Wishing I could mute him sometimes

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My mother has the ability to embarrass me simply by speaking. One time, after I returned home from a choir competition, I asked my mother what she and my step-dad did all weekend.

"We got naked and sat all over the furniture," she responded in an unintentional impersonation of George Carlin.

It seems that Liam has inherited her power.

A couple of weeks ago I took the boys with me to shop at Trader Joe's. As we wound through the aisles Liam asked a multitude of questions about this or that; he's responsible for reading my grocery list and locating the items we need. He always greets people and knows no stranger; despite all the worried emails I get about how homeschooling will turn him into an unresponsive social freak.

He knows many of the checkers in the store and grills them about their jobs, why certain things are on sale, even what my motivation may be for denying him a box of the candy near the register. They always chuckle and engage him. During this particular excursion our checker was a woman with a disfigurement around her eye. I never dissuade Liam from asking questions and try to view them as an opportunity to teach but sometimes I just want him to shut his mouth - like the time we saw a little person while visiting my uncle in the hospital and Liam stage-whispered in my ear: "LOOK, MOM, he's like Mike T.V. from Willy Wonka."

I swiped my card at the register and chatted with the clerk while monitoring Liam from the corner of my eye. He stood silent; his head cocked to the side as dogs often do, and stared at the cashier. I could sense his questions coming. Just don't, just don't, just don't I said to myself. I tried to send him a message with my eyes: IS RUDE. NO. His eyes responded: WHATEVER, I'M NOT LISTENING. WE'RE IN PUBLIC.

"What happened to your eye there? Why does it look all funny?" he asked. I know I said that I don't discourage him from asking questions OK, but I was raised to not ask any question which may cause someone else discomfort. Honestly though, I don't know what's more discomforting: asking someone a personal question or pretending that an aspect of a person doesn't exist so as to not cause yourself potential embarrassment. Luckily the woman was very laid-back and demonstrated the enduring patience of one who is used to children.

"I shot a firecracker and it hit my eye," she told him as she put my frozen stuff in my velcro bags.

"Did it hurt?" Liam asked.

"It did. I lit up a bottle rocket and wasn't being careful." She explained it a bit, including how he should always be careful with fireworks. I had to practically drag him out of the store so we could leave. He wanted to ask which particular fireworks might put out his eye, and he wanted to know whether or not her eye came out at any time and it was all I could do just to grip his wrist a little tight, talk over him, and usher him out to the car. I forgot my wallet in my rush, which she kindly brought out to me in the parking lot, right as I was telling Liam that if he MUST ask a question, ask A question, don't grill the woman. He understood. I don't want to scare him away from natural curiosity but at the same time, there's a way to decorously go about it.

I'm still learning how to teach him that.

18 Comments

I have a friend who was born with a birth defect that left him with almost no arms and with very short legs. He also has an unusually large head. Often when children stare at him if we're out and about - and I'm not talking young kids I'm talking about 8 to 12 years old - he tells them that this is what happens when you don't eat your vegetables. He really hates being stared at.

Sooooo ... DID her eye actually come out at any point? I'm with Liam on this one. Have you no curiosity, woman?

Another fine line we straddle as parents. Liam seemed to be geniunely interested and didn't seem to be pointing and laughing. That's a heck of an accomplishment on your part.

Maddy asked me why only "heavy" people use the electric carts at Wal Mart. She asked "Are they lazy?" Thank gawd she asked me in the car and not right there in the store entrance.

I have perfected the "don't even think about it" look; however she has learned the "what? I wasn't going to do anything" hands out gesture. in response. Which sometimes can draw more attention to us than her actually asking the question.

It sounds like the clerk handled it well. It wasn't the first or last time it'll happen to her, and two valuable lessons were learned (or at least started to be learned) from it: 1. be careful with fireworks and 2. be a little bit more sensitive to other people's issues or disabilities.

Does he still call people with eye patches pirates?

When I was young and dumb..alcohol would do that to me and I would ask the DUMBEST questions. My brain would say..NO NO NO..do not say it outloud but I would. To this day mine was: Do you have a hairlip?
She didn't.

That whole naked and furniture thing has GOT to be used on my kids. Soon.

Here's my favorite way to embarass them, which has now lost its effectiveness and needs replacement:

When my oldest daughter used to excuse herself during dinner to go to the bathroom, when she returned I would say, "Did everything come out alright?" It was even better when she was in the bathroom for a while. Ah, the joy's of parenthood!

She doesn't leave the table during dinner anymore.

This type issue happened to me once. My daughter had just finished up a week in pre-school learning about nutrition. I took her to the store one afternoon after work to pick up a few things for supper. We got in line and there was a lady in front of us in line who was obese or very large (I don't know the pc way to say it). Anyway, my daughter in her loudest 4 year old voice screeched "momma, that lady in front of us sure has a lot of junk food in her buggy". OMG, I wanted to cry. Fast forward to this weekend. My husband taught my 20 month old to say yuck when having his diaper changed. Somehow that has morphed into a very fowl four letter word that he is screaming at random. Thanks hubby :-)

I feel your pain. My son has no sensor on his mouth and no five second delay. He recently went to a party at a condo with a group of older people, all with various ailments. He told one man he looked like Moses from the Bible, a larger woman that she had a tummy just like his mommy's when she had a baby in it and grilled a porr old man with Parkinson's about why he shook all the time and talked funny. Luckily he was with my parents so I didn't have to endure that embarrassment! When does the ability to edit kick in?

Yeah...if you figure that out..let me know how to teach that to your kids. My son recently told the server at Bandana's that he "sometimes pees outside". Lovely. For the record, I have never let him pee outside, but with boys, if you're in a crunch, it's kind of handy..if he can do it privately of course. My husband, mother, and sister are the horrid ones who have let him do this. Honestly, I try and try and try to raise my boys to do things in a temperate way, but they are out to sabotage my efforts apparently. I was hoping my son wouldn't learn that there is any other way to use the restroom than sitting..but someone went and ruined that too. At least in my house, they are going to sit! If I have to do the cleaning, they have to do the sitting. Am I expecting too much?

My sister was once walking through the parking lot at the church we grew up in and happened to be walking past a mini-van. As she got closer, she saw a stream of liquid flying out the sliding door on to the ground. She got closer and saw a little boy relieving himself and about died laughing. We still laugh about that.

Anyway, I'm trying to teach him that it's not polite to talk about anyone's private parts or private doings outside our home. He's also in the pointing stage..wanting to point at people and their abnormalities. These are not easy things to explain to a four year old.

My 15 year old daughter likes to open her mouth and say stuff to embarrass me in front of people who don't know me well enough to know she's exaggerating for effect.

She is always just a few inches too far away for me to give her a good pinch while pretending to hug her or take her arm.

However, I embarrass her daily just by breathing. Can't wait to use the "got naked" line on her. Maybe I can wait till she has friends over then say it.

Back in December, I was sitting in a mall minding my own business when a cell-phone yapping mom and her kid came and sat down next to me. Mom couldn't have cared less what said spawn was doing. He lost no time in asking me "Why are you so fat?" Mom made no attempt to slow her conversation, so I figured I'd been good, I should have some fun.

I calmly and patiently explained, "I'm fat because fat people don't have souls, and Jesus doesn't love them. Late at night, when the furnace turns on, we sneak into kid's houses and eat their parents. Your mom looks pretty tasty, doesn't she?"

One of my brothers was riding a bike when he was hit from behind by a drunk ER nurse. When kids now ask him about the road rash scars on his face, he either explains that him mom tried to tell him not to wear roller skates on the stairs, or that she told him not to sit so close to the TV and he didn't listen.

My mother once told me a story that when I was 2-3 the "Thriller" album by Michael Jackson had recently come out and that I would love to sing and dance to it for hours. Then she would take me out shopping to the store and I would then tell every black guy within 50 yard radius to "Beat it".

Years later I have my own son, his mother makes fun of me and asks "Are you retarded?". Our son then looks at her and says "Yeah, daddy's from Target."

Fun times.

When you figure that one out, LET ME KNOW! Am in need of a clue in that dept.

1. I can't stop laughing at merkin4. Awesomeness.

2. I've had friends who had obvious facial scars or were little people or in wheelchairs and they often told me that it was worse when people pretended the issue wasn't there because so often it meant that they pretended they didn't exist at all. I think you went about it fine. Teaching your kid that it's okay to ask questions in a non-judgemental manner is fabulous. People are people whether they are skinny, fat or had their eye popped out with firecrackers.

My husband uses a wheelchair. He would much prefer children ask him why he's in it than to just stare. Kids are usually pretty good about it - they have a natural curiosity and bluntly ask "why are you in that chair?". No false pretenses. Adults on the other hand.... Their parents should have taught them some manners. Many, many adults either stare, or try to pretend he doesn't exist. Sometimes I'd love to just say to them, Yes, he's in a wheelchair. Get over it. Or, What's wrong - haven't you ever seen a wheelchair before?

I do have to agree with the "ask a question, don't grill", but, with kids, one answer ALWAYS seems to lead to another question. The neverending story...

Seems to me Liam handled it quite nicely; asked her questions but didn't make fun.

I'm with Karla: I think he handled it well, but I'd tell him next time 2 question limit. Most people can handle polite, genuine questions, especially from kids.

Jen, you're fighting a losing battle on the peeing thing. When my son was that age, I started making him clean up when he peed on the floor/on the seat, and you know what? at 8, he's very neat about it. He's almost got the clue on the toilet seat, too. Get 'em young. Your future DiL will thank you.

If people volunteer information about themselves, fine. They've opened up the door to conversation, in which case it's probably OK to ask a question or two. Otherwise, just smile, be courteous to everyone, and keep your mouth shut.

Comment from another Dana.

Ok, so I'm cringing for your sake as I read about Liam approaching the clerk. We all knew what was going to happen and I was right there, sweating with you. But his innocent question truly IS innocent. Wouldn't it be much better if all of us were so open and inquisitive?

As for leaving your wallet, I think my photo is in every store in my small town. MAKE SURE THIS WOMEN LEAVES WITH HER WALLET.

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