"Your six year old is becoming more independent and separate from their parents and other caregivers. He is more likely to challenge adults by saying things like, “It’s all your fault” or “You’re dumb.”
He may talk back to adults and adopt “know-it-all” types of behavior. For example, a child may say things like, “Why should I?” or “Try and make me.”
Well, ain't that grand and glorious? I'm less perturbed by these prospects than I should be. But where is the one line I need? That one line which will make me feel better about the events of the last week? I've looked all through the index of 'Raising our Sons' a day or so ago, and now I'm searching through the topic of language development, mainly because it's linguistically related and no one has told me what to do in this situation.
On Thursday afternoon, Kiddo and I were out having pizza for lunch. This isn't our usual routine, but with contractors working on the house and making horrible loud noises (contributing to my week-long marathon headache), I decided that doing our reading and homework would actually work better at a rockin' pizza place than at home. He read the sample sentences with ease. He did the simple "choose a word" exercise, circling the word and writing it.
Then he leaned over and whispered gleefully: "I know a new bad word today."
I saw that gleeful mischief last week, one night at bedtime; I'd gone downstairs to kiss him goodnight and found him waiting at his door, face aglow. He was pointing to a sign on his door. "Look what I wrote!" He was beside himself, about to burst. "It's A BAD WORD!" he informed me. And sure enough, there on the paper were two letters: AS.
This was the time to play 'delighted and stupid' parent. "Oh! You spelled 'as'! Good for you." I smiled at him and he corrected me in a giggle whisper with wide eyes. "No, Mom, it's ASS!!!"
Cue the explosion of giggles. Then, he asked for the correct spelling. I chose not to enlighten him and then gently told him that I didn't think I wanted to see potty words around the house; the as could stay up 'as is'. If he changed it, it would need to come down. A few days later, it was spelled correctly and thusly removed without discussion.
So, Thursday's pizza revelation shouldn't have been such a surprise, but still... it was. We send our children to school to learn, and learn they do. I just hadn't expected his vocabulary to be so expanded upon. A dear friend had informed him a few weeks ago of the word "Boobies" and now he was apparently a big more sophisticated and wanted to share the biggest, baddest swear word he knew: the "F" word.
No, not 'fart'. I would have paid money if that were the worst thing he know. I'm talking the REAL "F" word. And it was quite unsettling to hear my son giggling excitedly, eyes big with wonder as he whispered it into my ear:
Let's just say that there was a part of me which knew I've been doing a fairly good job with him, because he whispered this as a happy secret instead of enlightening the entire restaurant of his Fancy New Word. Then, being the ever-vigilant learner, he asked me to spell it for him. Umm, no. Okay, but what does it mean?
Are you serious, child?
"When you are old enough to look it up in a dictionary and understand the definition (to copulate), then you will know. Let me say, though, that if you said that word and I told you what it meant, you would be embarrassed, so it's best not to use that word. " I let him know that like other potty words, he could write them in a book in his room and keep it there, much like the directions I gave him about 'potty pictures'. Those are for one's own self-expression and are meant to be kept private.
And then, the talking. We talked about NOT using that word at school or with friends. That those sorts of situations would be embarrassing for him and troublesome for the adults. I told him that I trusted him not to use that sort of language at school; that it wasn't something the adults at home said and that we didn't like hearing it, especially from children who really didn't know what they meant.
But apparently he's good at putting things together. Like bad words. Yesterday he was mad at his Legos and made a sign to put on their bin which read "Fuk Ass". Never mind the rather kinky implication, I calmly explained that he needed to put those words one of his little notebooks; Daddy and I do not like to see those sorts of words around the house. That's why I had taken down all of my snarky refrigerator magnets before he was born, right?
Two hours later, he conversationally "f-bombed" me, saying it as casual if you please.
I was done being 'the understanding mom'. I'd made boundaries, given warnings and he was waiting to see what would really happen. Time to step up to the discipline plate. I explained that I didn't like to hear that sort of language and that he'd been told that it wasn't acceptable. He was to stay in his room until dinnertime and would lose his privilege of Lego Stay-Up Time, which he'd been anticipating all week.
And then we walked in on the guys working in the hallway, swearing up a blue streak. They apologized and I'm pretty sure the dour "We are not amused" Queen Victoria look on my face said it all. Kiddo was relegated to an hour or so of looking at books in his room. Thankfully, the guys did try to make it up to me; every time Kiddo popped out, they told him "we're working and you're in trouble-- no talking now" and would close his door. It does take a village, I suppose, and sometimes it's the sweaty guys that smell like cigarettes who end up having your back. This almost made up for the endless Grateful Dead and Neil Young bootlegs I'd been subjected to over the course of the week.
In some ways, it's nice to know my kid is pretty on target. He's not actually calling us dumb, although he is finding ways to challenge our authority. One thing I did do was to go down to the basement office and print out a cover for a book of his own. On lime green cardstock: "Kiddo's Book of Naughty Words and Potty Pictures (they only go in here)"; I've stapled a thick handful of printer paper and a back cover together. He's got an appropriate, designated place for his most objectionable language and goofiest illustrations. I'll likely still be sneaking it out of his room before playdates, just in case he thinks of sharing this with friends. That just seems the logical progression of all this. He's excited to know these new word and I am just as eager to keep them out of sight, out of earshot. I do not want to have that conversation with other parents, the conversation that I refrained from having with his playmate's parents. I know that some parents aren't as guarded with their words, some have a bad temper in traffic. Some kids have older siblings. The bad language is everywhere, I just don't want to hear it out of a kindergarteners mouth.
This morning, Kiddo has made a promise to us and himself : "I'll keep the bad words inside. I don't even want to think about them. Even if it's the baddest word in the world." Who knows, maybe access to his Legos still trumps potty talk?
Maybe that's another developmental marker: keeping one's priorities straight.
Until next time, my friends...