Trial & Error: Tips & Advice For New Dads – Big Mouths
As a parent, you can do everything by the book. You can be father of the year. You can raise smart, well-adjusted children. Try all you want, but at some point in time those children are going to say something to embarrass you. Not on purpose, but they'll say it. "It" can be anything your worst nightmares of wrong place/wrong time can dream up... and then some. Nothing but a good sense of humor and a quick retort can save you.
Through the years I've experienced many moments where I would have preferred to be anywhere else in the world other than where I was at that moment. There was that one time at HEB when my son saw a black man and said, "Basketball player, daddy!!". It was just a quick glance that showed he heard, but otherwise nothing came of it. I didn't have the time or energy to explain to him that he watches a lot of basketball, and point out he WAS, indeed, wearing a basketball jersey.
Bill Cosby once hosted a show called "Kids Say the Darndest Things" that doesn't begin to even approach the level of embarrassment your child can bring by repeating what you've said. Whether they repeat something about an in-law, or about your boss, or about your wife, you can't take it back. You can backtrack and try to talk your way out of it, but if you have to say more than two sentences to explain yourself, you're dead in the water and the offended party will never believe it didn't come straight from your lips to their ears. You only have milliseconds before what was said has been processed, and you better let your line fly before they've fully comprehended they've just been insulted. Let's run through some scenarios and the correct reply should something similar be said.
In-Laws- Your in-laws can make your life a living hell. You try as best as you can to stay positive, but sometimes you just have to say something. Maybe it's because they're demanding you bring the kids for Christmas when you know good & well it's not their year. You let your wife know just how unhappy you are with the decision, and you don't think about it again until two months have gone by and you're sitting fireside and your in-laws house on Christmas Eve. Suddenly, little Johnny says, "Dad, you're still alive. But I thought you said it would be over your dead body if you came to Mimi's house for Christmas". Ouch. Damage control is needed instantly, or you'll be getting coal (and left out of the will) for Christmas. You could come right out and try to lie in this situation, but your in-laws know you. They know that's exactly something they could see you saying. You're stuck. It's time to laugh your way out of it and lighten the increasingly-hostile mood in the room. "Wow, I sure hope Santa brings little Johnny a pair of ear plugs for Christmas, because apparently his old ones got lost." That might very well save Christmas.
Boss- Nothing can derail your career faster than a child that repeats something they've heard over the dinner table after a frustrating day at work. Let's just say your wife drops by at work to surprise you for lunch and you run into your boss in the hallway as you're walking your wife and kid to the door. The boss tries to play nice and bends over to say hi to the little one when he hears, "Did you go to the doctor? Daddy said your head was stuck up your......." Whoa!! Hold up!! Suddenly your entire future is up in the air. Unlike your in-laws, your boss isn't obligated to play nice. Laughing it off won't work in this situation. In this case, your kid is going under the bus. If you hesitate for even a moment, you're a dead man. You need to practice this to make sure you're always ready in the blink of an eye. "No, no, no, that's mommy's boss. My boss is the nice boss that gave us that yummy banana bread last Christmas." If you trip and stumble over your words, even momentarily, you might as well make sure you spend your lunch hour freshening up your resume.
Traffic Cop- Some dads may never have to worry about this, but for those of us that have had our "moments" with police regarding our speed, things can instantly go from bad to worse if your little angel decides now is the time to repeat what they just heard. Something along the lines of, "Stupid pig! Aren't there any doughnut shops you should be guarding right now?" coming from the back seat could open up a can of worms that should never be opened. Sure, you just said that very thing, but like everything in life it's all about the timing of it all. When you see the flashing lights and think out loud, "Stupid pigs, aren't there any doughnut shops you should be guarding right now", there's no way that officer will hear you. When little Johnny says it, every hair on the back of your neck stands up because you've never had a full body cavity search, and you sure don't want your first time to be today. It's time to go Mr. Respect-Our-Law-Enforcement on little Johnny. An immediate and stern, "Son! You will not talk like that about these heroes that put their lives on the line every single day! I don't care what your friends are saying at school, in our house we respect officers of the law.", before turning to the officer and making sure there are no follow-up statements or questions from the back seat.
Life comes down to a few key moments when the pendulum swings one way or another. Your child could very well be the key to one of those moments, and the more prepared you are for some of those "darndest things" kids say, you may just come out of this parenthood thingie none the worse for wear.