I didn’t plan to talk to Nick about the F-word. Like most adventures in parenting, it just sort of happened.
I know what you’re thinking. No, I didn’t “slip” at a weak moment. (I reserve such moments for the office, remember?)
Here’s how it happened.
Nick is an avid reader and more mature than most 5th graders. Ideally, we read books like The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings together. But I had some hestitation about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (He asked me to read it in 4th grade, and I told him to wait a year. )
A year passes more quickly these days than I’d like. Doesn’t it? I still had hesitation when he asked again.
“I’m still not sure about Tom Sawyer, Nick. Some of the dialect concerns me.”
“What could be so bad about it? It’s a classic. Besides, you TOLD ME I could read it in 5th grade.”
“Ok, here’s the deal. There’s a word in Tom Sawyer that I hate. I never want you to use this word as long as you live! DO YOU HEAR ME!”
“Mom, I don’t even know what word you’re talking about.”
At this point in the conversation, I should have seized the opportunity and had a thoughtful discussion about racism and the culture of the Old South. I should have explained to him that he first needs to understand the context of Tom Sawyer before he reads the dialect. But I didn’t.
Instead, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.
“I’m talking about the N-word, Nick. Frankly, I would rather you drop the F-bomb than use the N-word!”
That got his attention.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think it’s cute or funny when kids drop the F-bomb. I realize it’s the latest source of entertainment thanks to Modern Family, but I don’t find it the least bit amusing. What I was trying to do (albeit not very eloquently) was explain to Nick that the worst language comes out of the dark places of our hearts.
Nick and I discussed the N-word briefly. But (thankfully) it’s just not part of his world. He was more eager to discuss the F-bomb.
He didn’t realize that I knew that he knew the F-word. He went on to explain that he thinks it’s the worst word in the English language — people say it just because they don’t have anything else to say. We talked about the kids in school that say it. We talked about the fact that his sisters don’t know what the F-word is (and we’d like to keep it that way!). And Nick promised me he would never be a potty mouth.
I tried to reassure him that no one is perfect. “Nick, sometimes in your life, you are going to say the wrong thing. Sometimes, Mom even says a bad word every now and then.”
“Mom, don’t tell me that! I don’t want to hear that about you!”
I started to tell him about the time I got caught skinny dipping at church camp, but I stopped short and decided to save it for high school.
Instead, we read Jesus’ advice for a potty mouth.
But the words you speak come from the heart–that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. Matt 15-18-19. (NLT)
Have you talked to your preteen kids about the F-bomb (or the N-word)? It’s not exactly dinner table conversation, but sometimes we need to seize the moment!