Saturday, April 15, 2006

Code Switching, or "Yo, yo dude...that's crazy, dude..."

Okay. Beautiful day outside and spent most of it out with my two boys. There are quite a few kids that live on my block and I live in a fairly urban area, so houses are not far apart and all of the kids...from three to thirteen...tend to stick together. As it is the beginning of spring and play season, the kids had very little yard toys. So, I decided to bring my two to the Target right around the corner. Joey, my older son, wanted to bring his friend and I thought, hey, no literally is RIGHT around the corner and we were walking, so, no biggie.

So Joey and friend are having a personal conversation. This is a five year old and an almost five year old. And I listen to Joey talk. It was insane. One of the things he said was, "Yo, yo...dude, that was crazy, dude, that was crazy..." And he says this as he holds up one of his hands and is gesturing with his hand and holding his fingers cocked in, oh, how can I describe it, gangster posture/positioning? So I say to him, "Joey, what are you doing? Why are you talking like that?" to which Joey replies, "Yo, moms, I'm with my friend and DADDY said it's cool to talk like this when I am with my friends."

WHAT?!?!?!?! Daddy said what?

Some of us know this technique (?) of survival as code switching. I am a big fan of and often use code switching from work, to home, to family. But my four year old? And where exactly is he already learning the words, the posture, the poses, the dialect, the wordage of his oh so urbane existence? Let me say that no, my son does not watch TV all day. No, he doesn't listen to booty music all day and he doesn't hear this language from my husband or me.

Ok, it's not that I mind the code switching. What I really minded is that he sounded like a bad actor in a bad film about "gansta" life shot in the "hood." My husband and I feel our children will already have a couple of strikes against them when they enter the "real world." And who knows how anyone/everyone/someone will view our boys. Black? Latino? White? Mixed? Other? Mulatto? Mutt? Seriously, up for grabs. We know how we are rearing them. We know the values and principles we are instilling in them. We know the confidence and security in home and self that we are giving them. But that cannot change the fact that some people out there will make their own judgments, decisions about how they will choose to see our sons.

So. With that in mind, that makes these new developments in my little Jo-jo all so hard to handle. I have no doubt that he is very proud of himself and his new lingo. Lingo, I am sure, he learned from his uncles and THEIR friends because that is who was keeping an eye on them while my husband painted the apartment that THEY live in. Cool. That's family. Whatevs.

I don't know. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am a freak. Maybe from his new code switching trick there is a lesson for him and me to learn. Do I sit down and actually have this talk with him? I mean, what I just typed here, is this something to say to him? Hmmm....

~A wild code switching thing

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