Maddie strolls into the kitchen as I am working at the kitchen table. Although she is seven years old, she is sometimes still four in my mind. My Maddie. I don’t glance up from the keyboard.
“Is bitch a bad word?”
I stop typing. I look up. My eyes take in her face, her hair, the way she is leaning on the kitchen table expectantly. She isn’t four, I have to remind myself.
“Yes,” I answer.
I don’t elaborate. We stare at each other, each of us trying to figure something out, searching each other’s eyes for an answer.
“I didn’t know!” Maddie says suddenly, putting her hands up in the air defensively to proclaim her innocence.
“It’s okay, Maddie. Yes, bitch is a bad word. It’s a swear word. Do you know what that means?” Maddie shakes her head, not yet releasing her arms from their hands-up position. “A swear word is a bad word that grown-ups might say when they feel mad.” I continue. “Bitch is like a way of calling a girl a jerk, sort of. It’s a bad word.”
“I didn’t know,” Maddie says again.
“I know you didn’t. It’s okay. I’m glad you asked,” I reassure her.
She leaves the kitchen, and I stare at my computer screen. Moments later she is back.
“Mom? Can boys be bitches?”
My Maddie. She is definitely not four anymore.