Closing the front door behind me, I breathed a silent sigh. I had reached the end of my workday. From the kitchen, I could hear the voices of my wife and youngest daughter wafting into the entryway in which I stood. Quickly, I removed my shoes, hung my coat in the closet, and shuffled into the kitchen. With my oldest daughters not home from school just yet, I wanted to soak up a few minutes with just my youngest (now 3.5 years old).
“Hey, baby!” I chirped happily. Leaning against our kitchen counters, my wife held our sweet cherub in her arms. I thought about how sweet and innocent my little one looked. “How was school today?” I asked, kissing the top of her head.
With deadpan seriousness, she responded, “Mark and Chris said ‘sh–‘ today.”
Wait, what did she just say? Did I hear that correctly? Yes, I’m pretty sure I did, I thought. The digraph and closed syllable were quite clear. My wife and I made eye contact, and I could spot the laughter welling up in her visage. I felt it, too. Contain it, I thought. Remain calm.
Then it came again, “Yeah, Mark and Chris said ‘sh–‘.” Again, clear as a bell.
My mind raced, working to form a response. I needed to strike a tone of casual disdain for such language used in preschool, but not overreact. So, “Oh my gosh! You’re kidding?! That’s terrible!” was definitely out. I couldn’t say that. I also found myself desperately fighting the urge to laugh hysterically, which could send another unintended message that swearing is funny. Couldn’t do that either.
“Hmm…” I said.
* The names of the pre-school offenders have been changed in this story to protect the innocent.