Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Children with no filters and the parents who love them

"Her voice!"

Max is pointing to his throat and saying those words about a visitor at our house who is from the Philippines. I know what he is saying and while she doesn't, she knows he is saying something about her.

Both my boys have a way of talking about people's visible differences as they stand right there, because their understanding of what you do and don't say is still in development. The other day, as we were at a register at Whole Foods and a cashier checked us out, Ben asked, "Why is her belly so big?" 

Luckily or not, Max's speech is not always understandable to other people. And so last year, when he asked "Where's his hair?" as I chatted with a balding neighbor, the guy did not understand. Even when Max persisted. When stuff like this happens, I'll say, "Hey, Max, let's talk about it later!" and then try to redirect the conversation ("Max, do you want to tell him where you're going on vacation next?"). Later, we'll have a discussion about what's not OK to say around other people because it might hurt their feelings.

When there is just no side-stepping what's been said, I handle it as honestly as I can. At Whole Foods that day, I told Ben, "Everybody has different body shapes. People have different size bellies. My belly stayed big after I had you!" And I smiled at the cashier then chatted with Ben about it in the car going home.

Standing in our kitchen that morning, I translated for our guest: "He's asking why your voice is different." Then I said, "Max, everyone has a voice that sounds different. You sound different from me. I sound different from Daddy. Ben sounds different than all of us." 

Max pondered that. Then he said, "London!"

AHHHH. He thought she sounded like she was British. We chatted a bit about our April visit to London

"Max, do you want to ask where she's from?" I suggested, and Max did.

"I'm from the Philippines," she said. 

Then Max wanted to know if that was far away. Then he asked if it was hot there and when she said yes, Max seemed quite pleased because he really hates the cold. 

"Your voice sounds like London!" Max exclaimed one more time, as she left.

This story had a happy ending, but the whole thoughts-you-keep-on-the-inside thing is a work in progress. 

Aren't we all?

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