The Family has a pretty strict honesty policy (detailed in the footnote here. Yes, Kidlingville occasionally uses footnotes. Apologies). This can make life difficult, or at the very least, awkward. The Kidling is very curious and asks questions about everything.
I’m usually prepared for the type of question she will ask. She wants to know why things work, how things work, why people behave certain ways… Not surprisingly, she also asks about why people look certain ways. This is not a big deal, typically. I’m usually spared the truly embarrassing moments, in part because she just doesn’t know to ask those questions. Alas, because I know The Kidling as well as I do, I wait for the question armed with the perfect, honest-but-kind response. For example, last week a friend’s dog got out and the lovely woman who brought the dog back had a beard and moustache. Not just a little shadow, but genuine facial hair. The woman was fantastic and clearly comfortable in her own skin, so when The Kidling said (loudly), “Mom! I want to tell you something funny. That girl has a beard,” I was perfectly confident responding simply, “Yes, she does. Everyone looks different, sweetie.” She isn’t too invested in gender roles (says the mother whose kid pointed out—loudly—a stranger’s nonconformance), so I figured that was all she needed. I was right. She went right back to her project with nary a thought on facial hair.
Sometimes, though, she kind of gets me.
Just Thursday we were at Kmart and she inquired—loudly—regarding the woman in front of us, “Mom? Is that a boy?” The woman was not amused. I said—loudly—in reply, “Of course not, sweetie! (nervous laughter) Of course she’s a woman! Remember when you thought I was a boy? Remember when I cut my hair and you thought I was a boy?”
Well, it turned out that if I had just shut the hell up, The Kidling would have explained her reasoning without all of The Mama’s hemming and hawing and attempts to soothe a bruised ego. She went on, “But she has a very deep voice.” And she did. So does Alice, so we talked about different types of voices and that was that.
And, of course, sometimes she really gets me. Like Sunday, when we were running errands at Target. I had run into a friend and we were chatting when “a person of abnormally small stature” walked by.* Merriam-Webster wasn’t particularly helpful in producing an adequate synonym for me, so I quote their definition. Can you believe it suggested pee wee, pygmy, runt, AND shrimp!?! Really? Let’s substitute offensive words for other offensive words. Thanks, folks.
Anyway, the very small adult walked by and The Kidling was frantically—and loudly—trying to get my attention (have you noticed a theme here?):
The Kidling: Mom! Mom! Who is that?! Mom! Who is that?
The Mama: (I knew exactly who she was talking about, but didn’t want to make the idea of the “other” so concrete by knowing without being told) Who, Alice?
The Kidling: Who is that? That guy?
The Mama: Which guy?
The Kidling: (points) Is that a real-life person?
The Mama: Yes, dear. Of course he is a real person.
The Kidling: I thought he was a mascot.
The Mama: (Fuck!)
Now, readers, pardon me for indulging in the exact thought I had at that moment, but seriously. I was completely prepared to talk to The Kidling about very small people, very large people, freckles, wrinkles, red hair, facial hair, underarm hair, skin color, eye color, wheel chairs, walkers, and the myriad ways in which people can be physically different. I was not, however, prepared to talk about mascots.
* http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dwarf?show=0&t=1332734784 Sorry, dear readers. A JD makes a gal pretty paranoid about proper attribution.