"If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the 'F**k you' signs in the world. It's impossible" - The Catcher In The Rye
As a parent I am called upon to be a protector of innocence, while letting the children in on what the real world is actually like at the appropriate time. It’s a tightrope often dictated by events out of my control. Something as simple as a graphic DVD cover image can scare a small child for weeks, but you can’t blindfold your kid while strolling through the video store. There is no longer a true family hour television block. The mainstream music of the moment is hip hop filled with cursing and even if you don’t listen to it in your own home, you’re likely to hear it blasting out of the pimped out rides tooling down your city streets.
It’s true that you can’t shield a child forever from the reality and trauma of adulthood. You shouldn’t even try. Our oldest daughter already knows about death. She knows that movie monsters aren’t real, but that there are real ones all too human. We’ve taught her to scream and kick if a stranger ever lays a hand on her. She knows about the insidious evil of drug addiction thanks to a wayward relative. After yesterday, she now knows a crass obscenity.
She was one of the best students in her school’s accelerated reading program so she got to go to the local park with a bunch of her kindergarten peers for a pizza party picnic. Later she went with the Soulfish wife over to her grandmother’s house. The Soulfish wife was in the kitchen when she heard our daughter ask grammy what “suck your d**k” meant. One disadvantage of being an accelerated reader is the ability to read something like that. It was written at the park somewhere and she just happened to see it. She’s trying to read everything she sees now, which is good, but to be honest we didn’t see this issue coming. Her grandmother explained that what she had seen was obscene, and not something to be repeating.
It’s a minor evil in a world filled with major ones, but it’s still a shame that you can’t even go to a playground without little pieces of innocence being stripped away. I immediately remembered the scene in The Catcher In The Rye where Holden is waiting to see his sister in the museum in Central Park. Then he sees the scribbled F**k you on the wall. The implication in the book is that the epithet was probably written by a child (it’s written in crayon) which disgusts Holden all the more.
I’m sure that my daughter is not going to go around repeating the crass scribbling she comes upon. She’s been raised better than that. I’m extremely proud of her ability to read (she’s even more amazing at math) since half my house is given over to books. Still, a part of me wishes I could keep her a kid forever. When she was around three years old, we were hanging around outside one late afternoon. The moon was out and she saw it. She started to jump up in the air reaching with her arms at the height of each leap. I asked what she was doing. “I’m trying to get the moon,” was her reply. She knows she can’t grab the moon out of the sky now, but as long as she keeps reaching for it metaphorically I’ll be okay with her growing up as long as it doesn’t happen too fast.