Mommy Mortification

I should preface this entry by saying I have had so many friends tell me stories similar to what I am about to share with you, so I know this experience is not unique to me. Kids say things so innocently, but they not always understand the effect their words might have on someone.

Today after picking Abigail up from school we all headed down to the large Half Price Bookstore off Northwest Highway. I had a couple books on hold and we spent a bit of time browsing through the children’s section too. After acquiring one tiny Thomas board book for Nicolas, one medium-sized Thomas book for Jonathan and one larger Thomas book for Abigail (aren’t we a literarily diverse family??!!) plus a copy of Madeline, whom I’ve wanted to introduce Abigail to for some time, we headed to checkout where we had to wait for a bit as there was a long line. As I paid for our purchases, several people passed by us. In order to exit the checkout area, one had to navigate a rather narrow passage, much of which we were blocking! A rather large gentleman said “Excuse me” to us as he attempted to pass by. Abigail looked up toward the voice and without missing a beat pointed to him and said very clearly, “Mommy that man is a little fat!”.

Oh dear!! I clapped my hand over her mouth but was not quite quick enough. My first thought was that having the ability to vanish into thin air at that moment would have been helpful. To tell the truth, Abigail was tempered in her description of the man. In actuality he was quite fat, but I am very thankful she did not say so. I was so concerned about how the poor man felt upon hearing my daughter’s comment. On the car ride home we had a chat about how sometimes even when we are stating something that is true, it might hurt someone’s feelings. I have to be careful though with Abigail who so much wants to please and who is quite sensitive to correction. So I carefully told her that she did not do anything wrong per se, but that sometimes instead of saying something about the way someone looks, it is good idea to keep that thought to talk about at a later time with Mommy and Daddy or another close member or friend of the family. Of course that doesn’t sound quite right to me either because in general when she makes a comment toward someone it is very appropriate, such as when she told her Grammy that she really liked her pretty dress, or when she noted how cute little Nicolas was in his Sunday outfit, or when she commented upon how well Jonathan was obeying Mommy one particular day.

So, gentle readers: what have you to say?? Have any of you found a way to verbalize what it is I’m trying to get across to my four-year old in a way which doesn’t discourage her from saying the right things but also helps her understand which things might be best left unsaid??

3 Comments

  1. Jenny
    Nov 3, 2003

    … Thumper, he was a cute little rabbit, asked the mama deer what she was going to call her baby.

    She smiled and looked down at her son and then at Thumper. ” I am going to call him Bambi,” she said. Thumper stood there for a moment, thumping his foot.

    “That’s a funny name”, he said at last.

    Thumper’s mommy scolded him, very gently, “Thumper”, she said, “What did your father tell you this morning?”

    Thumper hung his head down, just a bit and replied, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin at all!”

    And you know, that is really what we should all remember. We should always remember to say nice things about each other.

  2. Tricia
    Nov 3, 2003

    I agree totally with you, but how do I get across to Abigail just what is “nice” what is not? In her world, being fat is not a bad thing. Truly. She is innocent of the fact that some people who are overweight might not be too pleased about it. Or at least she was until today. I’m guessing there are many other situations where a lack of sensitivity due to just being so young is going to come into play.

    Same goes for the little girl of a friend of mine who announced to her mother one day in the TNPC Ladies’ restroom that a particular church member, who was also in the room at the time, had a large posterior. The little girl was in no way wanting to be malicious…in her own mind, she was merely making an observation!

  3. jennifer
    Nov 4, 2003

    The man who heard Abigail may have been a little hurt, but he knows how much he weighs and he is an adult who can probably handle the comment of a 4-year-old. It is right to want to teach our children to say what is nice, but they need a chance to mature and learn what our culture deems as nice. I think most adults know that kids are just making observations when they say things that if said by an adult would be inappropriate. I think your approach of talking to Abigail in the car is the best way to teach her when the opportunity presented itself.