When I was growing up I was not told that I couldn't have friendships with certain people. I wasn't told that kids who made bad choices were to be avoided. Rather I lived in a household where a safe space was created for those friendships.
I am certain my mother knew (perhaps not the extent, but) the reality of some of my friends' bad choices. And I am certain that she treated all of my friends...from my friend who never cussed, never drank, never stayed out past curfew to my friend who drank and smoked pot and said many words that would have made my mother blush...the same.
It was something I appreciated in my childhood and especially in my teenage years. It is something that I try to model my parenting after.
I do not believe that we can avoid every bad influence. I do not believe that those who make bad choices are to be discarded or considered of little or no worth.
I do believe that parenting is more about helping our children learn to make good choices than about protecting them from the possibility of bad ones.
Remind me of what I just wrote because...
My four-year-old has been learning bad words at preschool. And I don't mean words of the "stupid" and "shut up" variety (though he has learned those, too). Think of the word that is commonly considered the worst cuss word...and when you get it in your head picture a sweet four-year-old saying it.
I am working through the urge to demand that the preschool expel the child who is teaching this (and other) words to my four-year-old (as well as his classmates).
When my four-year-old was about two there was a classmate with a desire to bite who decided that my child was the tastiest. Day after day my little one would come home with a new bite mark. I knew the teachers were taking it seriously. I knew the child had just been put in foster care and was going through a lot. I knew my child would survive. I did not demand expulsion. The biting fascination passed. My child lost no flesh.
I have been the patient parent. I believe in being the patient parent. I believe there is much going on with the four-letter-word-loving four-year-old that being expelled wouldn't help. I believe my child will be exposed to four-letter-words (as his seven-year-old brother recently was on the school bus) soon enough.
But hearing it come out of his not-yet-even-in-kindergarten mouth has me in an anxious state.
And I don't know what to do.
When I consider who I think I am and who I want to be I feel it's fair to put patient and reasonable and compassionate on the list of identifiers. I'm not feeling very much of any of those.
Tonight if his teacher tells me that my four-year-old said bad words at school we will go home and I will wash his mouth out with soap (I've only done that one other time and it was when he was one and put his hand in toilet water then in his mouth!). I have warned him this will happen. I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but he needs to know that there are consequences for his behavior. And he will.
But, darn it, he should have never heard the word in the first place (there will be time for that in years to come). And it's not his fault he did. It's not his fault that he doesn't understand how bad bad words can be. But it's his to deal with now. And his mommy and daddy's to deal with as well.