There I was, sitting on a fluffy chair at Caribou Coffee, watching my 4-year-old daughter make the rounds, greeting people across the cafe. Everywhere we go, she chats people up. It’s a good thing she’s charming. Because this had been the norm for a long time, I was content to drink my large iced caramel latte and read about sports as my daughter set up camp just outside the bathrooms. I keep an eye on her, but there hadn’t really — up to that point anyway — been any problem.
Perhaps I can be forgiven for focussing on my phone rather than eavesdropping. My daughter sounded excited but I couldn’t hear the words. I went off tone and just kept scrolling until I heard someone exclaim, “My goodness!” in a shocked voice.
I glanced toward the bathrooms and noticed an old woman – wide eyes, and her hand over her mouth – staring down at my daughter. Her husband looked shocked and somewhat terrified. The two quickly scurried away. Curious (perhaps morbidly so), I quickly moved toward the bathrooms and hid behind the corner to listen in.
“Did you just pee, or poop?” she asked someone. I chuckled. Sure, a little gross, but she’s just a kid. She asks me this nearly every time I get out of the bathroom. I decided I’d let someone else answer that question, for once.
“Do you have a penis, or a bu-dye-nuh?” she asked the next person who stepped out of the bathroom door. I put my hand over my mouth. I could actually hear the expression on that person’s face.
“Uh…I have a penis,” he replied. That person was a teenager, seemingly, and he sounded unsure of what to do next.
“Do you have a big penis, or a little penis?” she asked him.
My eyes slammed shut and I grimaced. The situation had, indeed, gotten out of hand. I needed to put a stop to it. But only after the coast was clear. It was imperative that nobody could associate me with her. I poked my head around the corner to see if all the victims had cleared the area. A poor, unsuspecting woman popped out of the bathroom right then, and my daughter instantly locked on.
“Hi friend! Did you make a big poopie, or a Mrs. Poopie?”
Alright. That’s enough. I finally came out of seclusion to intervene.
“Let’s go home and eat treats, sweetheart.”
I grabbed her and we escaped through the back door, both smiling. Only one of our expressions was authentic.
“What did you say to that old lady?” I asked, on our way out.
“I said, ‘Do you have big boobies?’”
“You can’t ask people that.”
I pondered for a moment. “I don’t know. It’s just impolite. It doesn’t matter if people have big boobies or not.”
She jumped in the car and into her car seat. As I was buckling her in, one of the baristas walked by, returning to work after a break.
“Hi!” my daughter yelled.
“Hey,” the girl replied, smiling.
“Do you make farty-buns a lot?!” my daughter inquired.
I slapped my hand against my forehead.
“What did you say Dada?”
“Nothing baby. From now on though, let’s not ask strangers about their body parts, poopies, or farty buns, ok?”
“But I like to make farty buns.”
“Yeah. It’s tricky. I think most people like to make farty buns,” I told her, truthfully. “They just don’t want to talk about it with random people.”
This is where I point out that my daughter was mid-potty training. Poop was on her mind for a reason. I wasn’t angry because I understood — still, though, I was mortified. Just because something is developmentally natural doesn’t mean it isn’t embarrassing.
The episode interested me because, again, I don’t think my daughter did anything wrong. She’s a kid and she’s learning. Still, I got all flushed and apologetic and wound up fleeing the scene of the crime. Why? A visceral reaction I suppose or inability to just laugh it off. So, yeah, I’m going to have her work on not asking strangers about their genitalia while, at the same time, working on my own ability to separate myself from her behavior and provide other people with perspective. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot more awkward situations. For me.