Saturday, 15 August 2015

The F Word

As we were driving to his swimming lesson this week, my six year old son suddenly piped up from the back of the car: "Is the F word 'fuck'?"

I like to imagine at this point a reasonable, sensitively presented, age appropriate discussion on swearing in our society. However, I was caught off guard (as I always am) and his four year old sister was also in the back--either off in her own little world or silently hooked on every word we were saying. So what I actually said was: "Yes, but don't use it."

"Why not?"

And so ensued a rather muddled discussion, in which I vaguely hit the key points I wanted to make. I deliberately said 'fuck' at least once, because I didn't want it to glamorise it at as The Word That Must Not Be Named. I know he has some concept of 'bad words,' but I don't know quite what that is as it's a phrase he's picked up from his peers.

I did not ask "Where did you hear that?" because I figured there was a big chance that the answer would be awkward. Likewise, I didn't want to say that only bad people said it. I told him: "Some people use it to express their feelings." Handily, I don't use the word 'fuck', so this wasn't prevaricating. I am very bad at self-censoring, so I never got into the habit of using the really strong swear words (the kids learned 'damn' 'oh my god' 'crap' and 'bugger' all from me.)

And in fits and starts we covered situations where you should not say it: "In job interviews," was my inspired first example. Then I pushed the age level down ten years, and we settled on 'at school' 'with other children' and 'in front of your grandparents'.

Obviously, we didn't talk about contexts where it was appropriate, but I didn't ban him from saying it either. Children swearing tends to be a provocative issue... people either find it shocking or funny. It doesn't bother me either way; I just don't want my child being the one teaching it to the others in the playground. But it seemed a little pointless to me to ban him from using a word based on his age.

I do regret not talking about the concept of offence, and why different words might offend different people. It didn't occur to me until afterwards, and then the moment had passed. I don't quite have the nerve to initiate another conversation on swearing. We'll just put that one off until his first job interview...

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Talking about Guns; Listening about Beauty

I recently read this article about a three year old boy accidentally (and non-fatally) shooting his parents, and it occurred to me that I'd never talked to my children about gun safety. We don't have a gun, and so it hadn't been on my radar.

But my son is now at an age where he plays 'unsupervised' with friends. There's always an adult in the house, but they are not necessarily in the same room as him. He certainly has playdates where neither nor my husband nor myself are present, and I don't know who does or doesn't have a gun. I certainly shouldn't just assume that every gun owner we visit has their gun safely stored where the children can't get to it.

So I told my son about that shooting. I knew he'd like the detail about the father being shot in the bottom--and by that same token, he would remember it. I also told him that incidents like this happened where people died, including children. That nobody should handle a gun who hadn't been properly trained.

Then we talked about what he should do if a friend tried to show him a gun. That he should say no, that if somebody was holding a gun, he should walk out of the room. That he should never touch a gun.

I felt that that covered it for our purposes... At least for the time being. Gun-education is not something I have ever given much thought to, but considering how many American households have a gun, this is probably as vital as "Don't talk to strangers."

On a sweeter note, something that happened today... it started off being embarrassing. We were in the check out line at the supermarket when my son started pointing at the lady in front of us. I hastily pushed his hand down, but I crouched next to him and asked him what was wrong. He told me she was "so beautiful."

The lady in question was elderly, overweight, and casually dressed, but when I gave her this second look, I saw she had lovely skin for her age, bright blue eyes and thick white hair. Most likely my son saw something of Frozen's Elsa in her, and why the hell not?

I didn't want to embarrass my son, but when his back was turned, I tapped the woman on her shoulder and told her what he'd said. I figured it would make her day, and judging by her reaction, I wasn't far wrong. My son is too young to recognize age and he's not yet attuned to weight. There was something very refreshing about looking through his eyes and seeing beauty where I hadn't thought to look for it.