I am still trying to teach my husband the proper way to interact with other people in certain social situations. I’ve been trying for quite some time now and so far my teaching skills have proved sorely lacking.
Take today, for example. A friend and former coworker stopped by for a tour of the studio and to say hello. Our plan was to go out to eat lunch afterwards. This friend is still in his twenties, single, no kids – still enjoying a much more carefree life than ours. In fact, he ended up being a bit late because he was slow to get up after some heavy drinking at a party the night before. While he and my husband had met and like each other, he is essentially a stranger to Hal.
This doesn’t particularly bother Hal. You know how some kids have to try every public bathroom they encounter? As soon as you walk into a store or restaurant or someone’s house with such a kid, they immediately express an urgent need to use the facilities? Well, Hal has a similar obsession except his is an unquenchable desire to ride in other people’s cars.
As I walked into the house to get my things, I heard Hal ask the question.
“Daddy, can I ride in his car?”
I held my breath because I knew he would likely not answer appropriately.
“Well, Hal. That’s not up to me. You’ll need to ask him.”
Oh, no! I thought to myself. Wrong answer! See, my husband is of the opinion that everyone should be able to speak their mind and be truthful, no matter how uncomfortable. He’s not into the social niceties and hinting phrases that should be employed in situations like this.
By the time I got back outside, Hal was crawling into his booster seat that had been installed in the back of the other car. The friend was laughing. It sounded to me as if he was a bit in disbelief that he was about to transport our child into town in his car.
When I got into our car, I told my husband what he was supposed to say in a situation like that. “You don’t put people – especially people without kids – in a situation where they have to say no to a four-year-old. You just don’t do it. You should have said, ‘No, sweetheart. Why don’t you just ride with us?’ That way, if they are truly ok with him riding with them, they can say, ‘Oh, that’s ok. I don’t mind.’ But if they don’t want him to ride, you’ve let them off the hook.”
“If they don’t want him to ride with them, they should just say so.”
“Say no to a four-year-old?!”
“Yes. If they don’t want to do it.”
“Honey! You shouldn’t force people to do that.”
“I’m not going to serve as a barrier between my kids and other people.”
“Uggh! This is a tactful way to give them a way out if they don’t have it in them to tell the kid no but really aren’t comfortable taking the kid with them.”
“So what you are saying is that the next time a situation like this comes up, I need to tell him, ‘I don’t know. You need to go ask your mother.'”
“Well, I guess if you want it to go through two layers instead of just one, yes.”
“If that’s what it takes because I’m not going to do what you suggested.”
When they got to the restaurant right after us, I was waiting to open Hal’s door. “Is it everything you thought it would be?” I asked him.
The friend climbed out of the car laughing. “Oh, man, did we have some interesting conversations!”
I’m sure you did, buddy. I’m sure you did. The Facebook posts and blog entries pale in comparison to the real deal.