I am a mother of two boys, ages 17 and 15. If I’ve learned anything in the last 17 years, it’s that kids are smart and they will flog you with their unwavering curiosity and intelligence at every opportunity.
What prompts me to write about this today are two blog postings I read concerning people saying things deemed inappropriate for polite consumption. The first, called A One Armed Stripper Ruined my Lunch, talks about a woman who was trying to have a nice lunch with her kids, when the people sitting next to them began to talk about strippers and all manner of topics related, and her reaction to it. The second one entitled Feel Free To Swear Around My Children, is a differing view on how to react when situations like the one-armed stripper conversation occur. I encourage you to read them both, as both have valid points. Not that I want to take sides, as I’ve certainly found myself in similar situations as described in both of these blog posts, but I think I have to say that I agree with the 2nd one more.
Several years ago I won tickets to a Vikings game and so the four of us (before I divorced) went to Minneapolis for a night and to watch the game. Of course, the seats were three rows from the top, and so I found it more entertaining to watch the people around me and visit with my family. After half time, two drunk guys came in and sat down directly behind us… and then the F-Bomb-a-polooza began in earnest. Generally speaking, I try not to eaves drop on other people’s conversations, and if others want to swear that’s their business. However, when you are packed in together like sardines and the F-Bombs are flying free and fiercely into my ears and the ears of my (at the time) young kids from directly behind our heads, I just couldn’t keep it to myself. The conversation with the guy behind me went something like this:
Drunken Idiot: “Blah, blah, f**ker, blah, blahbity blah. F**k that, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, can you f**king believe that? You’re f**king right, blah, blah, blah… “ (you get the picture)
Me: (I turned around and looked him in the eye) “Sir, I hate to bother you, but could you please tone down the F-bombs? My kids are sitting right in front of you, and hearing everything you’re saying.”
Drunken Idiot: (His eyes got big and round) “Oh my god, ma’am. I’m so sorry. I was so totally not paying attention. Yes, I will stop that right now.”
Me: (Smiling…his embarrassment was gratifying) “Thanks a bunch, we appreciate it!”
So, we continued to watch the ants, er, players run around on the field and the conversation behind us became less of a distraction. Until he slipped, and then things got funny. His getting the hiccups made it even funnier. It went something like this:
Drunken Idiot: Blah, blah, (hiccup) f**king bastard. (he leans closer, addressing me) OOPS! Sorry about that (hiccup)! Blah, blah, blah…(hiccup) yadda, yadda, yadda. Yackity, yack. Blah, blah blabbity blah, you’re f**king right! OOPS! (hiccup. He leans into my ear again) Oh crap, Ma’am…sorry about that…my bad!”
Needless to say the kids and I just about wet our pants trying not to laugh at the guy. I have to give him credit for at least trying! The point here is that if someone is being offensive, it’s OK to politely ask them to stop. If they don’t, at least your kids will know that you tried to do something about an offensive situation. At the very least they are watching to see how we adults react to things, whether we speak up about them or not, and they are soaking it all up like little sponges.
Another thing to consider are the questions children ask because they are naturally curious beings. If they weren’t curious enough to ask what most adults deem as embarrassing questions, they wouldn’t be normal.
A very important thing to know about children is that they know bullshit when they hear bullshit, and they will keep asking questions until they feel they have them all answered. If they ask you a direct question, it’s better to just give them a direct answer without any prevarication or squirming. It doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything, but at least a basic and direct response is due. Otherwise you run the risk of being interrogated, and the interrogation will most likely come loudly and in the presence of your grandmother, minister or boss. With your luck, probably all three at the same time. All kids have an inboard BS-O-Meter, and when you start squirming, try to put them off or tell half-truths when they ask embarrassing questions, it starts pinging in the red zone. This will prompt more questions, each one more embarrassing than the last. Save yourself…just be honest the first time around.
You can fake out the BS-O-Meter sometimes, but the next person who has to answer that question you so successfully avoided will not appreciate it. One example of this is when my kids picked my mom to ask where babies come from. She promptly told them that babies are hatched under cabbage leaves in the garden. She successfully avoided an interrogation by looking them directly in the hairy eyeball and giving them her answer straight from the hip. Being as they were still so young (ages 4 & 6), they took it hook, line and sinker. Later that week when the boys notified me that babies are, in fact, hatched under cabbage leaves which, of course, is the gospel “because Nana said so”, it was left to me to tell them where babies actually come from. No explanation from me would break them from their misinformation. Luckily enough, at the time, there were a couple of different networks who constantly showed real birthing stories. So, I made it my business to keep the channel dialed to these kinds of shows and the boys then got an education about how babies are born. I remember very clearly that Older Son was particularly disgusted with seeing the birthing process, and proclaimed loudly that was gross and he was NOT born like that.
Silly me. I should know that when kids have time to digest information other more insidious questions are then launched…very much like when you cut the head off of a Hydra, two more pop out to take its place. Next questions were, of course, “Why do babies come out of THERE instead of the belly button?” and “How did the baby get in there to begin with?!”
Oh well. Parenting is messy, and if we didn’t want to answer the hard questions we shouldn’t have signed up for the job. That’s what we get paid the big bucks for.
Uhm…yeah…big bucks. I guess I’ll have to quantify my rewards in something other than hard, cold cash! 😉