The other day I was walking with my 7-year-old son in the Lower East Side. It was “Boy Day,” as Hunter calls it. After we went to Economy Candy for some gummy worms and Nerds we crossed Houston Street. A few feet into the street, I looked down and spotted a large spray-painted pink heart with the word, “FUCK” in the middle of it.
Though, Hunter had recently started reading, I figured that if we had walked quickly and I distracted him with Pop Rocks he wouldn’t notice it. It wasn’t a starter word, like “dog” or "cat.” Wrong. The little guy in his Yankee cap tugged my hand and said, “Daddy, what does, “fuck,” mean? A dramatic pause.
“Well, uh…” I was hoping he’d forget. Not a chance.
“So Daddy, what does “fuck,” mean?”
It’s a bad word, potty mouth,” I said, shoving a cherry lollipop into his mouth, and we went to Katz’s for pastrami and hotdogs. “Don’t say it again. Or you’ll be in trouble.”
My wife and I were in trouble. The writing—vulgarity—was on the walls, and floors. The internet wasn’t all we had to worry about. It was our urban (or suburban) backyard. I think the best we could do as parents is explain what is good and what is bad. Because every day they leave the nest, the decisions will be up to them.