Luckily Ben listens to me pretty well while we are there. It may or may not have anything to do with a Dunkin Donuts bribe. But I let my now 3 year old run free because he always stays in my sight. He loves to look at people and run fast and giggle and point of every Batman or other thing of interest he sees.
This pointing things out is usually adorable and makes me laugh a little. Until the inevitable little guy observation that mortifies parents and stops them in their tracks. Ok. It did for me.
There was a gentleman at Walmart the other day who was rather large in size. I don't mean 7 feet tall, but morbidly obese. Walking was obviously difficult for him. I heard other customers commenting under their breath. Judgemental things. I felt bad for him.
Then my son stops his running and points at this gentleman and yells "big guy!!!" Twice. The "big guy" obviously heard him. The entire store must have heard him. My heart stopped and I was the most embarrassed parent in the world for a split second. Internally I was panicking. "Oh my God! What has he done!"
It's amazing how fast your brain can flow through approximately 1 million thoughts in the matter of 2 seconds. Luckily One thought included remembering that my son was only 2 and just making one of his observations. This brought my blood pressure down a little.
And I responded with the first somewhat not horrible thing to say.
I asked Ben to "say 'hi' to the guy"
And Ben said "hi guy"
And the guys face, whose looked equally as mortified, perked up a little, and waved and said "hi" back to my son. We smiled at each other, the big guy and I, and moved on.
I have no idea what the guy thought of this interaction. Or how many people remind him of his size on a regular basis. My heart hurt for him afterwards.
I don't know that I can fully explain why I chose the response that I did.
I can think of a few intelligent counselor-y answers to explain myself in retrospect. Like I didn't want to shame Ben or didn't want big guy to feel worse or sometimes people feel invisible and want to be "seen" as a person, not just a "big guy".
But that would not be honest.
In a situation sometimes, you just respond.
But as I ponder what happened, it does make me more thoughtful of other future such encounters. Ben is 3 now and still very observant. Baby will be doing the same things before I can even blink my eye.
How do I teach them in simple ways to be themselves, be honest but also honor other peoples existence and feelings.
These little moments mean something. Even if I don't know how yet.
My Lord, parenting is a trip.