If You Can’t Think of Anything Nice to Say…

In addition to being opinionated about people’s underwear, Owen has also started making untoward personal comments, which we really must nip in the bud. I know that I put my own mother on the spot a couple of times when I was small. She passed these stories on to me because they marked her.

The first story relates to my cultural ignorance. I was living in a rural, very white, environment and, as a consequence, was unfamiliar with differences in skin colour. So when I saw a black man on the bus, I asked him, quite earnestly, if he was made of chocolate. As my mother reports it, the man replied, oh-so-graciously, that yes, he was, and that I was made of vanilla, with just a touch of strawberry (pinching my round cheek). My mother, made of  (very red) beets, was horrified and relieved, in good measure. As she points out whenever she tells the story, the situation could well have gone sour, as in the next example.

Again on the bus, this time I spied a man with fairly severe acne on his face. I asked my mother, in a very loud, chirpy, toddler voice, why the man had polka dots all over his face. Humiliated, the man reddened and got off the bus at the next stop. My mother is still telling this story, decades later, because this incident shows how innocence can wound, as well as heal.

Owen has not wounded anyone yet, but he has made some very unfortunate comments lately.

The other day, when we were visiting an elderly relative, he took her hand to say goodbye. As he did so, he turned to me and said, “I don’t want my hand to get wrinkly like that.”

Luckily, the relative didn’t seem too offended. We all explained that wrinkles happen to all of us eventually, but that he doesn’t need to worry about them for a long time.

We were relieved that she had not overheard the questions about why she wears diapers, even though she’s a grown-up.

Then this morning, as I was dropping Owen off at daycare, one of the other mothers came up to me and told me that the other day, Owen had told her that he didn’t like the mole she had on her face. He asked if it would go away soon, and how she got it. Again, this mother was lovely about it, possibly because she understands the brutal honesty of children.

Still, I left the daycare with a sinking feeling that I need to deal with this “honesty” before Owen does manage to hurt someone with his idle chatter.

I would love to hear your suggestions on this one. I am not sure how to approach the issue without making a mess of it.