No need for a disclaimer on this one ... bear with me and you'll decipher it soon enough.
A few weeks ago, Smilin' Vic, Kiddo and I were seated at an upscale restaurant, enjoying a leisurely and rather costly meal. We had fibbed to get kiddo in ... minimum age is 10. On our way to the restaurant we grilled her mercilessly:
Us: "How old are you?"
Us: "No, you're not seven. You are TEN. Do you understand? Anyone asks, you are TEN. Let's try again. How old are you?"
Us: "For goodness sakes, you are TEN. Just for tonight, you are TEN!"
Kiddo: "But that would by lying, Maman, and you said I'm never supposed to lie."
Me: "I lied." ...
"Just bear with us, ok? It's a white lie. If we don't lie tonight, we can't get into this place, and that would be horrible. So 'how OLD ARE YOU'?'"
Kiddo: (Crosses her arms against her chest, extreme look of disappointment as she tries her best 'I expected better of you' look on me) "Hmmmmph. Ten, I am ten years old."
Us: "That's good, better, now let's practice a few more times ..."
Anyhow, we made it in, and no one bothered to ask her age. Once she got over her initial disillusionment at being born to lying, scheming, conniving parents, she was actually quite stoked at her newfound maturity. She spent the evening trying to do things that made her more "ten-like", leaning in to me and quietly asking "Is this how a 10-year-old would hold her fork?" and "Since I'm 10, can I go to the bathroom on my own?" and "I don't think 10-year-olds have to eat what their parents tell them to."
But the reality is a 7-year-old can only fake it so much. So as kiddo was enjoying dessert and Smilin' Vic and I were finishing off the last of the wine, she suddenly gasps and exclaims "That man over there just said the "C" word."
Now just stop for a minute, and picture Smilin' Vic and me simultaneously spitting out our finest red ...
Smilin' Vic: "Shhhhhhhh! Where did you hear that word?"
Kiddo: "Well, you say it all the time Papa, but you told me not to say it."
Now don't get me wrong, Smilin' Vic's repertoire is occasionally peppered with profanity, a throwback to his years in the barracks. But some words he has forever relegated to the literal battlefield, the "C" word which immediately springs to mind being at the top of the list. So Smilin' Vic is visibly flustered. "I DO NOT, nor have I EVER, used that term in our house."
Kiddo: (loudly enough for fellow diners to hear and cast disdainful glances our way) "But you DO, Papa; you say the "C" word all the time. You even said it about another driver when we were coming to the restaurant."
Smilin' Vic: (well, at this point he's not actually saying anything out loud ... he is silently, mentally going through his entire collection of curse words, spewing them in his head, where only he can hear them and appreciate their true significance ... he does this regularly ... it is a kind of mantra for him in those moments where he is particularly flustered - but I can almost hear the expletives myself, so loudly is he thinking them).
I have never heard Smilin' Vic use that particular term; I'm thinking we may be on the wrong track and I need to diffuse the situation. I lean in to kiddo. "Kiddo, can you whisper the "C" word into my ear? I promise I won't tell anyone."
Kiddo leans in, cups her little hand around my ear and whispers softly:
"That man said "crazy" maman, and he said it two times, and Papa's not telling the truth, because he says it too, he does, I swear."
And this folks, is what you get when you try to do the right thing by teaching your child not to use certain words. We should have known; this isn't the first time this has happened.
There was the time kiddo announced to her nursery school teacher that her nanny uses the "F" word all the time.
While the "F" word can be considered offensive in North America, it is brandished quite liberally, and more often used as a common adjective than a curse. But here in the ME, it is construed as extremely offensive.
Our poor nanny used to pick up kiddo at daycare every day, and really couldn't understand why everyone was looking at her funny.
When her teacher brought it up casually one morning as I dropped kiddo off, I had to explain that the "F" word in our house is actually:
Our nanny is Philippina, and like most Asians we've met here, has no compunction whatsoever against using the word; going so far as to gleefully tell me or Smilin' Vic we've gotten very "fat" upon a return from Italy or Switzerland or another of those indulgent countries that serve up the most delicious, unctuous, cheesy, and creamy of dishes. We've had to explain a few times that while it may be quite normal in this culture to tell someone they're fat, most Westerners tend to find it rather offensive, actually more offensive than the 'other' "F" word.
We also have the "S" word:
The "D" word:
The "H" word:
But yesterday, I heard kiddo conspiring with her two friends by the pool. They asked me to pretend I didn't know them, to pretend they were just teenagers enjoying a day out. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
They lounged in their chairs, taking in rays. They introduced themselves to me, explaining that they were triplets. Their mother had a very difficult birth, so they had to take the bus straight from the orphanage to get money and jobs. One was an artist engineer. The other was a doctor who cleans beaches. The last went to beauty salons, but was also an artist.
Then a little boy walked by with his mom. I heard kiddo exclaim to her friends: "Hey, I know that guy, he's my friend." The second girl answered: "Yeah, he's in Grade 1, my mom was his substitute teacher once." The other girl whispered: "Your friend's HOT."
Once I had recovered from falling off my own lounger, I realized that
is now the new "H" word in our house. I watched the three girls (who I did not know) saunter over to the boy and his mom. They engaged him in a few moments of 7-year-old flirtation as he looked at them eagerly as only an oblivious 6-year-old boy can ... he was obviously thinking that since there were four of them, they might be able to play a game of chicken in the pool.
So I'm reconsidering our strategy. Kiddo's seven, going on ten. Perhaps it's time to let her expand her repertoire and welcome her to the real world. We've introduced the white lie, we've taught her that she actually can point as long as she's pointing at something, not at someone. So maybe the time has come to introduce her to the concept of "term appropriateness based on context".
Or we could shelter her for the next twenty years and do our darndest to hold on to the toddler forever. I like that option, I like it a lot.
Fortunately, I love kiddo more. And I want her to lead a productive life in society, be able to mix with the masses without coming across as a complete dork (though in fairness, I've made it this far with a fair amount of naïveté to my credit). So chances are I'll start letting "stupid" slide into conversations, as long as it's directed at things or situations, not people.
I will say this: the ME has been a blessing to us and to her as far as allowing her to be a kid. She is probably enjoying her childhood innocence a lot more here than she could in the West. Kids here get to remain kids here a lot longer ... remaining blissfully oblivious until now to the "F" word of my forefathers.
And now you know. "F" me in the ME is all about weight, folks, not about getting screwed (oops! is that the new "S" word??????).