Jude has, of late, become extremely interested in "bad" words.
The F-word. The S-word. The D-word. The C-word. The A-word.
Not that he actually uses any of these words. He just mentions them often. For example "My book has the bad A-word in it, but it's just talking about a donkey!". And he says it like that "A-word". He doesn't actually say the word.
However, I suspect that boys will be boys when parents are not around. A while back, he went to a sleepover party where they set up tents in the backyard for the boys. Apparently, one of the boys christened Jude's tent "The Cussin' Tent", and they all went around a circle and uttered whatever they dared. It was very scandalous.
I have never been particularly shocked by profanity. I have been known to cuss like a sailor at certain times in my life. And Jimmy, who often seems to have stepped right out of a Scorcese movie, freely drops the F-bomb. We have both worked hard to clean up our potty-mouths around Jude, but we're not always successful.
I've talked to Jude about the use of bad words. And I've explained to him that they're not really "bad" words. Just grown-up words which are inappropriate for children to use. That using the F-word doesn't make Daddy "bad", but that it would be a very wrong thing for a little boy to use that same word. He seems to understand this.
But the other day, Jude came home from school and told me something that really, genuinely stunned me.
Lately, there is a boy who has been trying to become part of Jude's little gang of buddies. He is a much rougher boy than Jude and his pals, and he has older brothers who I fear are not the best role-models. And this boy seems to believe that the way to make other boys like him is to shock and intimidate. I will call the boy "Johnny".
A few days ago, Jude and I were driving to track practice when Jude suddenly said "Johnny taught us a new bad word. It's the N-word."
I almost drove onto the sidewalk. Because of all the bad words, this is the only word that I consider to actually be "bad".
My initial reaction might have been a little extreme. I kind of freaked out.
First, I asked him if he knew what the word meant, and he said that yes, Johnny had taken them to the dictionary and looked the word up in it, and that it was "a mean thing to call a black person".
I then tried to explain to him the history of the word, and the bitter, evil hatred behind it. I talked about racism. And then I think I rambled on about Martin Luther King and then I cried.
The child was clearly shocked.
I think the best thing I managed to say was that this was a word which really, truly was "bad". And that it is word which seriously throws into question the content of character of a person who uses it. That he does not want to be that kind of person, nor does he want to be friends with that kind of person. And I think I said something about how Jimmy and I, as well as both of our families, believed that this was a truly offensive word. "Our people" didn't use a word like that.
Basically, I scared the shit out of the poor kid.
But it was one of those moments which I guess every parent has, when I realized that I really have no control over what happens to him out there in the big, bad world. That as much as I protect and shelter him, there will always be people in this world who will expose him to "bad".
And though I contacted Johnny's parents and his teacher, and I believe the child has been given a talking to, I can't control what this child, or any other child, says to Jude. And though I can educate him, and steer him, and encourage him...I can't control his reaction to it.
A couple of days later, we were, once again, driving to track practice, and suddenly, from the backseat Jude asked "Mom? Is it okay if I tell Johnny that I don't want to play with him any more?"
"Well, why do you not want to play with him?"
"I just think he's kind of a jerk. I don't think I want him to be my friend."
"Yes, Jude. You may tell Johnny that you don't want to play with him anymore."
Word, words, words! Please visit each and every one of our Word Spinners! Lots of good stuff this week!
Patty at Pancakes Gone Awry - NEW on FRIDAY!
Aimee at AimeeWrites - NEW on FRIDAY!
Peg at Square Peg in a Round Hole - NEW on FRIDAY!
Michele Renee at Must Be a Full Moon - NEW on FRIDAY!
Jen at Sprite's Keeper - NEW on FRIDAY!
Michele at It's a Dog's Life - NEW on FRIDAY!
Next week on The Spin Cycle...
It's almost Mother's Day! What does Mother mean to you?
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