"Sorry Dad. That was a real shit throw, huh?"
"Whoa, Mikias! Shit is a bad word."
"Thanks for telling me that. Now I know."
It is not the first time we told him that. But it had been a while. It is easy to confuse the words that are okay (Darn it! Shoot!) with the ones that are not. When Mikias messes them up, he is appreciative of the reminder.
When it comes to being a mother, Mikias has taught me some important lessons, too. I am appreciative of his reminders.
A few months after Mikias's arrival home at age four and a half, I put on some Ethiopian music in the kitchen. Mikias was in the living room and came running into the kitchen upset. He pointed to the CD player and frantically motioned for me to turn it off.
I crouched down to talk to him. He put his hands on my face, looked me in the eye and said, "No Ethiopia."
I said, "But Mikias, I love Ethiopia. I love this music. I love you."
He looked at me for several seconds. I could tell he was trying to find the English words to say. Finally he said, "In Ethiopia there is no food and no moms. NO ETHIOPIA, okay?"
I shut the CD player off. Thanks for telling me that. Now I know.
Since that time Mikias has come a long way when it comes to Ethiopia. He loves Ethiopian culture camp. He is proud of the Ethiopian marathon runners. He enjoys looking at our pictures from Ethiopia. He loves going to Ethiopian restaurants. For Mikias and Jemberu, Ethiopia is their homeland, the land of their first families but is also the home of painful memories and loss.
Last week, a friend to told me about a concert by a children's choir from Uganda. I was talking to Mikias about us perhaps going that night. He was unsure, so I showed him a clip from one of the concerts. It was a boy singing a beautiful song. There was a video playing in the background. It wasn't graphic, but it did show some of the hard stuff that millions of African children experience. I asked Mikias what he thought about going to the concert.
He said, "The way my body is reacting to that video makes me not want to go. Is that okay?"
"Of course." Thanks for telling me that. Now I know.
We'll keep teaching each other.