Shocked little girl

Coping with the embarrassing things kids say

Kids, especially those between the ages of two and six, can easily embarrass their parents. They say what’s on their mind, often to the mortification of their moms. And kids seem to wait until we’re out in public to ask the most distressing questions. Loudly.

Once when my daughter was three, we were on the baking supplies aisle looking for corn meal or quick grits or something when she yelled out, “Hey, Mommy, is that a man or a woman?” I looked up to find her pointing at a person holding a ten-pound bag of sugar and staring daggers at me and my loose-lipped daughter.

Now, if you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know that feeling that overtakes you immediately after impact. It’s as if time stands still as you hope that the crash was just a dream. That’s how I felt when the individual stood there staring at me, waiting to see what I’d say.

“Mommy, is that a man or a woman?” she blurted out again.

The problem was that I couldn’t tell, either. So I had two choices: guess or run. I broke every grocery store speed and courtesy limit as I whipped the cart holding my groceries and my uninhibited three-year-old around the corner and down the next aisle.

“Well, Mommy, was that a man or a woman?” she pestered. “I don’t know,” I whispered. “Let’s go see about those Froot Loops.” Embarrassment made me break my own sugar rule.

I know I’m not alone. Local mom Rachel Powell endured a situation that tops mine. I wouldn’t repeat it except that she gave me permission to share it with you. This is how she tells it:

When Lance was about three years old, he noticed a lady at the park whose shape resembled a pear. He walked right up to her and asked if she had a baby in her tummy. You can imagine my face, which was starting to contort because I knew very well there was no baby in her tummy! 

But nothing could have prepared me for what came out of his mouth next. “Well, is it in your butt? ’Cause if it’s not in your tummy, then it must be in your butt!” 

All I remember was going dumb and dizzy all at the same time. I honestly can’t remember the rest of the day. I was in a daze . . . .

These are the moments that try mothers’ souls. So, what to do? Here are a few ideas on how to handle those oh-so-mortifying situations:

  1. Take heart: Most people tolerate minor faux pas. Most adults understand that kids do say the most awkward things. However, if your child has blurted out an offensive question or statement, apologize and use the situation as a teachable moment with your child.
  2. It’s not necessarily a reflection on your parenting. Usually, we’re as shocked as the victim when our children blurt out hurtful or embarrassing statements. It takes kids a while to learn the social graces and courtesies society expects. With training and time, they’ll get the hang of it.
  3. Better later than now. Have conversations with your youngster about saving “people questions” until you’re in another section of the store, in the car, or back at home.

When our little ones do and say embarrassing things, we’d like to take a magic eraser to the moment and make it go away. Yet these moments are teaching times and great fodder for belly laughs after our children grow up.

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