That’s what Levi said to one of the Akron Children’s staff yesterday as she was getting ready to leave our appointment room. She immediately laughed and said, “Well, because that’s the way God made me!”
And I said, “Levi, why is YOUR nose so short?”
He said, “Um, because that’s the way God made me?”
And the lovely woman said to me (because I undoubtedly looked mortified), “Please don’t worry about it. I’m not at all phased!”
She didn’t seem to be. I was, though. I’m not worried about her in particular – she really did seem fine – but wondering how to deal with this issue in general.
In case I was inclined to forget about it, a little reminder was dropped in my lap this morning when Elias said to me, “You’re getting bigger, too, Mommy!” Obviously, he meant it as a compliment. (And I have empirical evidence that I’m NOT actually getting bigger at the moment, so it was easy to let it go.) But this is not going to go away. The boys are not going to stop asking questions about things, and people, they see. And you can’t blame them. We talk about the giraffe’s neck being long, and the elephant being big, and the boys themselves growing so tall. So how do we teach them things that are appropriate to comment on, and things that are not?
I could act horrified and shush my kids and get away as quickly as possibly to talk to the kids when we’re alone. But that seems to me to have a strong undertone that having a long nose (or being in a wheelchair, or being bald as a cue ball) is kind of horrifying. I don’t ever want to give the impression, to my children or to others, that someone who looks different is less than.
I could pretend I don’t hear whatever comment it is that the kids made and talk to them later. But that seems callous in a different way, as if I’m saying that other people’s feelings aren’t important, and the comment doesn’t need to be addressed.
Regardless of what happens right then, this is a topic we need to continue to talk about with our kids at home. But what should I do in the moment?
Does it depend on the context? The response of the person involved? The age of the child?
In the “long nose” incident, the person involved handled it. She’s in a setting where she works with kids all the time, and it’s probably not the first time a child commented on her appearance somehow (and won’t be the last). People just trying to buy milk at Buehler’s, though, probably aren’t as prepared. Some time ago, Levi and I were walking in to a store and Levi asked why an older man had a walker. I replied, in a normal tone of voice, that he needed some help walking, and the doctor gave him that to help him out. Just like Levi needs help coughing up his mucus, and the doctor gave him a Vest to help him. Then I asked if he thought we should get some watermelon. (He said yes. The answer to watermelon is always yes.)
Was that the right thing to do? To say?
If a child has ever said something curious or odd or unflattering to you, how did the parents handle it? How do you wish they had handled it?
Parents, what do you do?
If you’ve got an answer for me, please leave a comment! If you don’t have an answer, leave me a story about something your child said once, so I know I’m not alone.