I’ve noticed that, when it comes to conversations, babies and children are great ice breakers.
If I’m out and about with my kids, I am regularly approached by people I don’t know who want to talk about them, or to them. It’s pretty cool most of the time. Typically, there’s just some polite, complimentary chit chat about B and J. No biggie.
I do believe that these individuals always have good intentions, when they come up to me. Occasionally, however (as the long-winded, awkward title of this post suggests), people have said thing which ended up making our talks…well, awkward.
Here are some examples, from my own experiences!
1) “IS HE YOURS?”
This is a valid question, under most circumstances. B has a lighter complexion than me. I could be an uncle, or a babysitter, for all you know. Ask away.
However, when I’m at a playground with B, and he is loudly calling me ‘daddy’, can you please not feel the need to march over and ask me if he’s mine in an interrogating tone, like you’re Chris Hansen trying to catch a predator, and then try to engage in friendly banter afterwards, as if you didn’t just passively-aggressively imply that I’m a child abducter? K, Thanks. #ByeFelicia
2) “SHE LOOKS GREEK! IS SHE GREEK?”
J is even lighter in complexion than B, so being asked about her ethnicity happens on occasion.
What made this particular example awkward was the disappointment in the women’s voice after, when I told her that, alas, J is not Greek. She even said ‘Oh’, all sad panda-like. If she’s reading this, I’m sorry that some little girl you didn’t know wasn’t the nationality you wanted.
3) “YOUR SON IS SO GOOD!”
This was said at one of B’s basketball games last year, by a lady sitting beside me.
What a nice compliment, right?
Except…….the boy she was talking about wasn’t B. It was some other dark-skinned lil dude. When I sheepishly corrected her and pointed out B, she sheepishly blurted ‘He is trying hard!’.
Eh, she meant well, anyway.
4) “HE IS SO HANDSOME!”
Said to J when she was a baby, while she was dressed in baby girl clothes. Other parents tell me something like this has happened to their girls before, too. Awkward, but an honest mistake!
5) “SHE IS SO PRETTY!”
Said to B when he was a baby, while he was dressed in baby boy clothes. Other parents tell me something like this has happened to their boys before, too. Awkward, but an honest mistake!
6) “TWINS! SO CUTE!”
Said to B and J when they were five and three years old. Other parents tell me something like this has happened before to their two kids who don’t really look or act alike and are different sizes.
Hey wait a minute…..
7) “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME CANDY?”
For real, I thought the idea of a creepy looking old stranger offering candy to little children was some sort of bad joke…..until it happened to B.
To make it even more uncomfortable, after I came over and told the man no, instead of walking away, he tried to upsell me on his candy. Went on and on about how great it was. Look, I enjoy homemade butterscotch as much as the next person, but not when it comes from someone’s dirty trenchcoat.
8) “CAN I TAKE THEIR PICTURE?”
This one again depends on the context. We’ve been out, and had people with media credentials request a picture of the kids. Fine.
Conversely, we’ve also been out and had a random woman who was wandering around aimlessly by herself with a camera ask us for a photo. No credentials, no real reason given. Again, I like to assume that people mean well, but what is someone doing with pictures of strangers’ children? Kind of weird, no?
9) “SHE IS SO BEAUTIFUL. YOU NEED TO GET HER OUT OF THIS COUNTRY.”
Store lineups are prime bantering spots. The problem with them, though, is that you are kind of trapped if the banter gets uncomfortable; you just want to pay for your stuff, so you don’t want to waste time by leaving the line to avoid a conversation.
Anyway, J and I were waiting in line at the grocery store. A frail, older gentleman with a heavy accent (Polish as I would soon learn) came up behind us. In an Adorable Grandpa type voice, he started playfully talking to J. Cutesy stuff. He then turned to me, and in an angry, bitter voice, yelled “SHE IS SO BEAUTIFUL. YOU NEED TO GET HER OUT OF THIS COUNTRY.”
He proceeded to go on a short rant about how Canada has gone downhill over the last 30 years. After ranting, he noticed J was holding grapes, so he went back into Adorable Grandpa mode with her, joking about the grapes. Not long after, Bitter Grandpa returned, as he vented to me about how Canada was built by people like me and him, and how he hated it here now. He told me that I need to move, so J could grow up to be a “princess” somewhere else. By this point, we were at the front of the line. The cashier just rang my stuff through with his head down, probably out of fear that this guy was going to shank us all soon with the bottle of tomato sauce he was buying. Adorable Grandpa then suddenly re-appeared, to laugh and play with J. He asked her if she liked ‘mozzarelli’ cheese, and told her that his four year old grandson laughs when he says ‘mozzarelli’. But then Bitter Grandpa returned to me, complaining about how his grandson’s mother has breast cancer and had to go to the USA to be treated, because she couldn’t get treated here. Finally, I was able to pay for my stuff. J and I fled the store.
The other examples were pretty harmless, but this last one…..what happened to there being a time and and a place for everything??
Anyway, to conclude, there’s nothing wrong with giving compliments to strangers and their children. They’re always appreciated. Just watch how you say them, to keep things in the awkward-free zone.
And, as the old expression goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!