I took my little one to get his hair cut last week. I wanted so badly to wait until his third birthday for an upsherin but having him mistaken for a girl (or worse – Justin Bieber) was starting to get to my husband. I cannot fathom a day when the clippers come out to buzz my little boy, but a trim was in order. Once he was done, I plopped him in the stroller and headed to the desk. A middle-aged woman sitting in the waiting area looked down at him and said, “Did this little boy just get a haircut? It must have been really long, because it’s still kind of… long.”
I chose to ignore the comment but watched as she surveyed him from his hair all the way down his body. Her eyes widened in horror once she reached his dangling feet.
“I’m not a neglectful mother if that’s what you’re thinking,” I said. “He just refuses to wear shoes right now.”
She gasped. “Well, (harumph!) At least the boy has socks on. I see these mothers running around in the cold all bundled up while their poor baby has bare toes.”
I thought about keeping my mouth shut and quietly leaving. Clearly this lady needed to be punched was a barrel of fun, but I added this before walking out:
“Coming from experience, if you see a barefoot toddler in the winter, I bet “those mothers” tried really hard to entice him to put socks on that morning. It’s called picking your battles.”
As we walked out into the cold, my son ripped off his socks and threw them on the ground. I drove home thinking not about what the woman had said to me, but why. What did she have to gain by insulting his haircut and judging my parenting? Later that evening I received an email from a pregnant friend who told me that her poor baby has a heart defect and she had to stop telling people about it because,“people say some super insensitive and moronic things. That has been quite astounding actually.”
It really is astounding that the second you are pregnant it somehow gives others a license to speak insensitively. The “Wow, you’re huge!” comments are followed by birth horror stories and lifelong criticism of your parenting choices. Why can’t people just smile and say something nice?
Thankfully, with age (and despite what I may write on this blog) I’ve developed a filter between my brain and my mouth. When people say dumb/insensitive/judge-y things to me, my mind races with spiteful/witty/defensive/appropriate things to say in return. Usually, I chose the appropriate one and say the inappropriate things out loud to myself in the car (this exercise is quite satisfying, you should try it). But what is the socially acceptable limit to which we have to sit back and take it? What if I refused to let people put down my child, my parenting, my family, or my intelligence? Something about this idea is exhilaratingly liberating, although I don’t think it’s going to win me any friends. Perhaps a little comment here or there wouldn’t hurt and those conversations would go a little like this:
Heart defect comment: “I’ve cried more tears that I can count over this already, I was kind of looking for a, ‘Wow that’s really shitty, I’m so sorry.’”
Haircut comment: “ A pair of scissors isn’t going to do much for you either; hopefully they have a blow torch.”
Socks comment: “My child is in a government funded research study to determine the exact outside temperature at which baby toes are subject to frost bite. We make mad cash and this time, no needles!”
Obviously, I kid, but sometimes it would feel so good to just bite back and watch someone stare blankly at you. I guess the moral is, think before you speak or just shut the hell up in general. And if you do happen to fire back after a particularly exhausting day with your barefoot toddler, be sure to pick your battles wisely.
What insensitive things have people said to you lately?