"Her booty is hanging out all over the place!" my three year old yelled as he pointed at a 60 something woman in a bikini. I looked over and she was bent over, packing up her stuff in her beach bag. Her booty was, indeed, hanging out.
"Bud, please don't point. It will make her feel uncomfortable."
A few days later, an overweight and self-concious teenager climbed into the pool with his t-shirt still on. "Look Mommy! He has a big fat belly!" The teenager blushed and looked away, pretending he didn't hear.
"Drew, that makes people feel bad. You can't talk about other people's bodies. That's a private thing." I tried to decide whether or not to make him apologize but I worried about embarrassing that poor boy even further.
As we climbed out of the pool, an elderly woman was climbing in. "Look at that old old lady!" he shouted. I cringed. Apparently I wasn't making myself very clear.
"Drew, come over here," I said, trying to buy myself a few seconds to come up with a plan. "You are right. She is old and that kid did have a big belly. You are just telling me what you see, right?"
He started kicking the puddles on the pool deck and I knew he was waiting for the other ax to drop.
"Yeah, Mommy! Why can't I say her is old?"
"Well, what if somebody called you ugly?"
"That is MEAN!"
"What if that kid said you were dumb?"
"I would be MAD at him!" He kicked the puddle extra hard to drive the point home.
"Exactly. Let's not say things about other people's bodies and make them mad at you, okay?"
"Okay, Mommy. You are so beautiful!" he said as he wrapped his little arms around me.
I don't think he even knew he was being mean; he just was being matter of fact. Still, I had to teach him that it isn't right to point out people's differences. It made me realize that exposing him to different types of people may be the very best thing for building his character. If I only surround him with people who believe what we do and dress like we do and talk like we do, how will he learn to embrace all of God's people? While I'm not looking forward to the next finger pointing session at the YMCA, I am hopeful that he will slowly learn about beauty coming in a million different packages. If I can do that, that, then swimming lessons will be a grand success.
How do you deal with your kids when they point out that teenager with a pink mohawk or that guy in a wheelchair? How can you show them that different is good?