I rolled up to the bus stop about two minutes late Monday afternoon. Bodacious was standing at the corner with two classmates. She had a funny look on her face, kind of a cross between a pirate and Bela Lugosi. Her lips were drawn up in a sneer, and one eye was bulging out with a raised brow and the other was squeezed tight like she was taking aim at me. She started flapping her arms and backpack, coming at the car door like she was trying to take flight.
Now, for those of you that know Bodacious, this could be a daily bit of theatrics, or there could be a crisis. Hard to tell which, and I have absolutely no idea where she gets that from, but between you and me, I suspect her father’s side of the family.
She launches herself into the car, pouring out a story so fast that all I can make out are the words “weirdest,” “penis” and “hiney dancing.” Slow down kiddo, Ima need you to start from the beginning!
“Well, we were playing What’s the Weirdest Thing Ever game, and Abram pulled down his pants and underwear and showed me his penis. Then, he and the other boy tuned around and wagged their hineys at me in a dance!”
Well, huh. I was not quite sure what to do or say, so I said, “Well, did you pull down your underwear?”
“No, Mom!!! That’s so embarrassing!”
I careened around the cul-de-sac, back to the boys still standing on the corner. I got out of the car to visit with Abram. And y’all. He is the cutest boy in the world, with the biggest eyes you have ever seen. I asked him if I understood the story correctly.
Now, if you have seen the cartoon of Puss In Boots where Puss uses his magic giant cat eyes to hypnotize people, you know what I am up against here. He looks up at me, peeking beneath his bangs, eyes all liquid and shining. He shrugs his little shoulders, lifting his hands in explanation.
“Well, yes. It was the weirdest thing I could think of.”
And because he is right, and because he is so earnest, it is all I can do to not burst into laughter. I explained to him that our private parts are just that – private, for only us, our parents and doctors if our parents are in the room. I told him that we shouldn’t show our private parts to anyone else, especially little girls at the bus stop. He said he understood, and I hugged him and kissed him on the head.
When The Hubs came home that evening, I had to tell him. We shared a good laugh and then he dropped the hammer. “What did his mom say?”
Well … I wasn’t planning on telling his mom, I explained. Talk about an awkward conversation. Abram is innocent, he meant no harm and I had a nice talk with him. End of story. “You have to tell his parents, Melanie. I would want to know if either of our kids did that, just so we can talk to them about it.”
Stupid teachable moments.
If you work in corporate America, chances are you’ve read Crucial Conversations or a book of similar ilk. The premise of these books is simple – we can all learn how to have a productive conversation with someone we work with. You may not always get the desired result in said conversation, but you can learn how to organize your thoughts and be heard. You also learn that not all conflict is bad.
What I need these brilliant management coaches to do is write a second book, Crucial Conversations with Other Parents. And it should be mandatory reading for all caregivers. Because while not all conflict in the workplace is bad, I promise you, all conflict between parents is, in the very least, uncomfortable. Because any time you have a concern or complaint about another momma’s baby, it generally leads to ruffled feathers and hurt feelings.
And truly, I didn’t have a concern or a complaint about it. I thought it was a really, really funny story. I sucked it up and called his mom. Only she didn’t answer. I opted for the coward’s method, and sent her a series of text messages next. They all started or ended with a variation of “this is so funny,” “I am not mad,” “I love your son,” and “this is not a big deal to me.”
Because when you don’t know the other parents involved very well, you really don’t know what to expect. I didn’t want them to think I thought something was weird about the situation, I didn’t want Abram to be in trouble, either. I didn’t want him to be body shamed or embarrassed or anything else that is crippling to a first-grader.
My phone rang minutes later. Gulp. Folks, I have to tell you, if you are going to have a crucial conversation with another parent, you really want that other parent to be a school teacher. Because they have heard it all before, they are used to crazy moms and they know what is developmentally appropriate. They also have an amazing ability to take it all in stride.
She was laughing so hard on the other end of the line that she could hardly speak. We hashed through the details again, and she admitted she had a hard time keeping a straight face when she talked to her son about it. She and her husband told Abram all the same things and explained to him he couldn’t show off his bits in public. Case closed.
But before we hung up, I told her I did have one more thing I needed to say.
“Please tell Abram that we are not upset about this, he is a precious boy. But now that he has shown his penis to my daughter, we consider them betrothed. Welcome to the family!”