From the mouths of babes

12:0AM, Mar 26th 2012

By Eva Sless

Kids can say the most embarrassing things.

Eva hopes: Maybe her daughter would spot something out of the window to distract her
Image: Thinkstock

"Oh look, Mummy. That man is so fat! Do you think he has a baby in his tummy?"

So began a very awkward train journey with my then three-year-old daughter.

My first reaction was to ignore her. Maybe she'd spot something out of the window to distract her, but no.

"Mummy! Look!" she said as tugged at my sleeve and pointed to the embarrassed-looking man who was trying his best to ignore my daughter's stares and fascination at the round belly protruding (okay, spilling) over the top of his pants. "It's like jelly! Can I touch it?"

"No, darling," I said as I pulled her onto my knee and tried to avoid eye contact with the man, a couple of disapproving-looking old ladies and a group of sniggering teenagers.

"Why not?" she asked, her voice getting increasingly loud and shrill. "You let me touch Aunty Sue's tummy."

"That was different," I said, hoping my low tones would rub off on her. "Firstly, we know Aunty Sue and secondly, that man doesn't have a baby in his tummy he's just ... [I struggled to find the right word to use] ... a big man."

"Oh," she said.

I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the embarrassment was over, but then — in just as loud a voice as ever: "Mummy, he should go on The Biggest Loser."

I am not sure whose face was redder, mine or the man's, who hurriedly got off at the next stop. But the embarrassment didn't end there; my sweet and innocent daughter pulled at my sleeve again.

"Mummy," she said in her super-loud voice again, pointing obviously at another passenger. "Is that a man dressed as a woman, or just a really ugly girl?"

The teenagers cracked up, the old ladies' stares became even more disapproving and the poor passenger my daughter had pointed out (I say passenger because I really couldn't tell either) moved away from us down the carriage.

Later, when we'd got off that seemingly never-ending train ride, I told my daughter that talking about people and pointing out the things that were different about them might make them feel a bit sad, and making people sad was not a nice thing to do.

Of course my on-the-ball daughter then retorted with: "But, Mummy, I was just telling the truth. You always say to tell the truth."

"Well, yes, that's true," I said as I heard my mother's voice coming through me loud and clear, "but if you haven't got something nice to say, it's best not to say anything at all."

She nodded, and I could see her little brain working it out. "Okay, Mummy," she said. "I promise I'll only say nice things."

On the way home we stopped at the park. There were a couple of kids playing on the swings while their mothers (two Muslim women in full burqas) watched.

"Oh, Mummy!" she said as she ran past them to join the kids on the swings. "That's so cool! I wish you were a ninja too!"

With a sigh I mentally threw my hands up. Kids will be kids. We'll talk about religious traditions tomorrow.

Do you encourage your children to tell the truth? What funny situations have they put you in from doing so? Share your comments below.

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