5 Ways You Could Have Answered Your Son’s Embarrassing Question About Me


I hate Target. And that sucks because I love Target. But, I’m letting myself be mad at Target today instead of the little stinky kid who asked his mom, “Is that lady a boy or a girl?”

Yes, I can find the humor in his logic. Kind of. Again, I wish I had much thicker skin, but, I just don’t and I’m experiencing the cancer emotion I’ve been waiting on — I’m mad! Super duper mad. Finally. Not at the kid (ok, a teeny tiny bit at the little munchkin), but at his mom’s response. And I’m allowed to take this frustration out on Target because I wasn’t trying to keep count, but this is the third time a kid has said something to their mom at Target about me that has made me cry. And I don’t like being mad at people, but I can handle being in a fight with Target for today.

After the question was posed, I may have stalked the store to find the mom and her three sons. Then, I may have heard her snap at her kids and realized she too was having a bad day. I may have forgiven her then because, I get it. I didn’t stop to tell her a better way to handle her son’s question. My dear friend Liz has promised me this is not the way to handle these predicaments. So, I smiled at them, made myself continue to try and look like a friendly normal mom (I was in yoga pants and a tank top while shopping for hand towels for crying out loud!) and will tell you instead what I wanted to say to her.

Dear Mom with the Son who asked really embarrassing question loudly enough that I heard,

First, I’m a mom. I’m also a former teacher and a lover of kids, so I get it. I know kids say inappropriate things and they have questions. I also realize after 14 rounds of chemo I’m looking a bit eyebrow-less, bald and ghostly. Trust me, it’s harder on me to look at this face in the mirror than it is for you to to have look at me. At least I hope.

I believe 99 percent of the time the things kids say are really funny. Your son was even a little funny today, but your response was not. Shushing him and scurrying away made a teachable situation 99 percent worse.

I know it can be hard to find the right thing to say, and perhaps it’s a bit awkward. But, our run-in had already reached the absolute height of social discomfiture. Just say something to your child that might help them to learn something. Here are some ideas.

1. Hey sweetie, I can see why you are asking. She has no hair. I will explain it to you in the car.
2. Yes, the woman has no hair. She may be taking a medication that made her lose her hair.
3. Hmmm, it looks like she is a girl. She just has really short hair.
4. I’m not sure, but the person is smiling and looks friendly.
5. Sometimes people don’t have hair because they are sick
and it grows back.

More than anything, I wish you would have just smiled at me, made eye contact and we could have shared a silent moment of motherhood. It’s hard and uncomfortable and tear-inducing at times. It seems like you were having a rough day. Three boys must be tough. I hope your day gets better.

Note to self: Don’t forget to wear earrings again.

A version of this post originally appeared here

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