My kids are entering the “middle years.” I know this because their greatest concerns no longer include whether Curious George comes on before Arthur on PBS. (which, side note: I hate that Curious George cartoon. For some reason I love Arthur, though. Buster is my favorite.)
Anyway, these days, my kids concerns are more…well, sophisticated might not be the right word.
Take today, when Henry got in the car at the bus stop and asked, “Does putting up your middle finger really mean the ‘F’ word?” He said it so casually, like, he was fully prepared to accept my answer because naturally I would be the authority on what does, and what does not, mean the ‘F’ word.
I broke the bad news to him, and of course asked “why do you ask?” to which he admitted that a few boys in his class had tricked him into putting up his middle finger and then afterward told him he was saying the ‘F’ word. Then he put his head in his hands and cried. Because my boys are sensitive like that.
Meanwhile Thomas noticed my hair was braided across the back and down one side and the biggest smile breaks out on his face (which, I mean, if you know Thomas, this is like gold) because he knew I must be celebrating the arrival of our Hunger Games DVD. And yes, this is pretty much all Thomas and I think about/talk about these days. We’re making our own short version of the movie, so stay tuned for that.
Then Henry reveals the worst part of his middle finger incident. “The other boys said now I have to sit at the ‘gay’ table. And they don’t know what gay means, because they said it means I’m stupid, but that’s not right, is it?”
I’d like to blame the public school system, but the girls in my private school called me much, much worse. The responses went something like this:
Thomas: “It’s okay to be gay.”
Me: “Being gay doesn’t mean stupid.”
Cate: “What is gay?”
Then came my millionth explanation about gay meaning that you are attracted to people the same gender, and that’s all it means. And I told them (again) about my gay friends, and role models who just happen to be gay, etc. etc. I added a bit about how if they hear anyone saying derogatory things about another person, they should speak up and not let another person be bullied. Because everyone is beautiful.
Everyone seemed very satisfied with this conversation. Then from the back seat, Henry piped up:
“Mom, can I have a cigarette?”
It took me about 10 seconds to realize he meant the candy cigarettes we bought for Picnic with the Pops last weekend.
But right before I realized it, all I could think was, “What the Fuck?”