Monday, August 18, 2008
Everyone knows that after you have children you must be very careful about what you say in front of them.
Of course, you're not going to swear in front of your toddler, the one who is picking up new words every day. At least not under most circumstances. Not if you can help it.
And you're careful not to say anything unflattering or disrespectful about relatives, friends and neighbors.
Children are exposed to bad language, taunts and criticism soon enough. Parents certainly don't want to be the source of unwelcome behavior.
Sometimes, however, we're caught with our automatic censor off, our guard down and our foot in our mouths. Then a 3 year old can cut us down to size with just a few words.
We live on an island- bridges on and bridges off. There are tolls to be paid with LARGE signs to indicate cash lanes and E-ZPass lanes for cars with transponders. Not infrequently, drivers not paying attention will find themselves in the E-ZPass lane, cash in hand, expecting a toll booth attendant to appear out of thin air and take their toll. And they wait...and wait...while the drivers behind are yelling "Go through...go through...go, go, GO!"
And when we cross the border into Canada the same applies. There are EXACT CHANGE/TOKEN ONLY lanes and there are CASH lanes. There are attendants in the CASH lane but only a "basket" into which you toss your coins or token in the EXACT CHANGE/TOKEN ONLY lane.
By now I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with putting my foot in my mouth. You see, two of my granddaughters live in Canada so I make frequent crossings with them in the car. The drive to the border from my house is only 20 minutes but can be fraught with the frustrations of a long wait at the border first at customs then at the toll booths. There is a lot of jockeying for position to get into the fastest/shortest lane and depending on the time of day/holiday/month the wait can be up to 90 minutes. Not conducive to a calm disposition.
Now I don't even remember the circumstances of the crossing in question but we had survived the customs inspection and were lining up to pay our toll. My three year old granddaughter was in the car with me. Someone had pulled into the EXACT CHANGE/TOKEN ONLY lane and was waiting for a toll attendant to magically appear. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Grammie: What is wrong with people! Can't they read!?!?
3 Year Old K: But Grammie, I can't read.
Grammie: (choking on foot in mouth) I know, Honey. But if you could, I know you wouldn't go in the wrong lane!
That day I learned from my granddaughter; it's not just the "bad" words that I need to avoid. I must also remember that my comments, no matter how innocuous, may sound quite different to a little person.