One day, my 4-year-old daughter came to me and told me that she learned something bad at preschool and it was a very big secret. Immediately concerned, I wanted to know who had taught her something terrible at school. It was, after all, a church sponsored program. I couldn’t image they would actually teach her something bad. Most of her time at the school was spent singing, making fun crafts, looking at books, and learning stories from the Bible. How bad could things get? I assumed one of the other children must have exposed her to some 4-year-old level of naughty behavior.
We sat down on the couch and I gave her my full attention. I wanted to know exactly what the big secret was so I could nip this problem in the bud. She was somewhat reluctant to share with me at first. I assured her that she was not in trouble, however, it was very important for her to tell mommy what had happened at school.
She held up three fingers, with her pinky finger and thumb folded into her palm, like she was showing me the number three, and she said, “Well….I found out today that you should never, never, EVER hold up this finger to somebody,” and she pointed to the tallest, middle finger.
Holding back a grin, I agreed with her. “Oh…um, yes. That is right. You should never hold up that finger.” They do start young these days, don’t they?
My sweet girl leaned in toward me, and in a very serious tone stated, “If you do…it means a very, VERY bad word.” She was still holding up her cute three fingers, pointing to the bad one.
Nodding, I agreed, “Yes, that is true. It does mean a very, very bad word.”
Leaning in even closer now, her big, blue eyes as wide as ever, she whispered, “So…can you tell me what the word is?”
I took a deep breath and told her no. She was clearly disappointed while I was clearly relieved.
The next day, after I dropped her off at the school, I mentioned the incident to her teacher. She explained that the subject had come up when another student had held up “the bad finger” because they had seen it demonstrated on a television program at home. A brief but delicate discussion was started and the teachers were a little worried about how the conversation might evolve. But it turned out that none of the children actually knew the big bad word and the grownups weren’t talking, either! Nobody seemed to know! Only that it was bad.
I consider it successful when our innocent children stay innocent. At least until they hit elementary school. Then all bets are off and they are exposed to all kinds of the bad words. Thankfully, my preschooler would remain naive for a little while longer.