Why Is Your Nose So Long?

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.

4 thoughts on “Why Is Your Nose So Long?

  1. I think it sounds like you handled it fabulously well! The way you did it took into consideration all the points you made. As they grow along, you will do “pre-” and “post-talks” to prepare or clarify. But you are a really good mom, full of sense, compassion, verve, the best kind of love!

  2. Not sure I have an answer, but I have a funny story: We were at an appointment, and the doctor (female) had recently gotten a hair cut. It was very short and styled to be fluffy and stand up a little taller than usual. One of my children looked at her and said, “Hmm, bad hair day, huh?” I wanted to crawl away into a hole! It makes for a good laugh now, though, and she took it with a grain of salt, that, or didn’t hear correctly!

  3. We attended a special throwback cap day in Cleveland and while I was in the restroom sporting my old fashioned cap a little girl said to her mother (as she watched me wash my hands), “Why is HE in here, Mommy?” I’m sure the mother was totally embarrassed but I just pretended I missed it and went on my merry way. Another time there was a little girl from our church who said to me, “You have gray hair!” Yes indeed, I did! :-) Kids don’t think about things the way we do so they may embarrass their parents a time or two but it won’t be long before they are beyond that stage. ;-o You handled it with grace and respect for all! What more can one ask? You’re a wonderful mom, Carol! (And I always enjoy your posts!)

  4. When my youngest was 3 we were at our local convenience store and she was hanging on my legs squeezed between me and the display of candy and gum. As I was trying to leave she would NOT move, She pointed at the gentleman behind us and firmly announced “HE’S BWACK!” and my face instantly red hot and body was cold and clammy from the blood rushing to my fingers and toes. Her comment was quickly followed by something even worse (yes it’s possible) “IS HE HUMAN?” I think it is time for a little back story here, she was in preschool and they were learning about animal verses human and one thing that makes you human is your name… In a 3 yr old mind, if I don’t know your name, you may or may not be human. So my world is both spinning with the wonder of what kind of awful parent I must be, and going painfully slowing that I must now turn and face this man. Deep breath in an apology on my lips and an explanation at the ready but when I turned around to this man (who’s skin tone was indeed very dark) was smiling. He removed his sunglasses and introduced himself to her. To be honest I didn’t even hear his name over the sound of rushing blood in my ears! I mumbled a weak explanation and apology and he ruffled her hair as I rushed her out the door.

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