November 6, 2010

When adults say stupid (yes, stupid) things

Having been acutely aware of each and every word Hadley heard and learned in her first five years, I'm very conscious of the words I choose to say around my kids. I choose my issues about a lot of things, but I'm a stickler for polite language. So, it was a bit of a shock for Hadley to hear me say to her the other day, "That was the stupidest thing I've ever heard an adult say ". And I meant every single word.

Hadley and I were out and about, just the two of us running some errands. A 65ish year old woman waited on us and, while staring at Hadley's hearing aids, stumbled for words. "Are she wearing...?" I filled in, "Yes, those are her hearing aids." The woman looked directly at Hadley and commented on how fancy they were. So far, all normal. We have these kinds of conversations all the time with adults. Then she said the stupidest, dumbest thing an adult has ever said to Hadley:

"You don't really need them, right? They don't look real. Are they part of your Halloween costume?"

I really encourage Hadley to speak up and answer questions on her own, but this went beyond the call of duty. I assured the woman (well-intentioned, I know) that Hadley's hearing aids are real and that they make aids in cool and fun styles. Hadley was stunned into silence, trying to figure out how to respond to a smiling person who had just delivered a zinger (albeit, unintentional). She managed to quietly confirm that these were, in fact, her hearing aids and finished up the conversation. We scooted out the door, where I said my fateful words, "That was the stupidest thing I've ever heard an adult say", along with, "I'm proud of you. You taught her something today."

I know we all sometimes say things that come out the wrong way, especially when confronted with something we are trying to understand and figure out. Hadley was at first pretty sad about this encounter-- not in a dramatic "She said my aids were a Halloween costume!!! Can you believe it??!" kind of way, but a quiet, I'm-going-to-go-sit-quietly-by-myself manner. Hearing me use the word 'stupid' shook her out of it, and we spent a minute or two talking about how the woman didn't mean to hurt Hadley's feelings, that it was okay to feel sad about the encounter, and how Hadley had handled the situation well. She's brought it up a few times since, and the story is quickly becoming "The Time Mom Called a Woman Stupid" story that will end up in our annals of family history.

You know what? I'm completely okay with that.

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