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Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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Meanie Head Jerk Faces

Ask anybody, including Bill Cosby - kids say the darndest things.

Little kids get away with a lot because their honesty is innocent, even when the words themselves are debilitatingly painful to hear.  I'm sure at some point I told you about the time, around 8 years ago, when my son sweetly said, "Mommy, your belly looks like the ones on TV... your belly looks just like Spongebob's  belly" (awesome - thanks, kid).  Then there was the time my daughter informed me that I look pregnant (unfortunately, that was just last week).

My point, other than the fact that I apparently need to work on my abs, is that they're little kids.  So when they insult me, it comes off as cute.

Sort of.


So here's my question: At what age does unfiltered honesty make the transition from "Aww, You're So Adorably Precocious" to "Hey, You're A Real Farking Jerk"?

It's pretty much universally understood that little kids are programmed to tell the Whole Truth long before they've developed the perspective to know when it's going to be offensive or hurtful.  That's why, luckily for parents, kids get a pass when they loudly inquire, "No fair - why does that fat lady get to ride a scooter inside?" right in front of the nice woman shopping for groceries in her Hoveround.

But c'mon, it can't last forever.  At some point it just becomes mean; those innocent truths get mixed up with people's own insecurities and ulterior motives and the influence of potentially crappy life experiences.  But by then, we're supposed to have developed empathy for other people, coupled with the self control required to refrain from indiscriminately spewing unsolicited information from our face holes.

Obviously, however, some people never  develop a verbal filter and continue to say whatever pops into their heads, even after they're old enough to know better.
These people are what we call "a-holes."
One time, when I was about twelve, I was laughing with a few of my friends and some kid about our age suddenly said to me, "You're a lot prettier when you don't smile."

Now, just what the hell is that supposed to mean?  It almost  sounded like a compliment.  But it wasn't.

The trouble was, no matter how many time I mentally repeated the old schoolyard chant about Stick and Stones, his words did  hurt me.  I thought about those words every time I smiled for a long time after that, and Lord knows the last thing an overly dramatic, hysterics-prone pre-teen girl needs is one more excuse not to smile.

One of the reasons I think it stuck with me was that, deep down, I already suspected it was true.  I'm over it now, but back then I was already a little self-conscious about my smile, and the stickiest words we hear are the ones that reflect our own thoughts, especially when they seem to confirm our own perceived flaws.

But the other reason I think it stuck was that I lacked the perspective that I have now.  At the impressionable age of twelve, I foolishly thought all Truths were equally true.  I still thought they were all Little Kids truths.
I didn't realize until years later that he was just an a-hole.
With age, thankfully, comes wisdom.  I smile all the time now.

And I don't pay any attention to what a-holes say.


Mama’s Losin’ It

This week's prompt from Mama Kat is:
"Share something mean someone said to you once; why has it stuck with you after all these years?"


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35 comments:

  1. Isn't it amazing how simple one-liners can stick with us forever? I have a few things that have stuck with me over the years, even things I know aren't true, let alone the mean things. Sometimes they do nothing more than make me stop and think about a memory. Other times, I'm transported right back to 8th grade.

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    1. Yes - I wonder sometimes if people don't realize what an impact their words can have, or if they don't care. Often I bet it's something they probably didn't even mean to be insensitive and had no idea it would bother us. It sure makes me want to pick my words carefully. :)

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  2. "One of the reasons I think it stuck with me was that, deep down, I already suspected it was true." I love the insight in this simple line. I gotta jot it down somewhere.....

    Love your post! Gotta stick around and read more!

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    1. Thanks, I'm glad it resonated with you! I think someone can say something that makes us call an aspect of ourselves into question, even something we were relatively confident about before. But I think the things that bother us most are the ones that we already secretly thought - it's like getting confirmation of your deepest fear. It doesn't help when you're young and insecure. ;)

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  3. Those insults that almost sound like compliments are the worst. So confusing...

    I don't know what age the honesty stops being endearing because I think we're still in the cute stage. Actually, she probably isn't even at the "honest" stage yet; she's still figuring out what things mean and just doesn't realize how they sound. I was a little annoyed when she started calling me "Big Mama" but then I realized she was also referring to herself as "Small Hannah".

    I'm just trying to teach her some new adjectives like "beautiful" and "wonderful". ;)

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    1. Good idea! That's funny how, as adults, we put all kinds of extra connotations and nuances into certain adjectives, whereas kids are so literal. To her, you're big. She's small. End of story. :)

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  4. I picked the same prompt this week. Amazing how one little mean thing can stay with us for a long time, especially if it happened during childhood.

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    1. I know - wouldn't it be nice if no one could've come up with anything to write for this prompt? It seemed like a lot of people chose it, though. I guess we all carry some emotional battle scars, eh?

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  5. Kids are so mean! It's so difficult as a parent to try to teach our little ones that words really do hurt the most!

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    1. Too true! I think mean words are much harder to get over. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. Thank goodness MOST people develop filters.....:)

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    1. RIGHT?!?!? How do the ones without filters end up with friends and jobs like normal people? It's a mystery of nature.

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  7. Oh, how those things that we accept as "truths" stick with us.

    In an interview, Eddie Vedder was once asked if he had a particular dharma or philosophy that he lived by - and his reply: "Don't be an A-hole." If only we all lived by that golden rule!

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    1. HA! Yeah, I know a lot of people who could benefit from that philosophy.

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  8. On the 1st day of 6th grade I ran into a kid that was a year ahead of me that I hadn't seen in awhile, and without thinking I said 'hey, still short huh?'...his quick, witty and has-stuck-with-me-for-TWENTY-THREE YEARS response was 'still ugly, huh?'...~snicker~ hopefully it's a sign of self esteem that the only thing that bothers me about that story now is HOW LONG AGO 6th grade was...Point being, this memory is what prompted one of my most important life lessons to pass down to my kid - sometimes you can't help it when inappropriate things are funny or pop into your brain, but if your potty mouth snarky ass sense of humor is going to hurt someone's feelings, wait to laugh til they're out of earshot because I can tell you from experience that what was one moment in your day will be a memory in theirs for decades...and i think that your smile is lovely and that there's a possibility that that kid has a screwy one himself now after getting some teeth knocked loose if he kept up with "I'm just sayin..." philosopy...

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    1. NICE! Instead of insulting that kid, you gave him a gift, the best possible kind of memory there is - the immediate come-back. That's the sort of zinger I only come up with hours or days later, so it's a rare treat to dole it out in a timely fashion like you were just waiting for an opening. That being said, a retort like that is just that - a retort - and not reflective of your actual appearance. :) I should really think about passing a similar lesson on to my kids, especially my 10yo son who has his mother's snarkiness and is gonna get himself in trouble with it. The other day I was holding up a dish, inspecting it closely, and said, "This thing is ugly," and without missing a beat he said, "Well, it is reflecting your face." ZING! That's my boy.

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  9. Another one that sounds like a compliment but isn't:

    You have a lot of good experience handling failure.

    Got that in a fortune cookie once.

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    1. You need to find a new place to get your Chinese food. But I am going to start using that as my new go-to backhanded compliment, replacing, "My, what an interesting face you have."

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  10. Mon oh manis that true or what? I cringe thinking about all the stuff I probably shouted at adults when I was young and full of the truth...eek. I think I've done a really great job of blocking things out that people have said about...purely for survival purposes. I do remember a kid saying I had chicken legs when I was little and that I was too skinny. I really should find him and pay him to tell me that now...I wonder what he's up to.

    Funnily enough, I'm also self-conscious about my smile, but that is a tale for another day.

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    1. Ok, totally meant "Man oh man" ...typing on crack is whack

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    2. Careful with that crack - while pregnant, I think you're supposed to only take special crack formulated for infants. P.S. Baby crack sounds adorable. P.P.S. Sometimes I make offensive comments about babies on drugs when I haven't had enough coffee.

      We'll have to trade smile stories one day - I can't join in on chicken leg stories, unless I can match your chicken leg with a tree trunk. P.P.P.S. That last part is one of the weirdest things I've ever typed.

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  11. Wow! Total a-hole. I bet you're beautiful, smiles and all! :)

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    1. Thank you! I comfort myself by imagining that, soon after making that comment, he fell off a cliff. ;)

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  12. I know just how it felt when you were 12 and the a-hole said that to you. When I was in 5th grade I was trying to hang around a boy I liked. A bunch of us were playing...running around...and the boy looked at me and said, "you have a big head and a small body." I was devastated! It bothered me for so many years. Now, thankfully, I find it quite funny :)

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    1. Gah, they always get you right during those formative years, don't they? I don't get why they say something, considering just SHUTTING UP is so much easier. I'm sure, like most stuff filterless people say, it wasn't even true - I'm glad to hear you can laugh about it now. ;)

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  13. When I was at basic training, one of my battle buddies told me that my laughter sounded like tears to her. (She was from the Virgin Islands, so this was actually how she talked.) That still makes me sad when I think about it, even though I don't know exactly why. Other than, as you said, deep down I think it kind of is true. Gross, why am I talking about feelings?!

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    1. Ha, feelings are dumb. I hate stuff like that, mainly because you can't ever make yourself forget it, so there it is, popping up uncontrollably - it's the worst when it's about smiling or laughing. Thanks, just what I needed - an automatic downer every time I feel happy. Awesome.

      P.S. I don't know if you read these replies, but in case you do, I'm sorry if it takes me a while to respond to your comments. Stupid Blogger thinks you're a robot and sends your messages to spam. Blogger's almost as dumb as feelings.

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  14. Farking. New favorite word. The scooter line....oh, the scooter line. Still guffawing a bit. I can't get through one of your posts without a laugh out loud moment. I have the children that call every old person they see "Vera" because Vera is our elderly next door neighbor. Apparently, all elderly people look alike when you are 6, 4, 2 and 5 months. I am then put in the very uncomfortable position of trying to back out of explaining to "Not Vera" why my children are all waving at every old person, "VERA??? HI VERA! VERA, ARE YOU COMING OVER LATER?" Oh, and your smile is lovely and that boy can kick rocks.

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    1. Thank you, that makes me so happy 'cause I puffy heart BPM! That Vera business is too funny - we used to have the same thing going with our elderly neighbor, Bob. Except LOTS of oldies, as it turns out, ARE named Bob, so then you have to explain to the kids that it's the wrong guy PLUS explain to Wrong Bob that no, we don't actually know you, but sure, I'd love to talk about how much I look like your great granddaughter for 45 minutes.

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  15. 1) you tell me that little shi#head's name, because i'm going to beat him until his soul hurts.

    1a) you have the most awesome-bestest smile.

    3ish) is that why i get the feeling you're not listening to me sometimes? :D

    ilu

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    1. HAHAHAHAHA! Babe, that's why I love you - because you threaten to beat people until their souls hurt. And thank you - and I always listen to you, nerd - and ilu2.

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  16. Almost all the mean things that really hurt were said to me by my sister-in-law in the last few years. The awesome part is that whenver any of my family members annoys my husband I can always say "yes, but at least they aren't your sister." I win EVERY SINGLE time! Whoo hoo!

    I see your smile in your awesome button that you use here and on Twitter and it's fun and adorable so that little jerk can suck it. (And at 12 I think it's officially no longer cute - "the older they are, the cuter they ain't.")

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    1. I love how you found the silver lining with your sister-in-law, and I love that saying about kids and their cuteness. I'm getting that embroidered on a pillow to put on the couch, just to make sure the kids don't forget what's up. ;)

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  17. OMG I am so glad I found you, I needed a good belly laugh today and hey at least your not like me who's gums show when she laughs AKA Hey you have horse mouth.....yea that's stuck with me

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    1. I'm glad you found me, too - we Laugh Challenged types have to stick together! ;)

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Thank you for commenting - you're awesome! I mean, even if you're a jerk, at least it means you read my blog. RIGHT?!?