Thursday, 25 September 2008

It's remarkable!

We picked Boy #1 up from school on foot today. Won't be doing that again, oh no...

I was pushing Boy #2 in his buggy, and a visiting friend was supervising Boy #1 and asking pertinent questions about his day. As we reached the Kings Road a rather large gentleman turned down the road we were just walking out of.

Boy #1, at the top of his voice, announced in an interested and informative tone: "Look! Look! A REALLY faaaaaat man!"

How to deal with this? He spoke the truth. The man was fat - remarkably so. You would notice him walking down the street, no doubt about it. But good manners mean that this is not something to be mentioned.

For some reason (and it's not particularly relevant, but it makes a good side-story so indulge me) it reminds me of the time, around 20 years ago when one of my co-workers was wearing one of those 'body' suits that were all the rage. You know, the ones that looked like a tight-fitting top tucked into your skirt / trousers, and which were usually worn under a jacket with padded shoulders (Miami Vice-tastic). The hidden 'extras' were the attractive baby-gro flaps that kept the top so smooth and wrinkle free and which popped together 'down below'. Good idea if you liked the body-conscious look. But bloody uncomfortable, as I remember, and if they were the slightest bit tight, required some interesting contortions in the loo to refasten them... Donna Karan has a lot to answer for (apparantly they were her invention).

Anyway, how did we know my colleague was wearing one of these contraptions? Because clearly, when attending to her toilette, she had failed to master the popper mechanism, and the back of the suit was hanging down over the top of her skirt.

All day.

We could all see it. We all knew that if that were us, we would want to be told. But nobody could quite bring themselves to mention it. I finally plucked up the courage to tell her at around 3.00pm, and when she returned from her red-faced rush to the ladies and asked how long it had been visible, I lied heroically and said I had only noticed it in the last few minutes. Well, you would, wouldn't you? Nothing would have been gained by adding to her mortification had she realised it had been an all day baby-gro situation...

So anyway, as usual I digress. Back to our children and their absence of a filter between brain and mouth. Or is that just 5 year olds? Or, in fact, just my 5 year old?

If you are anything like me, the adage 'seen and not heard' is not used in your house. Our children are people, and as such are encouraged to say what they are thinking. Politely, yes, in a timely manner, yes, but we want to know. We want open lines of communication rather than stunted silence (though every now and again a little quiet would be welcome), untrammelled creativity (well, untrammelled as long it involves paper rather than the walls, floor, or material furnishings), and above all we want to foster an eager curiosity in the world around them.

Which means, as every parent knows, you have to take the rough with the smooth, roll with the punches, and deal with interesting questions about nipples and why men have them as well women, for example. (That was tonight's bathtime poser. Anyone know the answer, by the way?)

I might prefer that sometimes they did it less loudly, less emphatically, or with less whining, but I want my sons to ask questions and to comment on the world around them. It's an important part of their growing up.

Which takes me back to this afternoon. What would you do in response to Boy #1's remark? As tempting as a swift clip round the side of the head might have seemed at the time, I chose to stop the buggy and very briefly - and matter of factly - discuss with him why commenting on someone's weight was not really a very polite thing to do.

And then, once my sons' backs were turned, I'm afraid to say my friend and I cracked up.

Kids. What a joy.


  1. Blimey, DON'T bring him to the Midwest. You'd never go out for fear of embarrassment, if he commented on fat people.

    It's a tricky one, isn't it, teaching kids social niceties. How can a child know that it's ok to comment on someone's pink dress, or interesting bicycle, or whatever it is, but not their weight, or their lack of a limb, or their unsightly birthmark? It's not obvious, until you've done it once or twice and seen your mother's embarrassed reaction.

    I remember as a child hating it when people commented on my very blonde hair (I was so relieved when it turned brown aged about 12). But why is it ok to say to someone "oooh, how blonde your hair is" and not "oooh, how large your waist is"? It's because social norms dictate that blond hair is attractive and a big waist isn't. But let's face it, you can hardly expect boys age 3 and 5 (is that what yours are?) to have worked out these subtleties.

  2. I know plenty of adults who do not have a brain to mouth filter! Just keep repeating the mantra- 'Personal remarks are odious!'. My husband has learned this from a very young age and it is ingrained in his psyche - he never makes a comment if I've lost 1lb over a 4 week fasting period. Never comments if I get home after a gruelling 2 hour session with the hairdresser, and never ever comments if I make a lot of effort to dress up to go out. Perfect manners......t.x

  3. There is also the littering problem! My then 4 year old piped up in a very loud voice "That's naughty isn't it Mummy. You should take your rubbish home if you can't find a bin. I put mine in your pocket sometimes don't I?" inthe direction of a group of rather large skinhead-types roaming the shopping centre dropping junk as they went. I had visions of my pockets being filled by said 'gentlemen'! Fortunately they were rather loud as well as obnoxious so didn't hear him. We had a little chat later about how some Mummies didn't do their job very well but it wasn't MY job to do it for them ... yes, even though I looked after other children and yes, those children DID have to do what I told them but no, I wasn't in charge of everybody. "But it's still naughty isn't it Mummy, and if no-one tells them they won't know that will they?" Hmmm...logical but not necessarily safe my son.

  4. How could you not crack up laughing? Did the fat man notice?

    I am pleased to say I have developed the filter between mouth and thoughts - but are there really very many of us who wouldn't have been scremaing "Good Lord - look at the size of that man!!" inside our own heads??

  5. Hi PM, I have an ward waiting for you over at my place, Please come and get it. I'd be thrilled.

  6. It's not just kids. My father in law can be remarkably tact-free; seated in a restaurant next to two women sharing a table one evening, he asked us all loudly 'do you think they could be lesbians'?

  7. Laughing at (and agreeing with) Iota. She's right. The midwest is certainly the land of plenty.

    I think you did exactly the right thing. Maybe next time he'll think twice before commenting on someone's appearance. But you didn't belittle him or make him feel bad for something that was an honest observation.

    Oh, and by the's not just your kids. Trust me on this.

  8. Iota, you know I always wondered how people who had been very blonde kids felt when their hair turned darker, but I have to admit that 'relieved' was not something I ever imagined... Ah well, as a brunette all my life, at least I never had to deal with that!

    KP, hmmmm. Some retraining called for, perhaps?

    Sharon, your son is clearly a crusader. Just ask him to do it quietly...

    Mud, it was tough to keep a straight face. As it is, I've had a lot - a LOT - of practise.

    Irene, thankyou! I'll be over asap!

    VG, classic! I hope you replied that they were clearly bi as they had been eyeing him up all meal...

    Good to know it's not just my children RC. And really, whilst I whitter on about them on this blog, I think everyone knows that I wouldn't change a thing...

  9. men have nipples because nipples develop very early during gestational development in the womb. earlier than sex organs. so whether male or female, early on- all fetuses start with the same "template". with further development, women's breasts become functional while men's do not. Although as certain stages of life and hormonal changes, men can lactate (some newborn boys as mother's hormones clear in the days after birth) and pubescent boys. Interesting, isn't it?
    love your blog, by the way. I've been following along now for awhile.

  10. AmyK, how fascinating! I shall save that for when my sons can understand it... And thanks for the visit and the nice comment. You can definitely visit again!


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