All parents, I suppose, at one time or another experience embarrassment due to words or actions of tactless offspring. I have concluded the best way to handle it is to laugh; although that is easier to do in afterthought than at the moment the incident occurs. I’ve certainly had my share through the years and we always get a few laughs recalling these events when we get together.
For instance, I remember when our family attended the birthday celebration for a dear elderly friend – so dear, in fact, that we called her “Granny Viar.” Although she enjoyed celebrating her birthday with friends, she was secretive about her age and under no circumstances would she reveal it.
One of my sons was five years old and proud to announce his age at each milestone.
“Granny Viar,” he asked, “how old are you?”
A deep silence ensued, and I tried to explain that some adults, unlike children, do not like to reveal that information.
After a few moments, he decided to redeem himself and restore Granny Viar’s self image. “Granny Viar,” he said, “I know someone in Staunton who’s fatter than you.”
Fortunately, Granny Viar was a forgiving soul and did not hold a grudge against him for his faux pas.
My recovery from an incident that occurred during church was more difficult. Harry and I kept our two-year-old son with us during the service. We sat in a pew near the front of the church because his attention was better when he could see what was going on. During the first part of the service — the hymns, the scripture reading, and the Gloria Patri — when we were changing position — standing or sitting, he was attentive. By the time the sermon began, he settled down and went to sleep. We thought we had perfect control of his behavior.
But — one Sunday he didn’t settle down. He squirmed and talked and refused to obey when I tried to quiet him. I knew he was disturbing others, so I picked him up and started down the aisle to leave the sanctuary. All the way to the exit, he screamed, “Please don’t beat me, Mama! Please don’t beat me!” It took a long time to live that down and convince my friends that I did not beat my children!
My daughter also had embarrassing moments related to toilet training — and a verbally precocious daughter. This child did not want to use the child-sized seat for the toilet. Her mother explained that her little bottom was too small for the adult seat. Those words came back to embarrass her when they were shopping and an emergency required the use of a not-too-clean public toilet – for the mother. She did not sit down. Her two year old shouted, “What’s the matter, Mommy? Is your bottom too big for the seat?” Significant laughter resounded from other areas of the rest room.
On another occasion, I was with my daughter, son-in-law and my little granddaughter at a special restaurant in Maryland one Sunday afternoon. We had waited for over an hour to be seated. Just before the waitress took our order, the two-year-old tugged at her daddy’s sleeve and said, “Daddy, I need a clean didie.”
Thinking of the diaper bag in the car, in the far corner of the parking lot, her father reached down to inspect the gravity of the situation. Imagine his dismay when she exclaimed, “Daddy! Don’t do that! That’s dangerous!” Skip was mortified. Would the other patrons think he was a child molester?
When I taught pre-school children, I told the parents not to believe everything their children said about school and we would not believe everything they told about home. A friend of mine confessed that she experienced an embarrassing moment when her daughter told her what she had reported at school. This mother encouraged her children to celebrate important days in our country’s history, by telling them what events occurred on that particular day in the past – VE Day, when Germany surrendered and the World War II ended; VJ Day when Japan surrendered and the war in the Pacific ended. Her daughter reported one day, that when the teacher asked what day it was she replied, “ Is it VD Day ? ”
We never know just how children will respond in their innocence; we adults see a different meaning – and our faces turn red.