Mortifying moments

September 25, 2012

For those of us used to being in control, having children can be a very rude awakening. Not just when they are tiny and do not seem to understand the requirement to sleep soundly through the night, but as they get older and start to ask searching questions of you.

Of course different children require different information at different times, but they never ever ask the questions when you are ready for them. Small children particularly seem to  have some inner compass that can spot a mortifying moment maker and will ask their burning question as you queue in the supermarket on a dull Thursday afternoon on the way home from school.

Or, as in the restaurant queue on the cross channel ferry one of ours piped up loudly, “Why is that woman so fat?”  It was said not out of malice or approbation, but simply out of curiosity. Trying to laugh it off and half pretending one hasn’t heard doesn’t wash with four year olds. They just keep asking. And will formulate their own theories as to why if you don’t actually give them something to think about.  One has a desire not to offend, but also to educate the children. One cannot simply lie. Ineffectual PC- isms that ” People come in all shapes and sizes,” or “Don’t say fat, it’s rude” cut no mustard. Unusually for these kind of questions, my husband was actually there at the time .  I think it is virtually the only one he’s ever had to answer as they always seemed to come up when I was with them and he was at work. .

Anyway, he did his usual “Dad Fact” routine, where he gives an explanation with authority and the kids believe it. Despite it often being a crock of shit. But this time he did actually tell the truth, after he pulled out  his trump card.  “I studied nutrition at university” (Gillian McKeith eat your heart out – it may have been a module on ruminant digestion tbh), and went on to explain if you eat more than you exercise, eventually you get fat. And he was able to do this whilst steering the children out of earshot of the assembled masses. Masses being the operative word. So that one went pretty well I’d say, although the child had no doubt unintentionally  emabarrased the overweight person in the queue.

Everyone anticipates the standard   “Where do I come from?’ at some point, but less common ones like “What does sex feel like?” ,  ” What’s a blow job?” and “How do you know if you are ready to have sex?” can require some forethought to give an answer that bears repeating. And they will be repeated. All explanations by parents get repeated. Not just to their mates, but also when you are out with friends or grandparents  and a related subject comes up. Like kissing. And a seven year old will say “You kiss Daddy’s willie don’t you Mummy? That’s what Mummy’s do when they love someone isn’t it?” And the aforementioned explanation of a blow job can somehow seem precocious and you wish you’d just told them to ‘Run along and play’ instead of actually answering the question.

And even seemingly inocuous statements can sound like you have bizarre conversations when it is repeated by an eight year old. Talking about flavoured sparkling water with her new teacher, our very well spoken and polite daughter informed her teacher that her dad said peach water tasted like cockroach vomit. There’s not really much he could say to that.

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