Come on parents, you all know what I'm talking about. Faster than you can whisk your shopping cart out of the cereal aisle as your child loudly asks: "why is that lady so fat?" you shudder in horror at the memory of certain things that your flesh and blood has said or done that have left you begging God to please never let them speak in public again.
I had one of those moments. And after the incident at Mass a few weeks ago, I really think I should have a month-long pass from kid-related embarrassments. But life doesn't work that way.
So, yesterday I had a really painful dropoff with Henry at preschool. I went to leave, and he burst into tears and clung to my leg. This is very, very unusual, so of course it concerned me. His teacher commented that it might be related to something that happened Friday in which he was put into "time out." Henry is a very, very good boy at school and always receives glowing reports, so a time out is also pretty unheard of. She went on to mention what he did, but because three was some drama brewing over in the painting corner I couldn't hear her. What I did notice is that she said it very casually and sort of laughed; my impression was that whatever Henry did wasn't that big of a deal, but they wanted to discourage him from doing it again, so hence the time out. Which is fine, I trust their judgment. If Henry was placed in time out, I'm sure it was deserved.
Well, I had to wrench myself away, and that was pretty unpleasant for both Henry and me. I felt terrible having to leave him there crying, but what could I do? I knew it made it worse for me to linger, so I kissed him and reassured him and told him about some fun evening plans we had and left.
Later that evening, I asked Henry about the time out in question. At first he denied that any such event actually transpired. As I was getting his jammies on, the truth came out:
"Mommy. I got put in time out because I showed my penis to the other kids."
*moment of absolute mortification* Is it possible to actually die from embarassment? I'm thinking yes.
Now, Henry is barely 4 years old, and at this age the whole nudity/body thing is totally, totally innocent still. And the look on his face reinforced this. His little eyebrows were knit, and you could tell that the thought bubble over his head said "I know I shouldn' t have done it, because I got put in time out, but I just don't understand why this was such a problem."
So, I had to sit him down and explain that while there is nothing bad or wrong with any part of his body, there are certain parts of your body that are *private.* And for those private parts, you shouldn't show them or talk about them to anybody except for mommy, daddy and the doctor. Or anybody helping him use the potty, like his teacher.
I don't know if he totally understood, but I did the best I could, and please God don't let him do it again.
By this morning, he seemed to have worked it out, because he was fine at school dropoff, and that's the result I wanted. Henry tends to be like me in his personality - a little introverted with an extra sensitive side - and I want him to be able to gain confidence in his relationships and ability to deal with things on his own. Certainly, there are going to be many things that arise in his life that will require parental intervention; but to the extent that little awkward things come up, I want him to feel that he can come to us, certainly, but that he can deal with the repurcussions on his own and find his way back to a comfortable routine. I lacked that as a child, and still struggle with it as an adult. I don't want Hank to feel like he needs me to swoop in all the time - he does a good job of making and getting along with friends at school, and he doesn't need me there in order to do that. I feel better, and I'm glad he does too.
So, this all got me to thinking...our children enhance our lives and make us holy. But, what are those (little) things that we took for granted before we were parents and look back on now with unmitigated longing?
1.) Lack of social embarrassment that is utterly outside of our control. "Mommy, THERE ARE SKID MARKS IN MY UNDERWEAR!" True story. Nothing else on the list even comes close to this. But a definite second is,
2.) Going anyplace in remote resemblance to a hurry. "Gee sweetheart, it's so great that you (took 10 minutes to) zip your coat yourself (when we should have left 15 minutes ago, but you threw a fit about missing the end of Tom & Jerry, and then announced you had to go potty, and then insisted that you had to pick out a different pair of socks).
3.) Having anything out on your living room tables that isn't nailed down.
4.) Being able to use the bathroom without someone bursting in, unannounced.
5.) Being able to transverse the house without stepping on an action figure.
Anybody else have items to place on the list? :)