“So, um, Mom, I think I might have learned a new word at school today,” said Oscar more than a little apprehensive at where this first step may lead.
“Really? Do you want to share it with me?” I respond, pretty sure I know that he’s not talking about a multisyllabic word from his spelling list.
“Well, that depends. Am I going to get in trouble if it’s a ‘bad’ word?”
“What do you think is a ‘bad’ word?” I ask him.
“A swear, I guess. Swears are ‘bad’ words, right?”
I tell him that swears are not acceptable for him to use, that some people, some characters in movies and books use them, but that children are not to use them and that there are very few, very specific times and places when and where even adults should use them.
He seemed bored by my diatribe and asked if he could spell his new word without getting in trouble.
As a fan of both spelling and resourcefulness, I agreed to let him spell it for me.
And so he did.
“A- S-S,” he recited, slowly, lest I lose focus. Then he quickly asked, “Is it bad?”
“It’s not good,” I respond, as I look at him from over the top of my glasses, a move I am in the process of perfecting.
“Is it a swear?” he asks.
“What does it mean?”
“It’s a ‘swear,’ Oscar.”
“That’s the TYPE of word it is, Mom, not the definition. What does it mean?”
And as I sat there contemplating all of the possible meanings of this latest acquisition to his vocabulary, I wondered what’s next. And then I fast-forwarded through the years and realized exactly what’s next.
Oscar thankfully interrupted my thoughts.
“Mom, I know I’m not allowed to say that word, but what if I just HAVE to?”
Lost in reverie about the loss of vernacular if not every other type of innocence, I half-heartedly said, “Go in the bathroom, shut the door, and say the word until you tire of it.”
“Cool. I think I’ll try that now.”
He disappeared, shut the door, and reemerged in six seconds.
“Are you finished?” I asked.
“Yeah, it wasn’t really that exciting.”
And while I was pleased that this was over just as quickly as it began, I wondered if the next time will be as easy–if he will remember that things that initially seem intriguing, once the curtain is pulled back, are not nearly so.
There are no guarantees, of course. But I’m hoping that his coming to this conclusion on his own instead of our telling him bodes well.
And hope, when you’re raising children, is really sometimes all you have.