My daughter S, 2.5-years-old, recently decided that the word "lasagna" sounds a lot like the word "vagina." In fact, she's deemed them interchangeable, so that on Sunday evening, when we sat down to enjoy the former for dinner with my brother and his wife, she happily declared that we were dining on the latter. I was initially a bit shocked, and in other company, might have been a bit embarrassed, especially when S continued to call out "pizza and vagina!" in a deep voice, like she was selling peanuts at a baseball game. But it was pretty funny, and really, none of us could keep a straight face, especially my husband and brother, who kept turning away from the table to giggle uncontrollably.
Bill Cosby had it right. Kids say the darndest things.
The only problem is that sometimes those things aren't said in the privacy of your own home, with only good natured family members around. Sometimes those things are declared loudly at public intersections in broad daylight. And sometimes those things are racist.
Allow me to explain. S--who has a sudden affinity for traffic lights--especially enjoys the pedestrian crossing signals, like the "walk" sign. But of course, the word "walk" is often replaced by the figure of a person walking, outlined by white lights. Or, as S calls it, "the white man." Gulp. Yes, S loves "the white man," and these days, she exclaims her love for him every time her stroller nears a crosswalk. ("Look, Mama! It's the white man! I see the white man!"... or "Mama, where's the white man? I don't want the red hand. I like the white man!")
This wouldn't be so bad if we didn't live in such a densely populated neighborhood, where we're often waiting to cross the street with any number of people raising an eyebrow at my politically incorrect daughter. I've tried to suggest other names for her new friend, including Walking Man, Mr. Walk, the Walking Guy, etc., but S has only agreed to promote "the white man" to "Mr. White Man" status, which I'm thinking might not be an improvement at all.
My husband and I are committed to raising our children to be open-minded, global citizens--and ones who use appropriate terms for body parts, at that. So we will continue to work with S on her language and labels. I'm sure we'll get there one day, and these anecdotes will be mere fodder for us to embarrass her with, as my parents do to me now.
And until then, I'll just duck my head at crosswalks and hurry across the street with my racist, vulgar little girl.