"Momma, can I spell a bad word if I don't want to say it?"
No conversation with an 8-year-old that begins this way is going to be comfortable.
"Why do you want to spell it?"
"Because some of the kids in my class say it's a bad word and they say it all the time and I want to ask you if it really is a bad word."
Sigh. New vocabulary is a part of every kid's education, even in Catholic school. "Okay. Go ahead."
"D-I-K-E. Is that a bad word?"
Mercy. I almost choked on my dinner. She just recently asked me if she was allowed to say the word "gay" after an episode of Glee; she had heard at school that that was a bad word, and she knew what the word meant, but after she heard characters on that show use the word in a calm discussion it didn't seem to her like it was always bad to say. We had a long talk about how some words aren't good to say in one context, but are okay to use in others. I thought maybe this was coming from that same realm of playground talk, but just in case...
"I want to make sure I understand what word you're talking about. Go ahead and say it out loud. It's okay; you're not going to get in trouble."
She took a deep breath. "Dick."
I dared not make eye contact with Jason. I could see a smile trying to lift up the corners of his mouth as he sat all too amused by the predicament we found ourselves in.
"Yep. That's definitely a bad word. You certainly don't want to be either saying or spelling that one. Except when it's someone's name, and then it's okay...umm...hey, you did a great job eating all your dinner tonight! Go get yourself a treat."
She didn't ask what the word meant, and maybe I should have gone there, but I was still a little in shock. Shocked that the direction I thought we were going in was not the direction we were really going in, and shocked that her spelling and phonics skills are that weak. She aces spelling quizzes; how did she not remember that words that end in "e" have a long vowel sound? So much from that conversation to ponder.
And now I just brace myself for the next set of "dirty word" questions.