"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

To the Sweet Old Lady who Mistook My Son for a Girl

We were walking home from school the other day when we caught up with two sweet older ladies from our neighborhood, out for their midday stroll. As we waited on the corner with them to cross a street, one looked into the stroller and remarked on the adorableness of the little blue-eyed girl with curly blond pigtails smiling up at her. Because she was a kind and thoughtful lady, she then immediately turned to Max, standing by my side, holding my hand. "Two beautiful children!" she said, then added, "two beautiful sisters."

My heart jumped.


Oh. Max was wearing his pink, polka-dotted, glittery tiara shirt and black leggings.

I looked down at Max, who seemed to be completely oblivious to the comment. Lost in his own private world of rich, imaginative make-believe, Max often needs a hand on the shoulder or a "Look at my eyes, Max" cue to pay attention to the real world. This often annoys the hell out of me; Standing on the curb that day, though, I was thankful for it. 

Before she could continue, as I had a feeling she would, I smiled and said, "Thank you! I'm a lucky mommy," before crossing the street ahead of them. 

As it turned out, we were heading in the same direction. Despite my attempt to end the conversation, she continued it. (Perhaps she thought we'd be better company than her walking partner?)

"Are you enjoying your walk?"

"Yes, thank you, we are, very much."

"It's a beautiful day!"

"Sure is!"

Then to Max, "I love that sparkly shirt!"

He bounced back into reality with a glance down at the sparkly tiara on his chest and a shy smile back at her. It was then that I realized my mistake. I should have swiftly and immediately corrected her back there on the curb. I should have said, "Thank you! Yes, my son and daughter are both beautiful!" But I didn't, and now it was too late. I kept trying to steer the conversation back to safe topics like taking walks and beautiful weather. Didn't work.

"And what's your name?"



"Yup. And that's my baby sister Molly."

"Oh, well Max I just love your haircut. It's so edgy! [Then, to her friend] Just like that Dorothy Hamilton. Remember that girl?"

[friend] "Oh, sure! Dorothy Hamilton was cutting edge back then! I could never pull off that look. It would have made my face look fat."

[to Max] "But you pull off that haircut so well! You look just beautiful!"

At this point, I didn't want to be rude, but I really just wanted to get away from them. The conversation was either about to get really awkward for Max or I was about to shout: It's Dorothy HAMILL, not HAMILTON!

So I smiled and said, "Well, I'd better get these kids home for lunch! Enjoy your walk." 

Then I quickened my pace and gave Max's hand a squeeze. 

As we were sitting down to lunch a little while later, Max looked at me and said, "Mom, you know what's funny about those two ladies?"

Ready for it, I asked, "What's that, bud?"

"They thought I just got a haircut. But I didn't want to tell them that I didn't just get one."

"Well, you could have. It would have been okay to tell them. And I could have, too. Sometimes it's important to correct people when they have the wrong idea about you," I say, wishing I had taken my own advice. But then I added, "but sometimes you can just know in your heart what's true and not worry what other people think."

He got quiet for a minute, then furrowed his brow and with a quiet voice asked....
"But Mommy?.....Why did they want to pull off my haircut?"

Four-year olds are so literal. And I love it.

Lesson Learned:
I ain't mad atcha, Lady. I'm just still trying to figure out when it is important to speak up, and when it's okay to let it slide...and to try to make sure that I'm setting the right example for my watching and listening kids.

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