I lived in Florida for five years in the aughts, which coincidentally happened to be my daughters’ formative years, or 3- to 8-years old. They learned to be students, to swim, to ride bikes and so much more.
Of course, it was also my formative years as a parent. I learned how to celebrate these milestones, to detect the earliest signs of triplet dissent, to pick lice from long strands of unshorn hair, and to always be ready to address those teachable moments in their lives. Well, I sometimes struggled with the last one ….
We used to go grocery shopping at the local Publix, which was the most wonderful store for a solo parent with three busy little ladies. Its wide aisles made shopping trips smoother when you needed to push a cart full of kids while you pulled another full of food. And snack ladies were everywhere, filling small but grumbling bellies with their random treats, as well as providing welcome distraction.
And then there was the guy who worked in the fish market. Let’s say he was a gentleman of short stature, and a source of unending fascination for my daughter Megan.
The first time we saw him, she turned to me in a loud whisper and said, “Dad, dad! Look, it’s a midget!” A teachable moment was upon me but the best I could do was kick the can down the road. Not knowing the real answer I replied, wanting to be corrective but not punitive and said, “Yes, honey he is shorter than most people, but I’m not sure if midget is the term that should be used.”
My tone was successful in letting her know I wasn’t mad or anything, but I could tell she thought my reply was insufficient. But like many “good” parents, I put this moment behind me until we arrived at the same spot two weeks later and she turned to me in the same hushed, yet excited whisper, “Dad, dad! Look it’s a dwarf!”
Ugh. Two seconds on the internet and I would have had an answer. All I was left with was, “It is very interesting when you see someone who is different than us but I’m not sure if dwarf is the term he would like to be referred by.”
Strike two for dad.
Of course, within minutes I had already put this moment behind me, again, and (you guessed it) two weeks we were back at the fish market when I heard a familiar refrain begin, “Dad, dad!”
But she stopped this time, facing me, her mouth hung open in awe, but her eyes, fingers and nodding head all directing me to the little person working behind the counter.
Yes. Little person is the appropriate term. I know that now. Thank you for that teachable moment, Megan.
But at the time, I suppressed the laughter building inside of me and redirected their attention to the friendly woman passing out cheese cubes on toothpicks.