I pulled up and parked to drop the boys off at day care this morning, and one of J’s classmates walked by. J (who is 3 1/2, if you don’t know) said, “Mom, sometimes me and my friends call him names.” I was a little surprised. J can be cranky to his brother, but he’s generally been kind to his friends.
I told him we shouldn’t call people names, and then I started to wonder what names a three-year-old even knows. So I prodded.
“What names did you call him?”
He looked down. “I don’t want to tell you.”
Uh oh. That made me a little nervous. “You can tell me. We might talk about why you shouldn’t use those words, but you won’t get in trouble,” I said.
He paused for a minute, then looked up at me and said, “Well… sometimes we call him apple. Or sometimes bucket.”
I sighed with relief (and honestly, had to hold back a smile – bucket? Seriously?), but maintained as serious of a face as I could, telling him that it might hurt people’s feelings to be called names so we shouldn’t do that. He chirped, “Ok, mom!” And that was that.
Driving to work afterward I realized this was the first of many conversations we’d have about how to treat others. Calling someone apple isn’t necessarily hurtful, just nonsensical. But the idea behind it, treating others how you’d want to be treated, is one that we’ve dealt with before and will have to continue emphasizing as he and C grow up.
It also made me think that now, while the boys are younger, is the key time for Brian and I to set the tone for approachability. I always want the boys to be able to come to us with anything, and figuring out how to walk the line between accepting them, conveying unconditional love, but not always condoning their actions seems like it will be one that we have to just figure out along the way.
For now, though? I’m thankful that apple and bucket are the biggest issues on our plate.