I wish I remembered Gavin’s first word.
He learned to talk at some point in his six years on this planet, but I cannot remember the first word he uttered.
Nor can I remember his first steps, his first tooth, or even his first haircut. His first day of school is a shell of a memory, and the first time he felt the sand under his feet is as elusive as the sand itself washing away with the tide.
But I remember his first cuss word. He blurted it out just the other morning.
“I know the B-word, Daddy,” he said with pride, as though he had just returned from the moon on a spaceship he built with Lego bricks.
“You do?” I asked through a distracted cloud. I not only doubted he knew it, but I was focused on dressing for work and preparing him and his older sister for the school bus. “What is it?”
“Bitch,” he said.
But he didn’t just say it. He said it with feeling, as though he was one of the stars on “Mob Wives” and was talking to a waitress who showed too much interest in her man.
I didn’t expect the word to come out of his mouth, nor did I expect him to say it with such gusto.
After all, this is the kid who says he loves me “the mostest,” but his diction was clear and tone left no doubt that my 6-year-old son had learned his first cuss word.
I knew this day would come. Though Karen and I don’t cuss as part of our everyday language, kids often learn the more colorful words of the English language on the playground when adult mouths and ears are nowhere to be seen.
Him learning to cuss was inevitable, but I still don’t want him dropping F-bombs from the merry-go-round.
“You’re right, Gavin, that’s the B-word, but I don’t want you to say it,” I told him.
“But I don’t even know what it means,” he said.
I took a deep breath, sat down, pulled him aside, and spoke to him plainly.
“It really just means a female dog, but some people use it to refer to a girl who is not nice,” I said. “But I don’t want you to repeat it. I want you to speak well, use nice words, and be respectful.”
“OK, Daddy,” he said.
As he walked away, I thought briefly about the differences between boys and girls, or at least between him and his older sister. I’ve run across this same issue before with Celeste, but she would not repeat the words she had heard.
In fact, Celeste holds on to the belief that the S-word is “stupid” and the D-word is “dumb.” Part of me thinks Gavin knows different, but I don’t want to ask him. No need to teach him otherwise if I’m wrong.
Truth be told, Gavin is a few years behind in his language development compared to me in my childhood. My mother reminded me not long ago that I had trouble learning to speak, and for some reason every “tr” came out of my mouth as an “f.”
This coincided with a fascination I had with fire trucks, which is perfectly normal for an American boy. Whenever a fire truck roared by, I pointed to it and said, “fire truck.”
But I didn’t just say it. I chased after it like a lion chasing its prey and yelled, “FIRE TRUCK! FIRE TRUCK! FIRE TRUCK!”
But I didn’t I say “truck.” I said, well, you know.
Yep, Gavin’s got nothing on me.
This is a repost of a column that ran in The Gazette on Sept. 29, 2011. I’m sure Gavin has learned plenty of other colorful words since this column first appeared, but he doesn’t repeat them around me.