Last week my boys had a minimum day at school which means I get to pick up the older boys before lunch. I took them home along with Little One and his sweet kindergarten friend for lunch. While they were eating I was working on some dinner prep listening to their conversation.
It started innocently enough, a little potty talk among boys. But then I heard it.
It wasn't shouted just spoken like any other word except I had never heard that word in my house before and never out of one of my sweet angel's mouths.
"(Name withheld), what did you say?" I asked hoping maybe I had misheard him. Maybe he said duck or truck or luck or any other member of the -uck family. (The first graders at his school had the -uck family for spelling words that week. The parents trying to help their kids find -uck words without figuring out this one was quite the conversation on Facebook.)
"F@&*," he said plainly. No embellishment, no denial.
Now here's the thing you have to know about our family rules. Whenever "bad" words have come up in the past, we talk about how words cannot be bad or good. They are just a compilation of letters. It is how we use them that matters. Was it kind or mean? Hurtful or encouraging?
My boys know this. When the youngest tells me Hockey Boy used the s word (stupid) we talk about how that is a mean word to say to someone. When the sh word is occasionally thrown around their bedroom we talk about how it is unkind to tell someone to shut up and that you can ask nicely for them to be quiet.
But this is the first big word that has come up and you can't get much bigger than the F bomb. Not only that but it was said in front of a kindergartner that is not mine.
So ______, who shall not be named, was sent to time out. After he left, I made a comment about how that word was not appropriate for kids to use. Both my other boys piped up that they had heard it before and knew it was a bad word and then we went on with lunch as if nothing had happened leaving me to wonder what else they know but haven't mentioned.
After a few minutes I went to talk to my son.
"Where did you learn that word?" I asked.
"School," he said.
"Is it okay to say that word at school?" I asked though I knew the answer already.
"No," he said but then added sincerely frustrated, "I don't know what it means."
"Well we can talk about that but not in front of Little One and his friend. They're kindergartners. If you want to know what a word means or you hear something and you don't know if it is okay to use the word come ask me. We can talk about it. But not in front of the little guys," I explained. He seemed satisfied that he would soon learn the magical definition of the word.
We went swimming after lunch, to the library after we dropped of Little One's friend, we played video games, and then ate dinner. It was after dinner when I pulled out my iPhone and the Merriam-Webster dictionary app I had downloaded to help Hockey Boy with his vocabulary homework and looked up the word and showed it to the offender.
F&$* - \'fek\
1. usually obscene: copulate
2. usually vulgar: mess 3 - used with with
I pointed out the words obscene and vulgar. We talked about how if you hear a word you don't know you can always look it up in the dictionary, especially if you are not sure it is appropriate. If it says obscene or vulgar - don't use it. At least not now. Someday I know my boys will try out some colorful language. I did. (Actually if we are being honest, this is one of my favorite words. It has so many uses. But I learned along the way to adjust my language for time, place, and audience.)
Once he understood the word was obscene, we still had to figure out what it meant. So we clicked on the word copulate. I don't want to define it here since it might attract some weird search engine results, but let's just say it is how we make babies. Which is how I explained the formal definition to the older boys who were both now interested in this conversation. Since neither of them is old enough to make babies, they probably shouldn't be using a word about adult things I told them.
And that was the end of it. I think he really just wanted to know what the word meant and why all the fuss, especially since we don't have "bad" words in our house. And honestly, the actual definition of the word is not mean or unkind. But it is vulgar and so now my boys know not to use vulgar words.
At least in front of me or their teachers or girls.
But honestly, I would much rather have my child drop the occasional F bomb out of frustration than use words that demean and belittle people but are deemed appropriate by the vocabulary police.