In a combination that defies medical explanation, I am both hard of hearing and excellent at eavesdropping. Motherhood requires both traits. The former is most helpful during night time hours; the latter is handy during playdates.
Unbeknownst to my son and his recent playdate guest, the windows on century old homes are not soundproof. While the boys played on the porch and chatted away, unedited, I listened from the couch in the living room.
They warmed up slowly, with knock-knock jokes and mutual adoration for Star Wars. I was just beginning to tune them out and fully enjoy the primary reason for hosting a playdate – uninterrupted reading time – when my ears perked up.
The conversation had transitioned to comparing their profanity prowess.
I braced myself for the answer to “How bad can public school be?”
My son’s guest proudly announced that he knew lots of bad words. He then listed them in near-perfect alphabetical order by their family-friendly code names: the “D” word, the “F” word, the “SH” word… and the “C” word.
While I said a silent prayer that the “C” word this first grader knew was something smelly on the bottom of a shoe rather than a vulgar anatomical reference, my son countered with some boasting of his own.
My son announced that he knew the “S” word. Lucky for the eavesdropping parent in the living room, his buddy and I shared the same question. What is the “S” word?
Son’s voice dropped, his tone grew serious and he gave the disclaimer: it’s really bad.
At this point, my pulse quickened. Any curse word my son knows is clearly my fault. My husband is as wholesome as they come. And, though I’m a clean-talking model mother in most settings, my trucker’s daughter roots shine through when I’m behind the wheel of an automobile. I mentally scrolled through my favorite traffic jam expletives, but couldn’t think of what “S” word my son was about to reveal.
A better mother than me would have burst onto the porch to disrupt the conversation and avoid an awkward post playdate phone call from the mother of our guest. But, alas, I’m not that great of a mom and my curiosity exceeded my caution. Plus, this other kid clearly had a well-established colorful vocabulary. What harm could one more word do?
The suspense effectively built, my son revealed the word in hushed tones:
I released the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding and offered a prayer of gratitude to Phonics before returning to my book.
Based on an admittedly limited sample size, spelling skills appear to be genetic.