Monday, August 01, 2011

Family tradition

When my brother Joshua was little, I'm thinking maybe 4 years old or so -- in other words, close to Zeke's age now -- he and my mom were out together.  Grocery shopping, running errands.  Doing something out in public.

And my mother noticed a dwarf was standing near them.  (Or "little person," whatever.) 

Her stomach sank, because she knew that Josh would notice them too.  And would be incapable of not commenting on this person's short stature. 



"Yes, Joshua.  Shhh."

His body was practically vibrating with excitement at this point.  "Mom!  MOM!!  Look!!  Look!"

"Yes, Joshua, I see, please don't point.  Shhh.  It's not polite."

"But Mom!  Mom!!  Look at that person!!  Look!  LOOOK!  MOM MOM MOOOOOOM!"

"Mmmhmmm, hey, we need to get out of here, pleasestoppointingI'llgiveyouanythingyouwantjustpleasestop ohmygodjustlettheflooropenupandswallowusboth.  ShhhhPlease."

I know most parents go through a similar situation at least once. 

But it's hard to be prepared.

Yesterday Zeke and I went for a late afternoon swim at our community pool.  It's a short walk from our house so it's nice to go late and get the kids tired and hungry from swimming -- dinner and bedtime tend to be a breeze.  Josie didn't feel like going so she stayed with J and they went for a walk or something, and Zeke and I walked over for a swim, just the two of us. 

We were hanging out in a corner of the big swimming pool and Zeke was practicing swimming from the wall to where I was standing, about 10 feet away.  There were a couple of ladies sitting on the edge of the pool with their feet dangling in the water.  They were both a little on the heavy side.

At one point Zeke said, "look, Mama, that lady has a baby in her tummy."

I hadn't noticed any pregnant women in the vicinity, so I was looking around trying to find who he was talking about.

"Where, sweetie?"

"Right there!"  He pointed to one of the ladies sitting near us.  Who, to me, looked chubby rather than pregnant, though I couldn't say for sure. 

My chest tightened.  I threw a Hail Mary.  "Oh, do you mean that pregnant lady way waaay over there down by the fence, really far away from where we are now?  Is that the lady you were talking about?"  My efforts were so pitiful and obvious to me that I was practically rolling my eyes at myself.

Zeke started swimming again and appeared to lose interest in the maybe-chubby-maybe-pregnant lady.  I figured we were safe and concentrated on teaching him how to time his breathing and float on his back.  We meandered around the shallow end a little bit.

We drifted back to our old position.  Near the lady.  He glanced at her and her stomach a few times, obviously trying to work out what was going on, but then would go back to swimming.

Then at one point, Zeke swam from me to the wall, right next to where she was now standing in the water. 

And said to her, "hey!  You have a big tummy!"

I grabbed Zeke's arm and whisked him away to give him a talk about how people don't like to be told that they have big tummies.  I was uttering parento-babble-bullshit, hoping to distract and somehow persuade him at the same time. 

Thankfully, the lady was deep in conversation with her friend and either didn't hear Zeke or did a great job of acting as if she hadn't heard him. 

But still, I was mortified, and I keep thinking I could have handled it better or differently, though I'm not sure how.

Parents out there, what would you have done?  Any tips on dealing with a situation like this?


  1. Anonymous2:30 PM

    My tip. Speak German with your kids. They can say whatever they want and other people won't know whats going on. Works well.

  2. Excellent idea, Mirko. Unfortunately, the only other language I speak is Spanish, along with every other person in Denver. :/

  3. Glenn B.12:15 PM

    hahahahahahahahahaha. Not really the same in terms of embarrassment, but in line at the grocery store one day, my oldest son (probably four at the time) said loudly "Daddy! - why do white people only buy brown bread and brown people only buy white bread?"

  4. A) That is a very astute observation for a 4-year-old. B) I would have died. Holy shit.

  5. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Maurice did the same thing Josh did around that 4 yr old timeframe (it must be something with the #4). We were in the the Fossil store in Perimeter Mall & there were 2 dwarfs/little people sitting & waiting for their shopping companion. My son walked over to one & promptly poked her in the face because, as he said, he "wanted to see if she was real." Luckily, they weren't offended by it & proceeded to play with him even though, at 4 yrs old, he was taller than they were.

    Now that he's 8, I tell him that it's not polite to stare at people. If there is something that seems off to him about someone, I tell him to ask me about it. If I don't know, sometimes I'll walk him over to the person & have him ask them. Not to be nosey but to be more informative about their situation.