I learned a very important lesson this morning. It never hurts to ask your five-year-old the questions that are in your head. In fact, I would encourage it.
Last year, Sam was invited to a pirate-themed birthday party. Against my better judgment, I bowed to mommy guilt and bought him a foam pirate sword so that he could fully participate. You see, I have never been one to like weapons play. We have a couple super-soakers and a bug-sucking gun, but that's about it as far as toys that in any way resemble weapons (oh, and the light sabre a friend gave me...yes, I'm a nerd). We don't watch television with violence in it when Sam is in the room. In fact, before attending the pirate party, we had to explain what a pirate was.
So I was more than a bit disturbed this morning when I was ironing my shirt for work and I see Sam charge into the bedroom, wielding the sword, and proclaiming, "He slices...he dices..."
Wha...? Where did that come from? And is it wrong that I immediately finished the thought in my head with, "He juliennes?" I clearly need to stop watching so much television. But I digress...
Without thinking, I jumped right in with both feet and asked, "He what? What did you say?"
He repeated the offending phrase while looking oh-so-sure of himself.
I couldn't help myself and I asked, "What exactly are you slicing and dicing?"
"I don't know."
"Are you slicing and dicing vegetables?" I asked, knowing full well the answer was not going to make this any easier.
"Well then what are you slicing and dicing?"
"I don't know...I don't even know what that means...slicing and dicing. Besides, Jonathan says it all the time."
Ah-ha! Here we go! Fasten your seatbelts and keep your arms and legs inside the ride until it comes to a complete and full stop.
What followed was a conversation about a long long time ago how there were no laws and no policemen and no jails...how everyone carried a sword...and when someone did something you didn't like or did you wrong, you would hurt them with a sword. So when we're talking slicing and dicing, we're talking about people. And you know what that means. The discussion of death and its permanence...of baby brothers who don't come back...ever.
And my son, in that moment, showed me how much I need to learn about parenting...how much my words shape his understanding of the world...how much I need to find a new way for myself and for him. He said, "Yeah, but what would happen if I stabbed a cloud with my sword? Baby Alex and Baby Travis would come back then, right?"
Heaven. I have previously taken the easy way out and explained heaven in a way that his little brain could not possibly comprehend (a fact that should seem painfully obvious since the poor kid is having trouble understanding rhyming and opposites...heaven?!?!...am I freaking stupid?!?!). It's time for something more. In ten seconds or less, I had to try to undo the damage I had done with my lazy parenting. I'm not sure I did it well at all. But Sam put the sword down. And he knows that it's better to ask what something means before you go around repeating it. He knows more than I do, apparently.