Writer’s note: You are about to read a piece I wrote on my personal blog at dimland.com way back in October, 2010, when my son was seven years old. With fall having been reached on the calendar and the wonderful autumn weather just around the corner, I thought I would re-post this tale of a nice fall day with a father and son walk and the necessity of turning graffiti and another… uh… item into a teachable moment.
This past Sunday afternoon was one of those glorious fall afternoons which I wish I could save to enjoy on a mid-winter day. Clear blue sky, cool air, and crisp leaves underfoot.
Mere minutes after his friend had left from their play date, my boy asked if I wanted to take a walk to the bridge. It’s a pedestrian bridge that takes walkers, joggers, and bikers over the nearby railroad tracks. The bridge is just a few blocks away, not far to walk. Considering the pleasantness of the day, I thought it would be an excellent time for the impromptu walk with my son.
It was a pleasant walk. He ran ahead, just a little, as he likes to do, asserting a smidgen of independence at the age of seven. Boy! He’s growing up fast. He was mindful, however, not to get too far ahead of old Dad. Bad knees, don’t you know?
We arrived at the bridge (we have yet to actually get there as a train passes under, but perhaps someday). It was apparent someone had been there before us. They had left their mark: Graffiti. Vulgar, crude, sexual. It became time for an unscheduled lesson in life for my boy.
“What’s a n—ga, Daddy?”
“Va joy joy?”
My son reads really well. Fortunately, some of the writing was so bad and much of it misspelled that he didn’t quite get it right. I didn’t correct him. (It was “va jay jay”. I let that one pass.) I did, however, do my best to explain that ‘n—ga’ is an offensive word. I told him it’s a word used to describe people who happen to have a different skin color than us. And that I didn’t like the word and never use it. I advised him to never use it either.
Walking away from the tags, hoping to get past lesson time, I heard my boy ask, “What’s this?”
There in his hand was a used condom.
“Drop that, right now!” I said.
He dropped it and I kicked it through a crack in the bridge pathway. I say it was “used,” but I can’t be certain of that. It was out of its package, but it didn’t appear to be… full.
“What was that, Dad?”
“Ah geez! Thanks a lot, a—hole!” I said silently to myself, addressing the person responsible for the item so carelessly tossed aside.
I told him it was sort a balloon for adults. Something adults use. And something he didn’t need to be concerned about for now. He told me he thought he might know what it was for. He said, “Is it for your privates?”
Well, then I answered yes. I told him that sometimes men wear that on their privates. Worn to prevent pregnancy on certain occasions when men and women are “together.” I again told him that it was something he didn’t need to be concerned about yet. That I would talk to him all about it when he gets a little older. He was happy with that.
We walked back home, my boy grown up just a little bit more than before that walk. A little less innocent.
We arrived home and I sent him straight to the bathroom to wash his hands. As he was washing up, I told his mother of the incident. She immediately had him wash his hands again.
I think I’m going to bring some paint and a brush down to that bridge. Got some graffiti that needs cleaning up.
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