Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Whale in Your Tale

I got caught in a lie one day with my young son. Well, not actually a lie. I'd prefer to call it a euphemism. You know, a way to say something that is somehow unpleasant by glossing over the actual meaning. Please don't misunderstand, my intent is not to confuse or hide the truth from my kids. But on occasion I find it fun to add humor to the inherent unpleasantness of some bodily functions and generally gross behaviors. A lot of us do it, especially when talking to young ones, I think. But on this summer day, I learned that it can backfire, literally.

This particular incident happened when the kids and I were on our play set. To set the scene--I was struggling to balance on the two-person glider swing, a device clearly not intended for anyone equipped with anything larger than a toddler tush. Then out of nowhere, a funny, loud squirty sound (that would have made my Uncle Joe puff up with pride) came from my co-pilot son, followed by an over-the-shoulder glance and impish smile. "You got a buffalo in your britches?" I asked. (In our house when someone let's one go, one of us--normally me--poses this question, normally inserting whatever large creature comes to mind. Buffalo are a popular favorite, followed by dinosaur and giraffe--the larger the animal the better.) Of course, the stinky little man denied it, grinning like the Cheshire cat that he is.

After a short delay, he owned up to his rotten rear rip. Then after a short pause with furrowed brow, puppy-dog eyes, and tilted head he asks me in all seriousness, "So how DO the animals get up your beezer?"

Ugh. . . caught in my foolish fib, my tall tale, my cockamamy expression. I stammered. I winced. I tried to think quickly. So how do I explain the process of the ol' passing of gas to my preschooler? As I tried to imagine the internal human anatomy, particularly focusing on the guts and beyond, I couldn't help but envision a smiling, chubby rhinoceros staring back at me as it made its way through the intestinal tract.

"Well, honey. Actually there are no animals up there. It happens because, well, you see, they start when, well, it, I mean they . . ." How did they happen exactly?! There, I was just a hangin', trying to articulate just the right explanation, the perfect description of how a toot truly transpires. And I was a little stumped on what words to use, what details to share. How did I give an honest and informative answer after seriously confusing my sweet son? What would make sense to his young developing mind which I had previously supplied major misinformation?

After a few minutes of hemming and hawing, while attempting to draw a few pitiful diagrams in the sand, he squealed with delight, "Gotcha! Mommy, I KNOW big animals don't come out of there!" now rolling in hysterics with his big sister who was also reveling at the idea of their mom squirming for an explanation.

I was reminded of a few good life lessons that day. Like my kids are smarter than me. It's good to laugh at yourself. Honesty is the best policy. So while I have not completely dropped my use of colorful accounts of certain foul functions, when someone lets one slip, I still stop short of asking "Who farted?" Which, truth be told, still somehow sounds more vile to me than having a mammoth pop out of your butt.