what if I need to tell someone that someone else said the bad word?"
"Although you shouldn't be tattling for no reason, if someone is using that word to hurt someone else, then yes, you should tell a teacher or parent or principal that someone used the f-word."
"So, I can say 'f-word'?" he asks, clearly trying to stake out his claim.
"No, you can't. Only -- ONLY -- in that specific instance. Not ever in any other situation."
"What about if I spell it?" he begins, and then before I can stop him, he adds, "Can I just say that someone said f-u-c-k?"
[My whole body cringes.]
"No, it's exactly the same thing."
Temporarily defeated, he turns to Saia, who is clearly ready with her argument.
"But Mama," she pleads, "I just don't really understand what it means. And it makes it hard for me to know why I shouldn't be using it if I don't really know why it's so bad."
[Damn logical girl!]
And that's when, clearly cornered and well into fight-or-flight mode by this point, I instinctively launch into my there-are-just-some-things-you're-just-too-young-to-understand schpeel. Topped with the when-you're-old-enough-we'll-explain-it-all. And with a little bit of if-we-ever-hear-that-either-of-you-ever-uses-that-word-again-we'll-wash-out-your-mouth-with-soap on the side, just for flavor.
A little stunned by my finger wagging, off they go to begin their homework while I frantically text their Mommy, whose text response I cannot repeat because...well...this is a fucking family blog!!!