At fourteen, Tyler has a quirky and still-developing sense of humor and wants to express it freely. I had to draw the line with the button he recently wore home on his shirt that said: If they don't get your joke, riddle them with bullets.
When I told him it had to go back to the store for either a refund or an exchange for something less dangerously provocative, he was angry that I would stifle his creative expression. "What's the big deal? It's not like I would DO it."
I pointed out three recent news stories about school shootings and my constant fear that something like that could happen in our so-called safe world. I said that kids thinking violence is funny and parents not knowing it, or not caring about it, is one of the things that makes me so afraid to send my kids out into the world without me every day. I think it's at the heart of why so many kids are acting out with violence. I would not just let it slip by and say, "Oh, he's just expressing his sense of humor." No way.
He teared up and took off the button.
"I just don't understand how you think that's even remotely funny," I said.
"Mom, I didn't think of it like that. It's just a funny play on words. A joke? A riddle?"
"Right," I countered. "Bullets? Death? Killing? Dead?"
"Okay! I know! I'm returning it."
Which he did a few days later, and came home with two new ones that other people might find equally offensive and provocative.
I found Jesus. He was behind the couch the whole time.
A village in Texas has lost its idiot in block letters below Bush’s grinning mug.
So do we have to train our kids to be so politically correct that they can't wear their sense of humor on their sleeves? I'm at a loss. Did I let him keep the new ones because I think they're funny? Because they resonate with my political leanings, with my grain-of-salt attitude about historical religious figures and religion in general?
Yes. Yes I did. And if they don't get the joke? Well, I hope he'll just smile knowingly and walk away.
Kelly Ferry lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, teen son, and toddler daughter. She writes when she can, thinks about writing when she can't, and knows more will be revealed.