I Call ’Em Like I See ’Em
I wrote a post on my blog a few weeks ago about an embarrassing incident at the
I think Six may be the most observant person I’ve ever been around. He can be totally oblivious when I ask him to find his shoes or brush his teeth. But when he turns his focus to a thing, very little escapes his attention. On a trip to the library during his toddler days, I looked down to see his little hands very busily making the sign for “fan.” I looked all around us—books, computers, posters, but no sign of a fan. “Are you telling me ‘fan?’” I asked him. He kept making the sign, and when I followed where his eyes were looking, sure enough, there was a four-inch mini-fan on someone’s desk, easily twenty feet across the room from where we were standing. Despite all the other visual stimulus and activity, his little eagle eyes honed in on a small detail and wouldn’t let go.
Since that time, he’s continued to amaze me with all he notices. His skills are particularly useful for his bug hunting hubby. I’m equal parts astounded at the nearly invisible small creatures he sees in driveway cracks and the butterfly bush, and annoyed by the fact that we can’t make it more than two yards on a walking trail without stopping to ooh, ahh, and capture.
Lately, the boy has turned his laser eyes to the physical characteristics of the people around him. Examples from this week:
He looked at my temple and said gravely, “Oh, Mommy, you’ve got a bad, bad zit.”
Thursday, he asked my mother, his beloved GiGi, “Why do you have so many wrinkles on your neck?”
A mere two hours later, another family member was relaxing on our couch. Six rubbed this person’s stomach and said, “Why is your belly so fat?” He then proceeded to body-slam said family member.
I think the week was capped off beautifully when, at a Fourth of July pool party yesterday, he told a male neighbor that he had “big boobs.” And then, as if collecting empirical data, he pushed one “boob,” and then the other, and declared that they were equally big.
Lucky for me, all of these people think Six is a hoot. And it is funny—to a point. It’s “kids say the darndest things” silly, for the moment. He’s not setting out to be hurtful or rude. My lovely sister-in-law was kind enough to remind me that he is making observations. He does not assign a social value to the characteristics he’s pointing out. And it’s not just the embarrassing he notices. He’s just as likely to point out that you have green eyes, or pretty earrings, or new shoes. And of course, only he knows what he means when he says you have a “fleh” nose. But he is beginning to realize he gets a much bigger reaction when he points out your bad breath, or your big ears with “little hairs sticking out all crazy.” (Sorry Pops).
I would probably be harder on him if I were not the Queen of Inserting Foot in Mouth. I have been known to be a lawnmower with my words. Sometimes, I pride myself on my outspoken tendencies. But it’s all about timing, and sometimes my timing is off. Way off.
I blame it on my Sagittarian status. I’ve gotten better over time, but at age thirty-seven, it’s still not uncommon for me to regret things I say. Sometimes it’s immediate, sometimes it’s while I’m mentally reviewing the day. Sometimes I am so dense that Jane and Mister have to point it out to me that I’ve been tacky. It’s almost never intentional. And of course, it’s nothing as over-the-top as pushing on my neighbor’s boobs. I simply forget my own mother’s frequent admonishment: “Think before you speak.” It’s a phrase I feel sure I’ll repeat to my child and myself at least once a day for many years to come.
I know there are parents out there who think that this sort of thing must be squelched immediately, and harshly, if needed. But I really want him to internalize the lessons of grace and discretion, not just keep quiet for fear of me pinching the hair behind his ear. And I know from personal experience that’s a life-long process. So when he chooses an inopportune moment to call it like he sees it, we’ve started saying, “Choose your words carefully. They have power, and they matter. Keep your words soft and sweet.” Good advice for kids (and moms) everywhere.