That’s not a word that I use or condone. Kids learn this stuff. Just like they learn about sex and porn and everything else that we want to shelter them from for as long as we can.
Even more cringeworthy than the homemade grill is when my 12-year-old son recites the lyrics to popular rap songs, word for word, as if he has a clue about gangsta life or the meaning of misogyny. I’ve told him that I won’t answer to being called “woman” even jokingly. And, because you're white, don't ever say the ‘N’ word even if everyone says it or that's how the song goes. Find a new verse, I tell him. Better yet, find a new song.
I also explain that we have a parrot in the house named Peter. Not an actual parrot, but a 7-year-old who will say whatever whenever, even revealing such personal things like how his older brother’s privates are now hairy. You see what I mean. He repeats everything, including the words he knows are forbidden. He told his teacher that if he was performing in the talent show he’d pick a song with all the bad words. Words that he'd recite if prompted.
I'm always worried that he's going to say something mortifying like calling grown men with ponytails girls or pudgy men with guts fat. He's done both. Over the weekend, I drove my oldest son and two of his friends to the basketball park. I was tense just waiting for Peter to blurt out something offensive to the two black friends. I held my breath as I turned into their apartment complex. Lately he’s been telling me how his classmates live in “mansions” so I expected him to make some kind of comparison. Whew—safe. He stayed quiet.
Then the boys got out of the car and he said it, the ‘N’ word, to his sister who was poking him in the backseat. I flung my head around and told him to never say that word again, thankful that I wasn’t scolding him minutes earlier. I told him that's one of the worst words to say. “Like vagina?” he asked me. “Way worse,” I told him. That’ll have to be the lesson for now.