Do you remember the first time you used an inappropriate word without fully understanding its meaning?
According to my mother, I was very young when I first made this mistake. The foul word that I was repeating, caused the room to explode with laughter. This of course led to me saying the word over and over. Many years later, I repeated my mistake. My mother and I were sitting in the library parking lot when she asked me about a girl in school. Without much thought, I referred to that girl as a “whore.” I knew from my mother’s immediate reaction, that what I had just said was far more offensive than I expected. Because it has been years later, I can’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I’m sure it went something like…
“Why would you use that word?”
“Where did you hear that word?”
“Do you know what that means?”
I knew that it wasn’t complimentary, but I distinctively remember not understanding the true meaning of the word. This week, my son asked me a question that I wasn’t expecting…
“What is porn?’
I was completely caught off guard.
When these three words came out of his mouth, my first reaction was to scream and cover my ears. It would have been so much easier to repeat over and over, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” Quickly my mind raced for the “right answer.” It had to be enough information to stop the questions, but not so much information that it wasn’t appropriate.
“Where did you hear that word?” I took a deep breath before I said this in a calm voice. I was desperately trying not to add power to this already explosive word.
“I was on the computer and someone wrote it when I had the chat feature on.” He added, “I just want to know what it means because I used it and now I am banned from the server.”
I know what you are thinking and yes…we monitor his computer access. We moved the computer next to the kitchen. Most of the time, I am in the same room with him looking over his shoulder and checking the language. Like many tech savvy kids, he hops on YouTube without much thought and will search for topics that he is interested in learning more. When I see something that is not appropriate, I ask him to turn it off.
“Okay…people use the word porn when they are talking about pictures or movies that have people naked. People might be doing embarrassing things and sometimes someone is using power over another person. This is not an appropriate word and is an adult subject. Even though it is an adult subject, many adults are offended by this.” This definition was really the best that I could come up with on such short notice. “Do you see the repercussion of using a word that you don’t truly understand?”
“That sounds SO weird!!” Then he said another surprising statement…”It is also SO funny because I thought that “porn” was someone misspelling “popcorn.” People misspell words a lot because you know how easy it is to spell words incorrectly when you are typing during a suspenseful game.”
And with that…the “porn” discussion was done.
Because my son has a curiosity about words, I’m sure I will be repeating this experience many times over. Although sometimes awkward, I want my son to continue to come to me with questions. I hope that I take the time to collect my thoughts before I react to the next colorful word!