Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Arghhh, how could she? The embarrassing things they say...

I wrote this blog post ages ago but was too embarrassed to publish it. Then I told Jemima’s teacher who was delighted by it and said I must. So seeing as I cannot think of anything brilliant to say in its place, and that I met someone this weekend who confessed that she actually checks my blog out every day and sighs with disappointment when there is nothing new to read (she does live in Ratanakiri, bless her, so she can’t get out much), I will go ahead and publish it. This one is for you M. Now you will have to comment :-).

A few weekends ago now I was at a children’s birthday party where I knew no one other than the hosts and their children. It was a first birthday party so most of the other guests were adults. I was chatting to an extremely lovely lesbian couple and their sweet daughter who reminded me of my ten-year-old niece. Just as I was thinking how nice it would be to meet up with them again and introduce them to James, Jemima decided to announce, loudly and quite out of the blue, to the entire party:

“My daddy likes to eat pussy”.

I quote her to the letter.

Arrrrgggghhhhh. I was speechless, mortified... I knew it was only a matter of time before Jemima, like all small children, said something really embarrassing in public. I had no idea how crucifying it would be.

What was the best response? Should I pretend I had not heard or try to explain? Would they believe me? Of course I was the only one who had heard the lead up to this apparent confession. She had been thinking aloud (not aloud enough, damn it) of things that would be silly for her Daddy to eat, and having gone through her teddy, doll, the sofa, naturally she progressed to Pussy. Our Pussy. Sophie-Anna to be exact. You know, the poor cat that was mauled by our neighbours’ dogs. (Read about that here).

Probably the cleverest thing to do in this instance was to have pleaded ignorance, but instead I burst into nervous laughter - I know, a sure sign of complicity – and then made it all worse by repeating what she had said. Don’t ask me why. Reason escaped me at that moment. And James’s good name remains sullied to this day.

It is bad enough when our children embarrass us by saying “Poo!” or “I don’t like her” in public. But what do we do when their comments could be construed as some sort of political incorrectness on our part? “Look at that lady’s fat tummy!” Or worse, outright racism? My three-year old nephew refused to sit down next to a man on the train. The man was very old and wizened with a long, straggly beard, the kind of face from which any child who has heard enough fairy tales will naturally shy away. He also happened to be black. What could my sister possibly say in response to “I don’t want to sit down next to that horrid black man?” that would not have made it far, far worse?

“Oh I am so sorry. It is not that you are black. He’s just a little scared of your scraggy, old beard and wrinkly skin!”

Does anyone have any great ploys which will make our children’s embarrassing comments weigh less heavily in the air, or do I need to learn to just smile and bite my tongue? I look forward to hearing your stories!

11 comments:

Caroline said...

My daughter did this to me before she could even talk, on two occasions, and it's one of the few times I've been glad sign language isn't well known! Once, we were chatting to a lady at a bus stop who unfortunately had the most immense front teeth. Kirsten looked, pointed, laughed her head off and signed "horse" repeatedly...how I didn't burst into laughter I have no idea.

The second time we were being interviewed and photographed for a press article when I launched baby signing classes in my town. She'd been happily signing away through one of her storybooks and posing for pictures, when all of a sudden she did a double-take at the photographer and signed "pig", with much laughter. And didn't he have the most enormous, turned-up nose, bless him. On this occasion I couldn't stop myself laughing and had to confess - luckily he thought it was funny too.

I think she was around 12-14mo at the time, so I've long since resigned myself to the more acute observations of small children...

Georgie said...

Ha ha brilliant! Just started the signing thing but with a dvd as no classes here! I am a bit rubbish at it to be honest and don't get round to doing it when I should. Now not sure if you have encouraged me or scared me right away! It sounds like fun having a secret language with my kids! J is learning too so I could teach her to use signs when talking about people - somehow that does not seem a good lesson for her though! Gx

Ann-Marie Dewhurst said...

Thanks for gritting your teeth and telling all! Made me laugh out loud! Worth it for the sheer entertainment value?!
Ann-Marie x

JaneyV said...

Well that made me snort my tea out my nose!

When my kids were quite little ( and before #3 was even thought of), I sat in a Mother and Toddler group listening to such stories (mainly about 'racist' comments that kids had come out with) with their poor mothers at a total loss as to where they got these ideas from. We all thought that stereotyping on telly must have something to do with it. Not long afterwards we were driving home from Sainsbury's when Harry pointed and shouted out the window "That black man's dirty!" OMG now my son's at it! So determined to stamp it out I launched into a longwinded lecture on not judging people by the colour of their skin and that comments like that were mean and hurtful and how would he feel if he were the man and where in God's name did you ever get the notion that brown skin is dirty and so on. I was mortified that my son would even think such a thing. When I finished with
"do you understand why what you said is wrong?"
"No - that man doesn't have brown skin - look!"
So I turned my head to look and I saw a white guy covered in black oil - all you could see were his eyes. He was filthy!
I think I may have confused my poor son in an effort to stave off embarrassment and totally embarrassed myself in the process.

Georgie said...

Well in Kundalini yoga we believe that you need to laugh at yourself and sweat at least once a day to be happy and healthy! I sure did sweat that day (and every day since, it is getting hot in Cambodia right now!) and glad to have given you a good laugh! You will be pleased to know that since writing that post she told me loudly, at a swimming pool full of American missionaries, that I had a "hairy bottom and big pants" ("because you are a grown up") she added, as if to make me feel better.... It can't get much worse at least...

Michelle said...

This blog entry was hilarious! Herb and I read it and cracked up. It made us remember the time on a Montreal metro when Jessica noticed a young woman dressed in 'goth' attire- all black, piercings and wierd makeup...and said 'look, there's a witch, mommy.' Not sure the lady heard her but still mortifying. Yours takes the cake though!!

Maaike said...

My dear lovely Georgie! My only excuse for not reading this five days ago is the fact that we only arrived home on Friday and it took this long to get our internet up and running! Although Ratanakiri is strapped for exciting entertainment, your blog is a great read for anyone .... seriously! Thank you so much for giving me another laugh - you have to love them hey?
Love Maaike

Maaike said...

Hey Gorgie! Thanks for this one... and for forcing me to comment so publically! Actually, just to explain why this is so long after your posting ... we finally arrived home in the jungle, but had to get the internet up and running ... and everything is a bit slower up here! Yes, it's possible! Thanks again for your wonderfully inspiring, very entertaining and openly honest blog! Love love love it!

Monstermum said...

Thank you! That really cheered me up although I shouldn't really laugh at you being uncomfortable.

We are signing at home too and I've found a dictionary online which is great (www.signstation.org).

Monster is yet to embarress me but its only a matter of time :o)

Anna said...

What an excellent blog! I just laughed out loud and rather embarrasingly in the internet cafe!!

Georgie said...

Thanks guys! Well while we were away Jemima pointed to a very little man in a wheelchair and said "Mummy! Why is that man so small?" And then she told a woman that she looked like a witch. Oh god... I shall have to lock her up.