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"Mommy, why doesn't that lady have any teeth?"

27/01/2017

Dear Falcotto,

As we all know children are always ready to say the most inappropriate things: they see the world spontaneously and innocently and therefore say exactly what they think.

This means that sometimes they say the most inappropriate things that mortify us, because not everyone understands that they are simply children, and that knowing what you can say and what you shouldn't say is a skill that you learn growing up.

My name is Beatrice, I have two sons, Edoardo aged 8, and Pietro aged 3. Although I had already been through this with my eldest son, I had forgotten how mortifying small children can be with their off-kilter questions.

Pietro and I were standing in queue in a bakery, with a very old lady right behind us. We were standing there waiting for our turn when Pietro suddenly looked me straight in the eye and in the loudest voice he had every donned asked me: "Mommy, why doesn't that lady have any teeth ???"

I automatically looked at the lady, who quickly closed her mouth to hide her gums and scowled angrily at my son, while I tried lamely to apologise: I felt like sinking through the floor!!!! I really didn't know what to say !!! We were standing 30 cm away from each other and the best I managed to say was "Pietro, do you want a sandwich with olives?"

Luckily it was our turn, so I quickly bought some bread and rushed out of the store.

Only then was I able to answer my son’s question.

I explained that as one becomes older our body changes and becomes strange and sometimes even uglier; it happens to everyone and no one would want it to happen, but it happens, because that's life! And I also explained that's it is not something that we want people to point out, because our soul never ages! I also told him that we must be careful not to hurt other people's feelings, but that we should always try to respect them. I also tried to give him a few examples, to help him understand, because Pietro is just starting the process of learning how to be tactful.

Looking at my son Edoardo, who is now eight years old, I realised that only when children are 6-7 do they stop expressing their own and very personal point of view and begin to understand that being polite to others is important, and that it makes us better people who others will like more.

To be quite honest, I must admit that I felt rather silly at being so mortified; when all is said and done, if a person feels offended and does not understand how innocent a child's question are, because everything in their world and life is new, it means that they have forgotten a very important part of themselves: I certainly can’t blame myself or scold my child for something that he has not yet learnt.