I’ll never be able to look at him the same.
Not after yesterday.
Just 44 inches. He loves to tell me how tall he is.
The kindergartener mesmerized by dinosaurs and modern-day reptiles.
By action figures. By animated family films. By his favorite books and television shows.
So sweet at times. So innocent. Not yet scarred by the brutality of gaining life experience.
He couldn’t have said THAT.
Did You Order the Code Red?
At school, my five-year-old son’s kindergarten class has a color-coded system to indicate what kind of behavior the students displayed during the school day.
Green days are good.
Red days are bad.
The day my son exposed his penis to other boys in the bathroom just as a teacher poked her head in to check on them was a red day.
My ex-wife texted me thoughtfully last night to ask about the health of my grandmother who had an old-lady accident with her car. I told her that my grandmother seemed to be okay, and that I appreciated her asking.
She followed with a question.
“What color day did he have in school today?” she said.
“Orange. He was afraid to tell me,” I said.
Orange is the second-worst. Just a step shy of red.
“What did he do?” she said.
“Talking. Not following directions,” I said, because that’s what he told me, and which makes total sense because that’s what he’s always in trouble for, just like I was in grade school.
We exchanged “Have a good weekend”s and ended the conversation.
Maybe a half hour later, the phone rang.
My ex-wife again.
“So, his teacher just emailed me. And he apparently said ‘motherfucker’ in school today. Somebody told on him, and he admitted to saying it,” she said.
My son instinctively knew the conversation we were having and buried his face into the couch, and wouldn’t look at me.
This was WAY worse than the times he said “dammit” a bunch in mature and appropriate ways.
And I instinctively panicked because between my ex-wife and I, I am absolutely the one he would have heard that from. I know that I’ve let the F-word slip in front of him before. At least twice.
But I don’t think I’ve dropped a mother-effer in his presence. But, honestly? I don’t know. Not knowing, I think, is bad enough and an indication that I need to be infinitely more conscious of the way I speak.
Then, I did what any sane father would do, and handcuffed my son to a chair in an all-white room and shone a heat lamp on his face.
“Who taught you how to say that word!?!? TELL ME!!! TELL ME NOW!!!”
And I kept waiting for him to yell back: “I learned it from YOU, motherfucker!!!”
But he didn’t. Just like I don’t really have an interrogation room in my house.
But sitting on the couch, and again in bed after our nightly prayers, I asked him several times to help me understand who taught him that word or where he heard it before—which I am convinced he knows the answer to—but he wouldn’t crack.
“No one taught me, dad,” he said over and over and over again.
The mystery remains unsolved.
I’m pretty cavalier with my language. More than I should be, even in the company of like-minded adults. But that word becomes infinitely more vile when you imagine it coming out of your five-year-old’s mouth—and poisoning the ears of other young children.
“I want the truth!” I yelled in my best Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men impersonation.
You can’t handle the truth.
And I’m not sure in this instance, the truth matters. The damage is done. My beautiful child knows how to say really bad words.
Even if he didn’t learn it from me, it’s still my fault.
And as an aside, can we all agree that saying “motherfucker” should totally earn you a red day in kindergarten? Orange? Come on now.
Everything’s Better in the Morning
I’m still reeling a little from the realization that it wasn’t a bad dream.
That my little boy said that.
Goodness. I remember using some language here and there. I remember my mom flipping out a little because she heard one of my friends use the F-word when we were in eighth grade. Her heart would have stopped if she’d been in any of our junior high sports team locker rooms.
But, kindergarten!? Honestly?
Too soon, right?
He still reminds me how young and sweet he is. He was cute when he woke me up this morning, requesting omelets from Chef Dad.
“Okay, baby boy,” I said. “I’ll make omelets.”
Then I paused. Baby boy.
I still have a bad habit of calling him that.
“Buddy, I’m sorry. Dad shouldn’t call you that. You’re a big boy now,” I said.
“It’s okay, daddy,” he said, patting me on the arm. “You can still call me that.”
Okay, then. Maybe just a little bit longer.