It's What You Say and How You Say It

I took the boys to the Washington Monument on Thursday. Our local Relief Society has a Cultural Fieldtrip Group and they ordered timed tickets to ride the elevator to the top. I've done it once before and it has been high on Calvin's list of things he wants to do before we leave the country, so we went.

The boys were great. It was hot and we had to walk quite a way from our parking space to the monument and then wait about twenty minutes in a single file line before we went in. They didn't fuss, they didn't run away, they didn't complain.

They did sit on the marble bench we were lined up against and wanted to scoot all the way to the center, because it was wide and rounded in the middle. In the process of sliding back, one of them accidentally scooched his hand under the purse of a lady who was sitting on the other side. I immediately reminded them that they needed to stay on our side of the bench because people needed to sit on both sides.

The lady who had been "violated" turned around and said in a really quite saccharine voice with an equally fake and pursed smile at the boys, "Oh how adorable. Four! And how old are all you little monsters?"

For moment I thought she might be trying to empathize with me in some backhanded way, but then I was trying mostly not to be offended because I realized that even though she had two teenage children with her, she really did think it was OK to refer to other people's children as monsters.

For most other people I would encourage the boys to tell them their ages and converse appropriately. But I couldn't. And they were looking at her blankly. Even Calvin did not want to impart his knowledge to her. I could tell they also were not impressed with her icey melty tone of voice and I think they were a little confused by the "monster" part. Because they really were acting so nicely, except for the accidentally scooting back part.

I almost felt like telling them to show her how real monsters act. Because I know they could do it. But even when they do act that way, I don't call them monsters. And I spend twenty-four / seven with them. It even would have been different if her tone of voice wasn't what it was. Trust me - it was amazingly awful. She wasn't joking. And she didn't even know us. And the boys were NOT being bad! (That's what I couldn't get over.)

A silent second or so passed with this lady still smiling tightly at the boys and me wondering if I was just being supersensitive, when my friend, who has raised six children (five of them boys), looked right at the woman and with a genuine smile said firmly, "There are no monsters on this bus! Calvin and David are 5, Henry just turned 4, and little Charlie is 1. They are GREAT little boys."

My boys smiled brightly at my friend and stood up in the line again.

Right then I realized how much a word can make a difference - to a mom, to a child. And whatever we say we think of someone, especially a little someone, they will feel it and believe it and act it. I also realized that unkind words even in a sugary voice can feel like an icey bucket of water being dumped on your head when you're trying your best to be good.

Words and voice. I've got to be more careful about that.


Real said...

Ugh. I know what you mean. I was talking to my mom at the beginning of the school year last year and she was telling me all about her new job as a teacher's assistant in a kindergarten class. She said, "These kids make your little monsters look like angels."

Wha? Ouch. In so many ways. And it was made even worse because during the whole hour long conversation she had totally monopolized the conversation talking about kids at her school in intimate detail but hadn't once asked how her grand-"monsters" were doing or what they were up to.

Anonymous said...

Wow, three cheers for your friend who spoke up and said the perfect thing! I can totally see myself in your same position, since I've been there with my kids too...and also being home 24/7 I'd never call my kids monsters either. Too often people just don't think before they speak. Glad you had a great time anyway!

An Ordinary Mom said...

The nerve and lack of consideration of some people is unbelievable. People really need to learn when to keep their mouth shout.

Props to your friend for speaking up.

And, I, too, need to watch my words and my voice ... especially when speaking to my kids!

The Amazing Trips said...

Oh oh. I think I may have called my children monsters before. Or, maybe I just thought it? Can't recall anymore.


Even though I may think it I absolutely would not want some stranger to SAY it to my children. Bravo to your friend for jumping in with the right response. I'm not sure that I would have been so eloquent.

Damselfly said...

Great save by your friend! A good way to deal with that situation.

I think some people just don't realize what their words do. One time, a man we know but aren't friends with called my son "El Destructo," and I told him, "I wish you wouldn't call my son names. It isn't nice to call people names." And he acted like I slapped him. He apparently didn't think anything of it.

Glad you got to see the monument! When I was there in 98, it was closed to the public.