Monday, September 29, 2014

Hello old trout!

"Hello old trout."

I was rooted to the spot as the greeting emerged from the mouth of my 2-year old son, safely ensconced in his pushchair, to an equally open-mouthed neighbour.

"Lovely morning," I said before she could speak, pressing on into our driveway.

'Walls have ears', my mother used to tell me, well, kids have them too and they can often land you deep in it.

Clearly at some point, I had likened my neighbour to an elderly freshwater fish and my son had never forgotten.

I remember when I was six or seven, hearing someone in my class swear for the first time, but I didn't quite catch the word they used.

When I dropped my fork on my toe later that evening over dinner, the misheard expletive poured out of me:

"Ah you howie," I roared, and not an eyebrow stirred, nor a hair moved in the house.

A week later after hearing the word in its full glory, I accidentally tipped a glass of water over my school shirt.

"Ah you whore," I roared and received an almighty clatter around the head, an hour long interrogation and no supper for my troubles.

The reason I mention this is that as a parent, this debate has reared its ugly head again.

I made the mistake of teaching my eldest son (5) the phrase 'poo poo head'.

I accept that a literal translation of this could clearly be offensive, not least to the old trout, oops... to my neighbour, so I made a mental note not to use it again and to encourage my son to stop saying it.

It was used in fun I explained to some of my in-laws who were present during the discussion and I even cited the urban dictionary which describes it as a phrase "usually used in a joking, lighthearted manner towards a friend".

However the reaction of one of my in-laws surprised me:

"If your son said that to another boy in our school, he would be sent home."

Could that really be true?

Would a teacher suspend a child because he called another child a poo-poo head or even worse, if he pooh poohed a poo-poo head?

It could happen.

After all, Christopher Clarke, son of then UK Education Minister, Charles Clarke, was sent home for swearing at a caretaker's assistant.

Christopher who was 15 at the time, was carrying a football in the playground when a fellow pupil kicked it out of his hands. The ball landed close to the caretaker's assistant who confiscated it prompting Christopher to swear at him.

Rough justice or the right call? You decide.

For me though, one crucial detail was missing from the newspaper report to help me decide if the punishment was fair.

Was Christopher suspended for calling the caretaker's assistant a 'poo-poo head' or a 'howie'?

I think as parents we have a right to know.