The other day I was driving to the Franklin Institute with my 3 ½ year old son, X. Our windows were down to let in the crisp, fresh air per his request. As I slowed to stop at the corner, I noticed an older man standing there. We locked eyes for a moment and I smiled, as I do to everyone. And he went on, “Heyyyy guuuurl. How you doin? You lookin’ mighty beautiful today” , and I went on my way. In total, it lasted about 5 seconds.
I looked in my rear view mirror at my beautiful son, as I waited for the questions to come flooding in. I racked my brain thinking of interesting ways to spin this so he could understand it. I could see his wheels turning…
X: Ma, who was that man? Why he say ‘Hey gurl’ like that? You know him?
Me: I don’t know who that man was X.
X: Then why he call you beautiful?
Me: I guess he just wanted to tell me what he thought.
A few silent moments went by. I have learned through my few short years of motherhood that this is his processing time and to just be quiet because more was on its way. And then like clockwork.
X: It’s very weird Ma, his words sounded like nice words but he was not a nice man.
And there it was. The biggest truth bomb anyone had ever laid on me. Without even seeing this man, my three and a half year old little baby could tell simply by the tone in his voice that even though yes, he may have used kind words, he was not indeed, well meaning.