Greg is at the age where everything that enters his mind comes out of his mouth. This is often very cute. He will say “the darndest things” all the time and I wish I had a recorder for almost all of them.
But then there are times when you can see it coming that what he is about to say will neither be cute or appropriate, and sometimes downright embarrassing.
We had one of those moments yesterday. After talking the entire 35 minutes it took to get to the mall, Greg kept right on chattering his way through visits to Pottery Barn Kids and the Apple Store. So I knew what to expect when we went to Barnes and Noble: He would jibber-jabber about everything he saw; books on display, calendars for sale, toys that interested him.
He lived up to expectations, too. That is why I quickly turned him the other way when I spotted a middle school-aged girl on crutches. I quickly noticed that she was a recent amputee and that her right leg still had a gauze would dressing. There was no knowing why her leg was removed so close to the hip. Was it an injury? Was it cancer? That wasn’t for me to know. My job was to quickly steer Greg away and change he subject to distract his anticipated line of questioning. It worked.
We went upstairs to the children’s section to get Greg some Junie B. Jones books, and I thought we were safe. But when we went back downstairs, the girl went by us, and before I knew it Greg spotted it and started talking about it.
“What book are you looking for, daddy that girl broke her leg!” Yep. He said it just like that. If I could have amputated his lips, I would have done it on the spot.
This was obviously was a teachable moment. How I played the next few seconds was important. I got down real close to Greg and in a serious soft voice I said, “Don’t ever talk about another person like that again. Understood? That girl does not need you calling attention to her leg or any other part of her body. Got it?”
Message received. Greg didn’t say much after that and we left the store a few minutes later anyway. Later, when we were in the car, I explained why what he said was wrong. There were a lot questions about why her leg was amputated, and I did my best to answer them. But I’m not so sure we are clear of these moments yet. Only time will tell.