With my toddler out of earshot, I had recounted an episode where he said an English word—”puddle”—but in perfect Filipino accent. He was so cute and so funny… except he wasn’t exactly making a joke, and probably wouldn’t appreciate it if my family suddenly approached him about it. After realizing my gaffe, I quickly followed up the story with, “Oh, but don’t mention it because I don’t want him to get embarrassed or think that I’m making fun of him.” The disclaimer may have saved my son public embarrassment, but the damage was done: I was laughing at my toddler’s expense.
“I don’t know why I felt so bad about telling something so cute about him,” I told my husband later that night. “Should parents not tell others the cute and funny things their kids do?” After all, I adore kid stories, especially when they use incorrect grammar, mispronounce words or reveal their limited knowledge about the world, a lá Kids Say the Darnest Things. But then I thought, “Just because it’s funny to us, does that make it okay to blab it to other people?”
When, then, would it be appropriate for parents to share their kids’ cuteness? I decided on two criteria:
- If my toddler himself finds the episode hilarious, then he’s likely not going to be bothered if I share it with others, or
- If he isn’t likely to feel hurt or embarrassed if he found out other people knew.
My toddler actually makes tons of jokes. For instance, when I hand him something and say, “Here you go,” he loves to respond with, “Here you stop,” with a mischievous grin on his face. He thinks he’s the most hilarious person ever. I’m pretty sure that not only would he mind if I recount that funny episode, he would actually love to say the joke himself in front of others. Still, what about the other times when he isn’t making a joke or trying to be funny?
I won’t be able to always consider these criteria each time I want to share a cute moment. That said, I’ll do my best to be mindful of what I share about my toddler, especially with stories about him that he wasn’t exactly making a joke about. I would hate for him to hesitate around me because he’s not sure if I’ll blab cute (to me) but embarrassing (to him) stories.
As with most cases when considering children’s feelings, I picture how I would feel if I were in his shoes. A little background about me: I’m notorious for mispronouncing a ton of words. I know what words mean, I just mispronounce some of them. For instance, up until a month ago, I thought the word “sparse” was pronounced like “spears” instead of “spars.” If my husband suddenly addressed me in front of friends, “Tell them about how you pronounce ‘sparse’.” I might laugh, but I probably wouldn’t appreciate the attention much either.
I’m sure years from now, kids won’t think anything about being the subject of funny stories. A running joke in my family was when, as a child, I was rebukingly asked, “Who did it?” To which I claimed my innocence and answered, “I didn’t did it!” I laugh along with everybody about it now, so clearly no long-term damage was done (but who knows how I felt about it as a child).
Like I said, I won’t have a perfect record—what parent can, when kids are so darn cute? But I pledge to do my best to consider my toddler’s point of view and whether or not he’s comfortable being the subject of a funny story.
Have you considered how funny stories about your kids affect them? Have your kids let you know that they didn’t appreciate it, or are they okay with the attention?