Out of the mouths of babes: We can all learn a little something from the things kids sayFARGO - Once when John Trautman was in West Acres, a child asked her mother why he was driving his car in the store. While in the military, an accident left the Fargo man paralyzed from the chest down, so he uses a wheelchair to get around. The things kids say can be funny, mortifying, brutally honest, even inspirational.
By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM
FARGO - Once when John Trautman was in West Acres, a child asked her mother why he was driving his car in the store.
While in the military, an accident left the Fargo man paralyzed from the chest down, so he uses a wheelchair to get around.
The things kids say can be funny, mortifying, brutally honest, even inspirational.
And Trautman says they can also be opportunities.
“The insight of a child is so intriguing that their innocence is met with embarrassment by their parents,” he said. “As the adults profusely begin apologizing, I look at it as an opportunity to enlighten and educate both children and adults.”
Often if Trautman overhears a child asking about his wheelchair, he will engage the child, which usually makes the parents feel more at-ease, he said.
“I am more than happy to create those little teaching moments that may impact someone’s life,” he said.
While Trautman acknowledges not everyone is as comfortable with their disability as he is, he recommends parents embrace the situation instead of feeling embarrassed, which the child will recognize.
“Ask the individual if they mind answering questions,” he said. “I realize it’s a difficult situation for the parents –- you don’t want to reward every outburst, but it may go a long way in letting the child know that a person in a wheelchair is in relative terms normal.”
One of the most charming and sometimes maddening things about children is their perfect honesty.
One of Sue Evans’ most memorable experiences of that honesty was during a shopping trip with her grandson. The Minot woman was looking for a pain reliever. As she read through the products and prices, her 3-year-old grandson turned to a nice-looking man shopping in the same aisle and said, “My momma wears diapers,” Evans said.
Evans promptly grabbed what she needed and fled, she said.
Sarah Miller of West Fargo has a 5-year-old great nephew who had his pre-kindergarten shots the other day.
“After showing me his bandages, he said to me, ‘They advertise that shots don’t hurt, but they do! They should change that’,” Miller said.
Lola Knutson of Wahpeton has a 4-year-old granddaughter who made up her own language after spending some time in Europe with her parents and 7-year-old brother. While she and her brother could not speak with the children they met at a park, they did learn to communicate through smiling and pointing, Knutson said.
Lily then had this to say, according to her grandmother:
“People may all speak different languages, but we all smile and laugh in the same language.”
Knutson couldn’t be more proud, she said.
Children have an innocent way of looking at the world around them that can be endearing and can even make us reconsider our own outlook.
Once when Evans stopped at the bank drive-up teller while running errands, her granddaughter leaned toward her open window, raised her voice and said: “I’ll take a burger, fries, a pickle and some milk,” Evans said.
While the girl didn’t get the meal she’d ordered, she was perfectly happy with the sucker the teller offered instead, Evans said.
Another time when Evans was kneading bread dough, her 4-year-old granddaughter answered the phone.
After telling the telemarketer on the other end of the line that her momma and daddy were not there, she said, “No, silly, this is Granma’s house,” and promptly hung up.
Giggling, she told her grandmother, “Silly telemarketer, thought this was my house. He was close though. Only two houses away,” Evans said.
Isn’t it ironic?
Whether kids’ quips leave their parents cringing in embarrassment or doubled-over laughing the things kids say often make for great stories later on.
Marlene Wilson of Harwood, N.D., shared two stories of her now-adult kids’ childhood antics that have become the fodder of family legend.
One was a note her older daughter wrote to her younger sister. It said: “Dear Jenna, I hate you. Love, Jodi.”
The other was when Jenna ran into the kitchen to tell her mom that her sister called her a tattletale.
“I asked Jenna if she knew what a tattletale was as apparently she did not,” Wilson said.
When it comes to children’s curiosity and honesty, it’s important not to stifle them, said Kelly Olson, The Village Family Service Center regional program director in children’s services.
“If we respond in a mortified way, then we’re teaching them that we can’t talk about those things,” Olson said. “It’s really important to have an open line of communication between children and parents because it can potentially avoid problems later on in life if they become anxious about something or depressed about something or bullying at school. Having that open line of communication is important to establish with kids when they’re young.”
She likens it to asking a boss a question. If we were met with a degrading response or told to never ask again, we’d feel stifled, embarrassed, and be less likely to ask future questions, she said.
“That’s not a learning environment I’d want to be in,” Olson said.
While you don’t want to stifle a child’s honesty or curiosity, it is ok to set boundaries, Olson said.
Parents can let kids know that some things are a private issue that should not be discussed with strangers.
And if kids ask a question at an inappropriate time, instead of hushing them, Olson suggests telling them that’s a good question, but a special question for a mom and child to talk about by themselves. But make sure to follow through and don’t disregard the question if the child doesn’t bring it up again, Olson said.
“It’s our responsibility to educate kids and not shun them,” she said.
Establishing guidelines for the appropriate place and time to talk about taboo topics will also help set a precedent for future conversations, Olson said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526