We used to suffer -- and I mean SUFFER, with a capital SUFF -- through trips to the store with the kids. Meltdowns, runaways, pelting each other with fruits and vegetables. The kind of stuff that makes non-parent patrons run, don't walk, to their neighborhood urologist and schedule a good right fixin'. Screw the pain meds, just start cuttin' and don't stop until you hit something pro-create-y.
And yeah, we weren't alone, nor were we the worst in the store at any given time, but it does kinda dash your hopes of perfect parentness in a hurry. So we looked to the internet for help. And boy, did we find it. Article after article, discussion after discussion, plea after plea about store behavior issues. The most reasonable (read: easiest) suggestion we came across seemed to be to give your kids jobs: Pick out the cereal, help put everything on the conveyor belt, push the cart, etc. We opted for 'push the cart,' which, of course, meant we had to get two carts every time we shopped, even if we were only there for a loaf of bread ... er, two loaves of bread. Freakin' sibling rivalry.
It all seemed to be working wonderfully until one day recently when a Hispanic family, who had obviously read the same articles we read, happened into the same aisle. Their kids, roughly the same ages as ours, played NASCAR with their carts whereas our kids preferred to act out scenes from the movie Cars. To each their own. Let us celebrate our differences. We parents smiled at each other knowingly (I see you were on parents.com, too. Good stuff, eh?) and we returned our attention to the chicken nugget selection when ...
Ethan: "Watch it, Pedro!"
Oh. No. He. Fucking. Didn't. Please tell me he knows him and his name is really Pedro! Please tell me he knows him and his name is really Pedro!
Other parents turned.
All attention, both families and a shitload of passersby, focused on Ethan.
Hey, I know! Maybe you can help put the groceries on the ... conveyor ... belt? Little ... helper? Squeak?
You know how they call it "The Walk of Shame" when, after a totally drunken one-night stand, you walk out into the street wearing the same clothes you had on the night before? Well, this was kinda like that, only if you'd just realized after the fact that you'd slept with your grandma or something.
To this day I can only hope the looks on our faces conveyed what the thought bubbles would have read and that these fine folks didn't go home and tell their friends about the racist assholes they'd just encountered. Which would really be a tragedy because we're SO the least racist people you know. Seriously. I'm tempted to list all my minority friends and re-declare my lust for Melissa Harris-Lacewell, but that seems cheap and apologetic -- like I'd gathered objects and kept them in a glass box, taking them out in case of a racism emergency.
We asked Ethan where he'd heard about calling Hispanic boys "Pedro," hoping he'd answer SpongeBob so that we could finally sue somebody with lots of money and live on Easy Street. No such luck. He didn't remember. And to this day we suspect he may have been channeling one or all of their racist grandparents' spirits. Which isn't as far fetched as it sounds, considering that Thomas pronounces Acme "Ack-a-me" just like his grandma used to. All I need is a theremin and an autographed photo of David Duchovny.
Anyway, we had a long talk with him about respecting different cultures and being aware of what might offend others. A very hard talk to have to a 5-year-old, believe me, and I'm sure it sounded a mixture of pops, buzzes and Esperanto to him. But to date, no new outbursts. Just the same, if anyone knows where we could score a Medic-Alert bracelet that reads "Tourette Syndrome" we'd greatly appreciate it.
"I should be horsewhipped and sued then go quietly, my tail between my knees. I'll crawl back under my stone." -- Richard Thompson