So this summer we shipped our son away to the wilds of West Virginia for two weeks of camp. The house seems eerily empty without someone to pop out from behind the furniture to shoot elastics at us, or without the endless humor of sudden flatulence caused by his remote controlled fart machine.
Thank the gods for the internet. His camp has a website where daily pictures and a video are posted. Though he is not always featured, we glimpse his smiling mug enough to know how much he is enjoying swimming, hiking, camping, tennis, lacrosse, and so many other physical activities that I get tired just thinking about them. We can also send him emails. The camp prints these out and leaves them on his bunk for evening reading. He can reply on a special sheet of paper, scanned into PDF and made available for us to download the next day. Yesterday the following note arrived:
Dear Family,His contriteness broke my heart. He'd done a pretty good job of punishing himself, I'd say. So I replied:
Today I caught 4 fishes. One was almost a foot long! I had to pull for 5 minutes! Today, a few kids got yelled at for saying the f-word, and now I know it must be really bad. I used to think it was just a rude word you should never say, but now I know it's not. It was in the book Iron Angel, so please do something about that book, like throw it out, and you should punish me for reading it.
I'm deeply sorry,
Thanks for your your letter. I don't want you to be so upset about reading a book with "the F-word" in it. It is, after all, just a word. What matters is how the word is used. I trust you to know the difference. So I think it is OK to read a book with the word in it. You are a very smart kid, and you know how to read a book without thinking that everything in a book is how the world should be. Right? I love you. -- DadShould I have been harsher? I don't know. I'm not always as in control of my own "potty mouth" as I probably should be, so it is hard to preach verbal sanitization with much conviction. I remember vividly a conversation I had with his preschool teacher when I picked him up after a field trip. Miss Joan told me, with an amused smile on her face, that he'd been assigned to ride along with a friend and his mom. As the mother opened the door to place his car seat inside, he stuck his head into the vehicle and declared happily "Holy shit, this is a big mini van!"
I knew immediately from whom he had learned that cheerful exclamation.