Few things make a parent more proud than hearing their child’s first words. And few things make a parent more embarrassed than hearing their child yelling certain words at the top of their lungs in public. Always — in public. Always — at the top of their lungs.
Our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter is normally shy and quiet around other people, mumbling hellos and preferring to stare at the ground as if it holds the key to a lifetime supply of M&Ms. Unless, that is, she is struck with a thought sure to mortify me, in which case she sheds her shyness and grabs her imaginary bullhorn to bellow:
“I WANT TO EAT MOMMY’S BUTT!
This, out of the blue, in the middle of Target. It’s not only embarrassing, but it’s also quite weird. People turn and stare, obviously appalled to find out we’re a butt-eating kind of family. I put on my best “Where do kids GET these things, anyway?” smile and gently shake my head at Skylar.
WHAT I SAY: “Oh, silly, you know you don’t eat butts!”
WHAT I THINK: “Don’t you?”
Skylar laughs, encouraged by my smile.
“I EAT DADDY’S BUTT! AND DREW’S BABY BUTT!”
There it is: we’ve been established as a butt-eating crew among Target’s hosiery department customers. No amount of “my kid is crazy” smiling and eye-rolling is going to negate that now, especially as my 11-month-old son, who thinks everything his big sister says and does is hysterical, communicates his approval with a fit of laughter. Sure, I get that saying “butt” is hilarious to a toddler — and grown men — and talking about consuming butts…? Well, let’s face it, that’s pure comedy gold. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ll be welcome to shop at Target again unless I wear a good disguise. Or a “Don’t Worry, Our Family Has Given Up Butt-Eating for Lent” t-shirt.
The embarrassment of the butt-eating incident, however, pales in comparison to what Skye did at daycare the other week. There I am, holding the baby and trying to have an earnest conversation with her teacher, when that child ducked under my dress, poked at my underwear and yelled: “I SEE YOUR VAGINA!” Oh yes, she played the VAGINA card. In public. At the top of her lungs. I mentally surveyed my options: a) ignore her, thereby prompting her to yell it over and over again until I finally react; b) laugh at her, thereby encouraging her to yell it again for additional laughter; c) ask “whose weird child is this?” and run the heck out of there; or d) distract her with a more appropriate topic of preschool conversation, such as butt-eating.
Before I could decide on the most harmless course of action, I began laughing uncontrollably. I couldn’t help it. And you know what that meant: more “VAGINA!” exclamations and laughter from Skye (and, thus, Drew). I tried to continue conversing with Skye’s teacher about developmental milestones, squirming and giggling and trying to rid myself of the persistent child under my dress. But there came a point at which I had to just pick option “c,” grab my weird child and run the heck out of there.
Being the generous girl that she is, Skye likes to spread the embarrassment around, telling a group of sun-averse people yesterday that they were “SILLY!” for using umbrellas when it wasn’t raining. Thankfully, the “silly” folks were Russian and elderly and did not speak much English, so they just smiled and nodded at my daughter, mistakenly believing she was being friendly. Their silence only inspired her to shout even more loudly:
“MOMMY! LOOK AT THEM! SILLY PEOPLE! UMBRELLAS! THEY CRAZY!”
Being the good mother than I am, I knew just how to handle the situation.
“You’re right. They are crazy,” I nodded.
Because as a mother, embarrassment is all relative — and, as any credible parenting book will tell you, better to have your child call a bunch of people crazy, and keep her attention focused on that, than announce she is hungry for mom butt. Especially if those crazy people don’t speak English.