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One reason I absolutely adore children is because they are so wholesome and untouched by the world’s beliefs and prejudices. That said, it is their innocence that does not allow for much of a filter and they call it like they see it. Their adorable, yet naive curiosity, can create a mortifying situation that can be very challenging for parents. Sometimes you wish there was a very large hole you could crawl into, and other times, it is definitely hard not to laugh. Regardless if their comments are funny, hurtful or embarrassing, there is always a great lesson for your child to learn, as you will see from the examples below. Our kids are inquisitive creatures, craving to learn new things and are programmed to question anything and everything. It is up to us, the parents, to be quick witted, make the best of an awkward situation and teach our children to be tolerant of other’s differences.
One night, while my family was out to dinner, my 4 year old son locked eyes with an older gentleman who was balding on certain portions of his head. In a rather loud tone, my son asked me why this man had a shiny head with no hair on top, but brown hair on the bottom. I tried to curb my smile, not because it was funny to point out someone’s balding head, but because my son had not a clue that he shouldn’t be asking such an innocent question. I explained that some people have long hair, some people have no hair, some have blonde hair, some have curly hair, etc. I told my son that we are all different and that is what makes each of us special. He seemed to understand my explanation and continued with his dinner.
My son, who was 2 at the time of this particular incident, was swimming with me at a public pool. There was an adorable Asian girl¸ (probably around 3 or 4 years old), wading in the water with her mother, and my son approached her to play. He proceeded to stick his fingers near her face and say, “Oooh, funny eyes”. This was the perfect time for me to find that hole I was talking about above. My mind raced quickly and thank goodness the words flowed out. I responded with, “Yes, her eyes are so beautiful aren’t they? What a pretty little girl” and we swam away with grace. Aside from the fact that what he did was completely inappropriate, I was afraid that the mother would think I taught him that, which of course I did not. Later on I told him that the world is a very big place and is made up of all different types of people from near and far. I continued explaining that depending on where a person is from, he/she may look a certain way or speak a certain language, but regardless of what we look like on the outside, everyone is the same on the inside. I was glad my son was curious and eager to learn something new, but told him that next time he should ask me in private so not to offend anyone. At his age of 2, it was hard to know if he really comprehended what I was teaching him, however it was my duty as his parent to help him understand his thoughts as best as I could.
This one takes the cake and really left me with few words. My 4 year old son and I were at a supermarket and one of the baggers was helping us to our car. I did not notice that one of her hands was disfigured, however my son’s curiosity radar went off. Before I could whisk him into his car seat and explain what he had seen, he asked, “Mommy, why does she have a paw”? I think the world stopped for a moment and again, this was the perfect time to find that hole. Luckily I do not think she heard him or maybe she did and just ignored his comment. Horrified, I quickly moved my son from the cart to the car and on the way home explained that some people are born a certain way or perhaps might have had an injury that caused them to look different than we do. I went on to say that the way the woman’s hand looked makes her unique but doesn’t change who she is or what she is capable of. Continuing my explanation, I mentioned that being different is very cool since it makes you feel special. Once again, I told him that if he is ever curious about why someone looks a certain way, to please tell me in private because we would never want someone to feel uncomfortable.
The latest and greatest funny moment was when we were recently out to dinner and my husband was quite embarrassed by the number of questions I was asking the waitress. When she left to put in our order, he jokingly told me she was going to spit in my food since I had driven her crazy with all of my inquiries. When she re-appeared with our drinks, my 4 year old proceeded to ask her why she was going to spit in our food. I started laughing hysterically, as did she. We told our son that he does not have to repeat everything he hears when we are talking as a family. Some things are private and if he wasn’t sure what he could say in public, to just ask Mommy or Daddy.
Even though we want to teach our children that we don’t stare, point, or make remarks that might hurt someone’s feelings, we still want to encourage them to be inquisitive because that is how they learn. They really have no idea what they are saying might be inappropriate and we don’t want to make them feel like they have done something wrong, just that there is a better way. It’s the parent’s response that really sends a message to the child and can either open or close their minds to accepting the differences in people. It’s definitely a lot of work trying to teach a lesson to your child and getting yourself out of a sticky situation at the same time. Just try and remember that kids will be kids and they certainly do say the darndest things!
Please comment and share your embarrassing stories with Mommy Masters, as well as how you handled the situation.
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The Mommy Master
Ellie Hirsch founded Mommy Masters® in 2010 to help parents create flourishing family environments. She provides parenting tips, tricks and tools, along with emotional support, reassurance and confidence in overall parental decision making. Her educational children's CD, "Music is Magical", was just designated a 2013 Parents' Choice Award Winner.
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