“We learned about the human body today.” Declan is proud. It’s one of the few days he hasn’t said, “Nothing” when I ask him what he did at school.
School children do a whole lot of “nothing” when you ask them. It’s probably why we need to give so many standardized tests, so we can measure the amount of “nothing” they learn and I teach. If my government’s already doing “nothing” I don’t want schools to do “nothing” too.
Declan talked about all the parts of the body. I mean all. I had to listen before he realized he was sharing and remembered he was supposed to say “nothing.”
“You learned all that in one day?” I ask.
“Yup. We can say ‘penis’ if it’s about the human body but not otherwise.” There are few words Declan likes more than the “p” word. I’m told it’s a boy thing, that it’s something they never outgrow.
“So, did you get to say it?” I ask. I’ve banned discussion of “penis” outside of sickness or getting clean. I put an end to “fart,” and “butt” and non-illness references to poop for good measure.
“No. It ‘wasn’t appropriate,'” he said. He must’ve tried and failed to use it appropriately. “But it was gym day!” Gym day is the reason kids go to school. I get the play-by-play before it’s time for a new subject.
“Mom, how old do I have to be to watch bad shows?” He’s got the censorship countdown hardwired in his brain. “I want to watch The Simpsons.”
“When you’re 14 or 16. I forget.” I make up ages so he’ll stop asking.
“But you said The Simpsons are great!”
I think I’d said, “One of the best shows ever, when you’re 14.”
“What?” We’re swinging on the hammock on one of the first seventy-degree days following the winter that nearly buried New England.
“When can I say the ‘f’ word?”
“When you move out.” He wants to be a teen so he can swear. I tell him teens who live with their moms can’t swear.
He runs down swears requesting appropriate ages for each one, but I say “no” to all. Today I’m paying attention–to the sunshine, the breeze, the birds, the leaf explosions from the trees, and the fact a seven-nearly-eight year old is trying to slip one by the radar. I defeat him, line item by line item.
“I can’t wait until I can watch every show and say bad words. And I’ll be eight in a month and six days.”
That’s a word problem he’ll solve. “Declan is eight in one month and six days. How long before he can watch the Simpsons and say the ‘f’ word? Explain how you arrived at your answer.”
The boy chatters on about insects, gym, his friend who likes farts as much as he does…
I have so many things to do… a call to make, a bunch of papers to correct, then there’s dinner to contend with…
“Mom, let’s stay out here a little while longer.” In a “little while” he’ll ask for a little while again. It’s the nature of little boys–anything to leave homework until later. Today, we do stay out longer, discussing the life cycle of the meal worm, darkling beetles, and why I don’t like bugs. He’s part mini-Google and part great-negotiator wrapped up in forty-eight pounds of action.
“Have you thought more about buying the mealworms and beetles for me?” He’s been asking for days. They studied insects in school. I’d given the second-most popular mom blow-off after “I told you so.”
“I’ll think about it.” I’d said. “There are plenty of insects outside for free.”
“You want me to learn, don’t you?” I tell him it seems like he’s learning just fine to me. He stares me down. I hold fast on my “no” regarding the “f” word and Simpsons. I buy the insects instead.
Censorship is alive and well. And much cheaper than insects, which grow almost as fast, I’m told, as little boys.