Anonymous Mom is a column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this anonymous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity. You can read our other Anonymous Mom submissions here.
There are some moments in parenting that we dread and some things for which
we think we are all prepped for. The first thing that springs to mind is sex. Nope, not that one. There was something else that totally caught me off guard. Something for which I was shockingly unprepared.
My son is obsessed with swearing. He loves the sound, the intensity, the silliness, and the freedom that surely must come with the ability to say whateverthefuck you want wheneverthehell you want because that's what adults do. We swear. Constantly. It's just fuck-fuckity-fuck-fuck and shitgoddamnpissbitch 24/7 when you're a grown-up. He believes this with all his sweet little heart.
One evening, while listening to the news, a reporter said "The N Word." My son got that gleam in his eye. A new off-limits word - that he didn't know - was on the
horizon. Oh boy!
How did I not prepare for this? There were so many things that ran through my head. My first instinct was to just shut it down and tell him not to worry about it. It's not a word any of us will ever use so let's just pretend it doesn't exist.
That's a terrible idea.
My next thought was: if I tell him what this word is, there may come a time when he is so angry at one of his friends that he's going to blurt it out, really hurting someone -oh, and probably getting his ass kicked. I needed more time so, I asked for it. "Kiddo, I need to think on this for a bit and then I'll get back to you. K?" He's easy. "No worries, Mommy'O."
This isn't a swear word or even just a "bad word”. This is a word that is so much more than "sticks-n-stones" was ever intended to cover. This word has the ability to inspire undue shame and self-consciousness. It stirs rage, indignation and profound sadness. It's a word that I have never uttered, even in my earliest days when my Gran spit that and other epithets out like tobacco in a spittoon. I always knew it was low. I always knew it was wrong and hurtful.
As a home educating family, we spend a lot of time talking with our children about everything. We have had deep discussions about racism and it's origins and we have made it clear that the fight against racism in all of it's hideous forms is our fight as human beings.
Again, how did I not prepare? Seriously. Our kids have friends from every walk of life, why didn't I think about this? After much self-flaggelating, a fair amount of time, and a bit of planning -- I came up with an idea and prayed it would be the right decision.
We went to Gettysburg and to The Gettysburg Museum. When you first walk into the alcove where they show a film about slavery and its role in the Civil War, you are immediately met with a giant, floor-to-ceiling photograph of an emaciated African man -- a man used as a slave. It's shocking and heartbreaking. My little girl hid her face in my sweater. We sat down and watched the film. As we listened to the history, images passed on the screen that were horrifying and some that make you just want dive through time and bitch slap the smug, smarmy, superior shit bags who
believed that people born in black bodies were less than human.
It was here and at this moment when I told them what the "N" word is and what it stands for. It was the first time that word has ever passed my lips, and the last. The deep sadness on their faces was enough for me to know that they won't use this word. Not without thinking about this moment that made my daughter cry and my son visibly fume. As it should be.
We try to cover all the bases, as parents. I don't know if not being prepared for this was a sign of my own "subtle" racism or fear, or if it was just a refusal to acknowledge the ugliness in the world - a subconscious protest against it, if you will. But I should have been ready. I should have known that ugliness is going to creep in and denying my children wisdom will leave them unarmed in this fight.