Thursday, July 7, 2011

The best compliment

I had a few errands to run today and one of them was a trip to Target. First on the agenda was returning a pair of sandals that I'd bought for Little Brother but decided not to use. The woman in front of us in the return line was very small - just a few inches taller than my 4-year-old who is around 42-43 inches tall. As utterly candid as only kids can be, he looked at her, then up at me, and stated clearly "she's small".
 I said, "yes, honey, she is."
 "Why is she so small?" he responded.

In that moment, time seemed suddenly suspended and I felt the weight of the immense responsibility that it is to be a parent. It is extremely important to me to recognize (for myself and my children) the value of each individual person regardless of their appearance. I try very hard not to react any differently to people who are clearly not built or made in what society considers an 'average' mold. I want my children to understand that different isn't bad - it's good - and our differences are part of what makes this world such and interesting and wonderful place to live.

  And so, I said to my son exactly what I believe...
 "Why is she so small?" he asked.
 "Because she was made that way, honey, just like very big people are made that way."

 "Is she a Mama?" he asked (he's the boy of constant questions...)
 "I don't know, baby."
 At which point she kind of turned around (she was up at the counter already) and nodded and patted the back of the young man standing next to her. Knowing that she had heard the entire exchange made me a little nervous...although, in reality, I already knew that she had. It would have been nearly impossible for her to have missed it.
  She and her son completed their return transaction and turned to go. As they passed us she looked up at me and said,
 "I liked your answer. It was very good! Thank you."

That was the best compliment I have had in a very long time.

 In fact, it actually made me a bit teary as she walked away. It is clear to me from her response (and, really, pretty inevitable from her appearance) that she has borne up under many instances of being under-valued or even perhaps been ridiculed for her appearance. To be able to acknowledge that the fact that she was different was normal (if that makes any sense...) both to my son and tangentially to her as well, was an incredible blessing in my day.
 Have you had any parenting moments like this recently? The kind where you think, "Wow, what I say now really matters..."?


Melissa said...

What a lovely story & how awesome that you were able to handle the situation so well and that it was acknowledged!

Alison said...

What a good answer to a difficult question...I've used it myself on occasion!
Alison xx

Ginger said...

A moving story Rachel... And setting a good example for others :)

Anonymous said...

What a great answer to a difficult question. You handled it the way it should be done. Thank you for sharing, Vicki Emmerson