The Berenstain Bears and the Middle Finger

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This morning as I was running around to get my 7-year-old son and myself ready to get out the door in order to not miss the camp bus (which was 20 minutes late!), he comes to me with the most serious look on his face and tells me to please turn off the blow dryer because he needs to ask me a question. Even though I only had half my head dry I complied because this looked to be important. With a scrunched brow he thoughtfully says to me, “Mommy, is showing your middle finger to someone mean you don’t like the president?” You can imagine how hard it was to keep a straight face – but I did.

I tried to summon up all my parenting knowledge that I’ve been gaining through the years from reading article after article on how to deal with situations just like this one, and like an eraser to a chalkboard, my mind went blank. I asked him why he thought that and he said he heard it at camp. Of course, summer camp, the place to make friends, have fun and learn a lifetime of bad habits from other kids!

This was not the first time I’d been confronted with the “word” associated with the middle finger. When my son was about 5 years old he was using the bathroom at LaGuardia Airport and when we were finishing up he noticed that “word” written on the inside of the stall and he says, in his loudest voice, “what does !@#$ mean?” I tried to ignore him (and the laughter I heard outside) and just said it was a bad word and if he used it I would wash his mouth out with every type of soap you could find in the soap aisle at Target. Clearly I wasn’t prepared for this moment.

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