'Abujee, what does the middle finger mean?'
And so the intellectual duel began between a 7-yr old boy and his 34-yr old father.
'Huh?' The question truly startled me as I was caught off guard with Humza's innocuous question.
'Is the middle finger bad?'
Deep breath. This is definitely not THE talk. Let's see if I can deal with this in a mature, adult manner.
'Uhmmm...What do you mean? It's just one of your fingers. In fact, it’s the longest one. Pretty neat, eh? heh...heh', I shrugged with a nervous laugh that probably didn't convince my young opponent.
'Well, my friend Osama at school told me it means something bad.'
Stupid Osama's – always causing unnecessary trouble for us Muslims!
'Hah! What does he know!', I replied waving my hand with an air of arrogance.
'His older brother told him.'
Stupid older brothers - When have older brothers ever taught their younger siblings anything of value? (I speak from experience being the oldest of three boys)
Quick, I need to think of an answer befitting my status of know-it-all father.
'Hmmmm..Just ignore him. Its nothing. Don't worry about it.'
Yeah that's right, I totally wimped out. I dodged it like Bush and the draft.
Hey, cut me some slack people, I was under some serious duress.
Seriously, I avoided telling him that it's a bad thing, because I'm not comfortable in empowering him with the knowledge of 'silly' bad things. Of course I teach him about the serious stuff (lying, cheating, etc.), but I figured that if I simply avoided delving into details when it comes to such silly things, the issue would fall by the wayside, never to rear its ugly head again.
Ahhh...the innocence of naiveté.
Humza and Maryam are going about their daily routine, arguing and fighting and whining, while I'm going about my business trying to ignore their racket. And then out of nowhere, Humza, who is now sitting besides me on the couch, gets fed up with Maryam's teasing and ferociously yells out her name 'MiiiiiiiMiiiiii' (her nick is Mimi).
I look up and I see his fiery eyes with his face contorted with anger and frustration and I notice his left arm fully extended with his middle finger pointed right at Maryam. And he wasn't even doing it the 'correct' way, but was pointing it at her like some magic wand ready to unleash his rage. And he kept it pointed at her shamelessly, until I interrupted his focused stare.
Trying to hold back my laughter, I make my serious father face, 'Excuse me, Genius. What do you think you're doing?'
'I'm giving her the middle finger, like we do in school.'
'And why are you doing that?'
'Cause I'm mad at her.'
'And is that a nice thing to do?'
'Well, you said it was nothing.'
Doh! Pardon me while I go remove the egg from my face.
So it seems that he interpreted the gesture to be a way of expressing anger.
After I told him to lower his arm, I explained to him that it’s a bad thing and he shouldn't do it again.
So here are two lessons for all you young/future parents:
1. Never hesitate to educate your children about bad things, especially when they ask you about them.
2. Don't take lessons on parenting from me.
Although I must admit, I'm not convinced with rule #1. As the list of "Don'ts" gets longer and longer, the kids have more options to pick from. So I rationalize that if they don't know that some silly behavior is bad, they'll never think to indulge in said behavior, right?
For example, if they don't know that saying 'Up Yours' or 'Screw You' are bad, they won't think anything of them. But once they realize they are bad words, might they be tempted to make use of them?
So the question arises, is it better to educate them about bad words and bad gestures hoping they never use them or should we turn a blind eye, hoping they will do the same?
I think I'll adopt the 'Don't ask, Don't tell' policy. If they never ask, I'm never telling.
Monday, April 21, 2008