A couple months ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my two boys. Daddy was working late so it was just us for supper. We were talking about our days. We were laughing and having a great time, telling stories and jokes. Then out of the blue, my six-year-old looked at me and asked,
“Mommy, ‘What the moon’ isn’t a bad word, is it?”
“No honey,” I said. “That isn’t a bad word. Where did you hear that?”
“Some kids at my school say it sometimes. But ‘What the fudge’ is a bad word, right?”
Except he didn’t say fudge. He didn’t say frick. He didn’t even say fart.
Oh my goodness, my six-year-old just dropped an F-bomb at the kitchen table.
I nearly choked on my food. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, resisted every urge to panic, and looked at his sweet little expectant face. Then I put down my apple and said, “Yes, that is a bad word. Where did you hear that?
He took a bite of his sandwich. “At school, some big boys said it on the playground.”
“Well,” I said thinking fast, “that is a very bad word and it means mean things so we don’t use that word in our family okay?”
“Okay, Mom,” he said. “Did you know that dinosaurs lived like a hundred million years ago?”
And that was it. I breathed a quick sign of relief and felt like I had passed some kind of parenting test (hopefully) at least somewhat successfully. As I told the story later to my husband, we both had a really good laugh. I admitted that my first instinct was to yell and make it known that we DO NOT use that word in our house, but that I was glad that I had taken the moment to take a breath, temper my reaction, and make sure he knew he was safe to ask any questions of me that were on his mind. No matter how uncomfortable or shocking they might be.
Today it’s about a swear word. Tomorrow it might be about friend problems, or drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or lying, or cheating.
It might be career choices or romantic questions. It might be telling the truth even when it is hard or making amends after you’ve hurt someone or made a mistake.
No matter how uncomfortable the questions and conversations might make me or my husband, I hope my boys always know they can talk to their parents about the things that are on their minds. So as we wade into all the new worlds that elementary school will bring us, I hope the next time a hard question comes around that he will remember that I didn’t yell, and I didn’t choke on my apple.
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
~Catherine M Wallace