My brother-in-law asked me recently, after one of his kids had behaved atrociously in a restaurant, if my kids had ever embarrassed me in public.
I felt a little smug when I answered: "No, of course not! My children were always perfect when we took them places. PERFECT." I could feel the halo gleaming over my head as I piously informed him that I could take my kids anywhere, at any time, and know that they would behave, because I was that freaking fabulous of a parent and my children (unlike his) were not spawned by Satan. (Okay, I left out that part, but it's true.)
(Side note: This is not a good way to make the parents of rotten children warm to you, just so you know.)
And they were. My boys were polite to adults, stayed in their seats at restaurants, were quiet and respectful at movies, and never threw tantrums in the grocery store or Walmart. Considering that I had three boys, I view this as quite an accomplishment. (Thank you, boys, for not embarrassing Mommy in public.)
(Notice how I'm not saying anything about how they behaved at home. That was a different scenario entirely.)
Then I remembered... Brennan and the One Legged Man.
This is the one and only time I wanted to climb in a hole and die due to the actions of one of my children. I wanted to move to a new country and change my name, never to be seen or heard from again.
When my youngest son, Brennan, was 3, I took him to the corner market to pick up a few groceries for dinner. He was still little enough to sit in the basket in the front of the cart, and he loved to ride around carrying on long conversations with people we passed. He was so precious, so cute and charming, with his blonde curls and his dimples and endless stream of information. (When Brennan was in 3rd grade, during a parent-teacher conference, his teacher said to me, "Brennan is so cute! I just love him! He's quite... informative!" All I could picture was my sweet boy telling his teacher every single horrible and inappropriate thing that I'd ever said or done in the presence of my children. I couldn't bring myself to ask her for details.)
On this particular day, he was dressed in his little blue denim Osh Kosh B'Gosh overalls and cowboy boots. We were cruising through the aisles with a cart full of goodies when we came across a man on crutches with one pant leg tied up around his knee, making it very obvious that one of his legs was missing. He hopped on past us and Brennan did a double-take.
Then he said, "Mama, that man just have one weg!"
"Yes, I know," I said. (I mean, what was I supposed to say? No he doesn't? He obviously only had one leg. I'm pretty sure that HE knew he only had one leg. Brennan stated the obvious, I agreed with him... time to move on.)
Only in Brennan's mind, it wasn't time to move on.
He reiterated, a little louder: "That man just have one weg!"
"Yes, Brennan!" I said, "He only has one leg. Now, what kind of cookies do you want?"
Brennan: "But that man just have one weg!"
Me: "Yes, I know. Shhhhh! Cookies! What kind of cookies should we buy!"
Brennan: *voice getting louder" "BUT THAT MAN JUST HAVE ONE WEG!"
This continued down the aisle, around the corner, his little voice ringing through the store as he repeated, over and over, "BUT THAT MAN JUST HAVE ONE WEG! THAT MAN JUST HAVE ONE WEG!"
Nothing would distract him, nothing would get him to quiet down... I tried cookies, candy, even soda... Anything to get him to stop.
But Brennan, being Brennan, was unstoppable:
"BUT THAT MAN JUST HAVE ONE WEG!!! MAMA! THAT MAN JUST HAVE ONE WEGGGGGGGGG!"
I finally stopped my cart, picked him up by his coverall straps, grabbed my purse, abandoned my groceries, and hauled my awful child out of the store while he continued to scream, "THAT MAN JUST HAVE ONE WEGGGGGGG!"
When I got him to the car and buckled him into his car seat, he fell silent. I explained to him in language a 3 yr old would understand why people may or may not have the correct number of limbs and how we should not point it out and continue to point it out, especially in public where they might hear us and get their feelings hurt. We drove home, grocery-less, while Brennan mulled over this information in the back seat.
When we got home, his dad and brothers wanted to know where our groceries were. Not wanting to set Brennan off again, I took his dad aside and explained what had happened. Meanwhile, from the other room, I could hear Brennan's little voice rising above his brothers as he announced to them, "Dat man just had one weg!"
I didn't leave town and change my name, but I did switch grocery stores for a while.