I’m exploring new depths of embarrassment thanks to my curious toddler.
Millie Valentine has reached the observational-verbal-diarrhoea toddler stage. That’s not a technical term you will find in any How to Raise Toddlers for Dummies books. It’s one I made up — you may know it as the what-thought-goes-in-must-come-out era, or the ‘WHY?’ stage.
After 42 months of parenting, Millie has desensitised me to parental embarrassment. This is not something they warn you about in anti-natal classes, which are usually all “breath, push, play some Enya—and could someone get that dad-to-be a chair, I think he’s going to faint”.
From spew in your hair, to poo on your cheek, or a smear of something (you are never sure what) on your shirt, the daily embarrassment your offspring inflicts on you is as constant as a prime ministerial challenge.
The first time someone points out that you have baby poop on your face in public a little bit of your old savvy, sky-high stiletto-wearing self dies and the shame game begins, but after a while there is nothing else to do but wipe the offending baby bodily function from your face and say something along the lines of “Parenting is the hardest most challenging thing I have ever done, but it’s sooooooo worth it, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
A total lie, but as the years progress your child showcasing to the public the undies you’ve owned since 1989 by lifting up your skirt in public only mildly mortifies you. Walking around holding the hand of a kid wearing a ‘I can’t remember when I last washed it’ superhero/princess/astronaut costume who also happens to be picking their bum or nose causes only a tiny bit of indignity. And when they are writhing in your arms in a thrashing tantrum and pull your top down to reveal your boobs at a BBQ, it barely registers a blush.
I honestly thought I had dealt with it all until this week and a take-no-prisoners grocery shop with a toddler now equipped with the full English language and a thirst for knowledge.
It all started with a large woman.
You know where this is going.
My first “Why is she so FAT mummy?”
Do you think she whispered it? No. Do you think after I whispered ‘Shoosh’ she stopped? No. The questions continued, all within earshot of her verbal victims.
Next aisle: a heavily tattooed woman. “Why has she drawn all over her body, and her NECK? Did she get in trouble with her Mummy when she did that?” she asked in front of the Ruby Rose look-a-like, possibly reflecting on the conversations we have had at home after she queried me about my 20-year-old tattoo. ‘Shoosh’ I said again and raced for the checkout, cutting short my shop to escape more embarrassment.
But she was on fire.
An elderly lady with a walker lined up behind us. Millie, just grappling with the passing of her 93-year-old great-grandmother, looked at her and then …
“Is she as old as Nan? Is she going to die soon?”
This time I didn’t shoosh her. I gave her the dignity of an answer: “No, but I will if you don’t stop.”
From now on I’m shopping online.