Reading Lessons

The Big Shop is a long, drawn-out process that entails buying items up and down every aisle of the grocery store because you are down to one can of garbanzos and some frozen rhubarb at home. The Big Shop with a five-year old involves time, patience, a positive attitude and a baggie full of snacks.

Today I was upbeat and headache-free, so the Big Shop was moving along successfully. As we debated whether or not to splurge on a luxury cheese, I glanced over at the deli and saw a young Goth guy wearing a black t-shirt with red blood dripping letters that read: “F**K THE WORLD AND F**K YOU TOO”. Except on his shirt, the asterisks weren’t there.  

Really? F**k ME too? Nice. And the afternoon had been so pleasant. Now THIS guy is mad at me, and all I wanted was a little queso manchego.

Now I’m fairly liberal when it comes to freedom of speech. And there have been days, okay, maybe a good year or so in my life when I would have worn that t-shirt myself with a snarl on my face. I used to wear all black when I was angry at the world too. Little extra eyeliner, ooh, that’ll show ‘em. I could never pull off the Goth look completely though, because my underlying perky interior would eventually seep through even the thickest layers of sulk. Despite my failed attempts at living on the fringe, I always secretly found these dark and foreboding characters to be somewhat intriguing.

But today the attire of this angst-ridden youth just pissed me off. Not because I’m shocked by the F-word, I use it all the time. I just don’t use it around my kid. Today, my opinion of angry slogans advertised on t-shirts has changed. Because today, I am also the parent of a kid who is learning to read.

This is a really cool thing to watch unfold, Quinn learning to read. He’s putting in a solid effort and I can almost hear the synapses firing as he sounds out a word. When he does so successfully, his whole face lights up. He’s so proud of himself.

I don’t want him to learn the F-word.

I don’t want him to learn to read, “F**K YOU TOO”, on a stranger’s shirt. That pseudo-anger against the world shouldn’t include my son. 

But someday he will. I did. So I can’t control that. I can’t control that someone else’s kid will decide to throw that t-shirt on so he can stick it to the man during his Thursday afternoon jaunt to the grocery store.

I would like to think that my little guy won’t grow up wanting to f**k the world. Who knows, someday I may find myself desperately trying to talk him out of buying an equally angry t-shirt.

But you can be damn sure that it will meet with an unfortunate laundering accident before our next Big Shop.       

2 thoughts on “Reading Lessons

  1. Last week, we had a “family discussion” about relaxing the filters on Safe Eyes, the software we use to limit our teenage sons’ access to the Web. The discussion went something like this:

    Son: I hate Safe Eyes. It blocks half the sites that come up whenever I search for anything and I can’t watch YouTube videos.

    Dad: It’s not that we don’t trust you, it’s just that it’s so easy to be sitting there looking at your screen and then, BAM, Sex du Soleil.

    Son: Dad, I promise I am not going to search for Sex du Soleil. Just don’t monitor my IM and you can track what sites I visit.

    Dad: Your parental Kung Fu is good my son, but you have to understand that it’s our job to protect you as long as we possibly can. That’s going to be irritating and unreasonable as hell. It defies all logic.

    There was more discussion and in the end, we opened up YouTube, but Safe Eyes stayed.

    My biggest regrets as a father are and will always be those times when I should have ran faster, I should have reached farther, I should have turned sooner, or I should have thought quicker to shield my sons from the painful lessons the world has to teach. I know I can’t protect them forever, I know that they have to learn some of those lessons at some point, and I know they will learn some of them in spite of my best efforts. But by cracky, I will go down swinging and if that’s all I ever do of any consequence, that will be enough.

    Shield Quinn from the idiots and painful lessons in this world as long as you possibly can Aim and be thankful when the ones that get through are small, few, and far between.

    Big Bro

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