This is a life story that is a tried and true for my classes. The kids have affectionately called it The Octopus Story. What the point I try to get to is that kids say the darndest things. I also want the kids to know that there should be no shame in calling anything by its proper name. This one is truly a favorite of my students.
One day I was out shopping with my wife and son when he was about two and a half years old or so. My wife was looking at the clothes and you know I love my wife dearly but man can she spend some time looking at clothes! My wife is 5 foot, you see, and when she darts into the racks. . .well, I can’t see her. So, usually I just set up by a rack on the isle.
This day I was standing in the aisle close to a sale rack in which another woman was peeking at. I was watching my son in his stroller. He was really into looking at this stuffed Octopus we had handed him. You know, it was one of those buy this for five bucks and we will donate ninety nine cents to some charity type of thing.
Well, he was running his hand over this thing and turning it over and over. He was really giving this thing a once over. He turned the octopus over so that the legs were facing up and he was looking at the bottom. He ran his finger over the embroidered word “happiness”. The material on the bottom was two pieces sewn together with a seam right down the center with the legs spreading out. He ran his finger down the seam once and then paused and did it again. Then he looked up at me and said,
“Where’s its penis?”
Yep, that is right. He said penis. Now this was not really a huge surprise to me since that is what we have always called it. That is its name so we always use the proper names. Why not? It is better than coming up with all the silly stuff like wee wee or digginy or Bob or some such nonsense.
Anyway, my son was gifted with the ability to pronunciate any word he hears to the point where there is no doubt as to what he said. So, when he asked me this question, there was no doubt what he asked and it was clear as a bell.
There was one other problem, the woman on the other side of the rack heard him too. I had no doubt. Out of the peripheral vision, I saw her head snap up and towards me. I did not even have to look to see the expression on her face. Thinking quickly as I could as I felt the heat rising in my face I said back to him,
“Son, Octopuses don’t like peanuts, Elephants like peanuts.”
He looked at the stuffed animal contemplating while I just hoped that he heard what I said and went with the change of subjects and finally said, “Octopus don’t like peanuts, Elephants like peanuts.”
Whew!!! “That’s right son, very good,” I said back as I moved away quickly.
To this day, I have no doubt that the woman had no questions about what my child had said. And when I think back, I should have just explained it to him and who cares what that woman would have thought about me as a father.
Yet, it was funny! One to keep in the memory book for a long while.