My son is obsessed with superheroes. He recently read the first book in the Captain Awesome series by Stan Kirby. As a result, his first project this morning, on our first day back from vacation and the last day of his fall break, was to make a superhero cape using paper, markers and tape. (This is far from the first such project.) He decided to name himself Captain Ninja.
I was busy with post-vacation unpacking, laundry and grocery list making. He showed me his cape, and I smiled at his phonetic spelling. A little while later, we loaded up for the big grocery trip. Corin was wearing his homemade cape, which, though it looked more like a strange sign than a cape, didn’t seem like a problem. I gave it no more thought.
That is, until we were leaving Costco with an overloaded cart, and my son announced to the woman marking receipts at the door, “I have a superhero cape.” He turned to show her, and she read out loud, “My name is Capten Nega.” (Go ahead, read that out loud. I assure you, it didn’t sound like “ninja.”)
Sudden horror washed over me as I pushed the buggy toward the exit. I threw a remarkably calm, “He was trying to spell ‘ninja!'” over my shoulder and hustled us out of the store, praying no one else had bothered to read the sign on my son’s back. As I loaded the food into the car, I told my son that he probably shouldn’t wear his cape at our next stop. “Why not?” was the predictable response. And that’s how I found myself explaining the n-word to my son today in the Costco parking lot. I’d love to tell you that quickly ended any discussion, but in fact, I spent several minutes trying to convince a six-year-old that the letters on his project would not result in anything sounding remotely like “ninja.” I was eventually semi-successful, resulting in a compromise that he could wear the cape under his shirt. To the disappointment of all (ahem), the cape tore in the process.
I leave to your imagination the fate of that particular project once it arrived home and the former Captain Ninja’s imagination found a new direction.