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Incident at the county fair

post #1 of 102
Thread Starter 
I wasn't sure where I should post this. Last week DH and I took our kids to the county fair. They went on a few rides, and had a good time. Then they went to this huge slide, and the lady taking the tickets and working there was a little person. The kids were handing her the tickets and I heard her say to my 5 y.o. ds "That's very insulting!" I asked her what happened and she responded, "He called me a midget, and that's very insulting. I don't have to let him on here for that."

I was shocked. Embarrassed. Pissed off. I said, "I'm very sorry, but he really doesn't know any better." She let him go on the ride. The manager of the carnival happened to be standing there, and he came up to us when ds finished going down the slide. He said that some people are very sensitive to that sort of thing, and maybe she was a little too sensitive, but he didn't want it to ruin our evening, so he gave us 20 free ride tickets. I was so upset I was crying. I felt this fierce protective feeling for my ds. He's just a little boy, we live in a small town, and he has never seen anyone like her before. We don't go around saying things like "Oh, look, there's a midget." I don't know where he heard the word, but he probably just said to her, "Hey, you're a midget," like he would have said, "Hey, you have red hair." I am just guessing as I did not hear what he actually said to her. I feel like she overreacted. He was not saying it to be mean to her. What do you think? And I don't mean to be stupid, but what is the politically correct way to tell the kids why she is so short?
Then, to make things worse, later on we were standing in a line when a lady walked by us and he said, "That girl's fat." I just wanted to run away. I explained to ds why that was not nice to say, and how that can hurt people's feelings, etc. and he felt really bad then.
post #2 of 102
Honestly, I would not have accepted the tickets from the fair manager and I don't think he was correct in offering them to you. I think the employee was well within her rights to feel angry. I know you want to protect your son, but five is plenty old enough to start learning that you can't say whatever pops into your head to people, especially in regards to their appearance. So, he learned a lesson. I would not make excuses for him - that takes away the impact of the lesson, in my opinion. And the fact that he repeated it later when he saw a heavy woman shows that the lesson still needs to be learned.

If either of my kids did this, I would for sure explain to them why what was said was hurtful and why they were wrong about it. And, if they were old enough, I would expect them to apologize, which I think a five year old is old enough for. That would help him to learn the lesson, not free ride tickets. That makes it seem like he can insult anyone and be rewarded for it, you know?
post #3 of 102
Thread Starter 
FWIW, he didn't know that we had received free tickets, and never realized that whatever he had said had upset her until I had a talk with him. You're right, he is old enough to know that, and I should have had him apologize to her, but I was so shocked and embarassed that I didn't even think of it at the time.
post #4 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twocoolboys View Post
Honestly, I would not have accepted the tickets from the fair manager and I don't think he was correct in offering them to you. I think the employee was well within her rights to feel angry. I know you want to protect your son, but five is plenty old enough to start learning that you can't say whatever pops into your head to people, especially in regards to their appearance. So, he learned a lesson. I would not make excuses for him - that takes away the impact of the lesson, in my opinion. And the fact that he repeated it later when he saw a heavy woman shows that the lesson still needs to be learned.

If either of my kids did this, I would for sure explain to them why what was said was hurtful and why they were wrong about it. And, if they were old enough, I would expect them to apologize, which I think a five year old is old enough for. That would help him to learn the lesson, not free ride tickets. That makes it seem like he can insult anyone and be rewarded for it, you know?
I agree. Of course your son meant no harm, but this was a great opportunity to educate him.
post #5 of 102
Your son hurt her feelings badly. THAT should have been addressed first and foremost, IMO.

Like all kids, mine (5) have also said things about complete strangers... like "why does that lady have giant bosoms?" or "why doesn't that man have any legs" or "that person has really dark skin" or "why does that boy not look like his mama?" (e.g., an Asian child with a white mother).

Each time I have made a point to a.) immediately apologize to the person, saying something like "I am awfully sorry and hope my son's question didn't insult you. He is just learning about the beautiful diversity in the world. Would you like to answer his question or may I?" About half the time the person WANTS to respond to my child... I see that a little more so for people with physical disabilities. But sometimes they'll ask me to answer the question and then I say something like "Sir, what is your name?" And he says "Jim." And I say, "Dd, this is Jim. Jim, this is dd. Dd, Jim is a man who uses a wheelchair because it helps him get around. You and I can walk, but Jim's legs are hurt and so he cannot walk easily like you and I can. That's why he uses a wheelchair. Does that make sense?"
post #6 of 102
I don't think the woman overreacted at all -- she's right, that word is insulting. I would have apologized and wouldn't have accepted extra tickets -- the woman did nothing wrong. That said, you're right too -- your DS didn't do anything wrong either, he's still learning about what's socially acceptable. Hopefully this experience will make an impression and you can call it back up when you need to explain to him why we don't make comments about people's appearance in the future.

As a side note, me saying what I "would have" done above is what I would do in an ideal situation, having plenty of time to think rationally about it. I totally understand that you were emotional in the moment, and who knows what any of us would have done when we were that flustered.
post #7 of 102
I agree with pp, I would not have accepted the tickets & I don't blame the lady for being upset. My 5 yr old has never even heard the word midget, I don't think she'd know what it was if she did hear it. She does however watch the TLC program Little People Big World with me & has asked why that person was so small & how old they were.(because she automatically associates small with child) I explained that that is the way God made them & that they were just shorter than us. Of course we have gone out of our way with our girls to be more sensitive to others that are different than them, since their uncle is a quadraplegic.(in fact they have a ball tkaing rides on the back of his chair. lol)
post #8 of 102
It's not a good word, and there's nothing wrong with her drawing your attention and your son's attention to that. But her reaction was totally not age-appropriate.

How often do we have threads on here about kids coming up with real doozies of embarrassing observations or wording about people (like some of the examples given above in just this thread)? A lot. And the consensus seems to be that (a) some education is in order about how comments like that can hurt feelings or why a particular term is not appropriate, and (b) it's age-appropriate and we've all been there. For sure, your son needs some help in how he responds to folks around him.

This woman could have explained calmly to your five year old that actually that's not a nice word, and told him a bit more about it, or told him to ask his mom more about it. She could have asked you to have a chat with him sometime about the right term. Instead she described a 5 year old child as "insulting" and worthy of being barred from a ride for using a term he didn't know was insulting, in a purely descriptive way. In that sense, she was the only one being rude, and I think it was perfectly appropriate for the manager to offer you free ride tickets when he saw how devastated you were by the interaction.
post #9 of 102
Her reaction was wrong. Just because she's been hurt by society doesn't give her the right to strike out at children.

She is a grown up and she is 100% more responsible to her reactions. Being a dwarf doesn't relieve her of her responsiblity as an adult.

Using the opportunity to educate your chilld on what to call people if he needs a label is a good idea still. He's got the capacity for an excellent vocabulary obviously. :
post #10 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammastar2 View Post
It's not a good word, and there's nothing wrong with her drawing your attention and your son's attention to that. But her reaction was totally not age-appropriate.

How often do we have threads on here about kids coming up with real doozies of embarrassing observations or wording about people (like some of the examples given above in just this thread)? A lot. And the consensus seems to be that (a) some education is in order about how comments like that can hurt feelings or why a particular term is not appropriate, and (b) it's age-appropriate and we've all been there. For sure, your son needs some help in how he responds to folks around him.

This woman could have explained calmly to your five year old that actually that's not a nice word, and told him a bit more about it, or told him to ask his mom more about it. She could have asked you to have a chat with him sometime about the right term. Instead she described a 5 year old child as "insulting" and worthy of being barred from a ride for using a term he didn't know was insulting, in a purely descriptive way. In that sense, she was the only one being rude, and I think it was perfectly appropriate for the manager to offer you free ride tickets when he saw how devastated you were by the interaction.
Thank you. We are talking about a little 5 yr old here. 5 years on this world is just not that long.
post #11 of 102
I think it's a shame the woman got so upset with him. I don't know what my kids would do if they met a little person. The general rule I have made for my kids is that we don't talk about people we see while we're out-- it just isn't polite to be commenting on the people around us, even if we aren't saying anything critical. We also don't comment on people's appearance, unless it's clearly a compliment (i.e. "I love your hair" not "your hair is REALLY RED"). But they don't have it down completely yet.

ZM
post #12 of 102
I didn't know the term 'midget' was insulting, although I did realize that 'little person' is more en vogue right now. Of course, as an adult I wouldn't be calling a person any name. But I could have easily used the term in conversaton without realizing it was offensive.

I think the woman could have handled the situation much more gracefully than she did. She could have smiled at him and said "We prefer to be called 'little people'. It's a nicer term!" He is a child, after all.
post #13 of 102
Also, it was not long ago that the word "midget" was the acceptable.

While I agree that the lady had a right to be upset, her reaction to a 5 yr old was not appropriate.

My autistic son will blurt out things like that sometimes. It is embarassing, but most people are nice about it once I apologize and explain. It is not that we allow him to say whatever, but we cannot control his mouth. We simply do the best that we can.
post #14 of 102
Um, I didn't know that the word "midget" was an insult and I'm almost 30 years old :

Really! I wouldn't go around bringing it up to midgets, of course. Is dwarf the acceptable term?

I would tell your son that he didn't do anything wrong, but that some people don't wan't to be labeled and you would like him to be sensitive to that.

I say he didn't do anything wrong because it's important to me that my daughter not have any considerations on what she can or can not communicate. She can tell me anything, and I think that communication can resolve any upset, even if it caused the upset to begin with!

In that vein, I think there were lots of good suggestions from pp about apologizing, and I think it would be cool to do it immediately while the kid is still there. Apologize and have her or you explain the situation and perhaps give a friendlier descriptive term to your son.

I'm sorry if she was mean. I would have absolutely felt protective of my child in that situation and probably a lot less inclined to have that nice conversation!

One thing I love about mothering.com is that I may not have handled the situation ideally if it happened to me, but now here's one more situation that I've thought through and I know how I want to handle if it DOES come up!
post #15 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessed View Post
I think the woman could have handled the situation much more gracefully than she did. She could have smiled at him and said "We prefer to be called 'little people'. It's a nicer term!" He is a child, after all.
I have a little bit of trouble with this line of thinking. It's almost like saying the woman was not entitled to her feelings. The truth is, she IS entitled to her feelings. And, no matter how old the person who insulted her, she deemed it an insult and expressed her anger. How she reacted is beyond the scope of anything the op can control. The op CAN teach her ds to not insult others. I think that communicating to the child in any way that the woman had no right to act the way she did completely minimizes the fact that he DID insult her. Sure, he is five and most people understand that these things happen with five year olds. But, it is an opportunity to LEARN what is acceptable or not. By the time a child is 7 or so, this is NOT age appropriate behavior. The only way to learn is to not make excuses for him and not say or imply that the woman is not entitled to her feelings. This is such a great opportunity for him to learn to be responsible for his words. Saying that the woman shouldn't have acted that way takes the responsibility for the incident off of him and onto her.

The fair manager bungled, in my opinion. That "the customer is always right" line of thinking is crap. He basically sent the message to the employee that her feelings didn't matter and she's supposed to stand there and take insults.
post #16 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammastar2 View Post
This woman could have explained calmly to your five year old that actually that's not a nice word, and told him a bit more about it, or told him to ask his mom more about it. She could have asked you to have a chat with him sometime about the right term. Instead she described a 5 year old child as "insulting" and worthy of being barred from a ride for using a term he didn't know was insulting, in a purely descriptive way. In that sense, she was the only one being rude, and I think it was perfectly appropriate for the manager to offer you free ride tickets when he saw how devastated you were by the interaction.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Demeter9 View Post
Her reaction was wrong. Just because she's been hurt by society doesn't give her the right to strike out at children.

She is a grown up and she is 100% more responsible to her reactions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by blessed View Post
I think the woman could have handled the situation much more gracefully than she did. She could have smiled at him and said "We prefer to be called 'little people'. It's a nicer term!" He is a child, after all.
I agree with all of the above!!

He is a 5 year old kid. It is a learning process; they aren't born with tact or the ability to know what words are ok and not ok.

Who hasn't had a kid say "why is that lady so big?" or "what happened to his feet?" or "her skin is really dark". They are honest questions/comments, but we teach our kids what is polite to say and to remember people's feelings may get hurt even by honest questions.

In my family, we don't use the word fat. I think it is just hurtful. I change it to big when reading books to kids - which doesn't work so well in Dr. Suess rhyming type books... But my kids have still (as youngsters) made the rare "that man is really big" comment. It is definitely a teaching moment, and they learn.

But I'd bet a lot of adults don't realize that midget is an offensive term. Like another poster mentioned, fairly recently it was the term most people used. Someone said dwarf earlier; is that ok? Isn't dwarfism the medical term? I assume little people is fine due to the show using that term in the title.

Getting mad at a 5 year old kid for a comment is completely unacceptable. Even getting mad at an adult who used that term not knowing it was offensive is wrong IMO. "The more respectful term is little person." would do the job. If the person continued, or said it in a teasing way, I'd agree that the woman running the slide would be right to get angry.
post #17 of 102
When I was nannying, the little boy I cared for pointed at a little person and said "look! baby!" He wasn't quite 2 yet. I told him, "No, Nathan, that's not a baby, that's a grownup, he's just small." The man was quite amused, really, and said it wasn't the first time a child had thought he was a child, too. Children see the world in very black & white terms - either you're a baby or you're a grownup, either it's a cat or it's a dog, they don't get subtleties and differences for a little while. Once they start getting into preschool ages, that's when those differences become really distinct, and it makes them want to label everything. The Richard Scarry books are awesome for this reason - it gives labels to every little thing, and that's what kids do at your son's age. He didn't know that midget was an offensive term (and I might add it's only offensive to some - I knew a gal in college who had congenital dwarfism who INSISTED on being referred to as a midget. Said I, at 5'0" was a "little person," while SHE was outside the norm), he was just making an observation. Was she out of line in her reaction? Sure. Was she wrong for feeling offended? Well, no. BUT she could have used that as an opportunity to teach your son in a positive way. Something like "midget is a hurtful term, people like me with dwarfism prefer to be called little people" would have been a more appropriate reaction, but some people just aren't good with kids like that. You asked for a good way to explain why she's small. Something simple like "some people are born with a condition that makes it so their bones don't grow as much as most peoples' bones usually do. The condition is called dwarfism and it makes people little. We call people with dwarfism Little People, not midgets or dwarves, ok?" If he has any questions, there was a really really good documentary on PBS a while ago about little people, directed by someone with dwarfism, and I'm sure PBS has a good website to go with it, they usually do.
post #18 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twocoolboys View Post
I have a little bit of trouble with this line of thinking. It's almost like saying the woman was not entitled to her feelings. The truth is, she IS entitled to her feelings. And, no matter how old the person who insulted her, she deemed it an insult and expressed her anger. How she reacted is beyond the scope of anything the op can control. The op CAN teach her ds to not insult others. I think that communicating to the child in any way that the woman had no right to act the way she did completely minimizes the fact that he DID insult her. Sure, he is five and most people understand that these things happen with five year olds. But, it is an opportunity to LEARN what is acceptable or not. By the time a child is 7 or so, this is NOT age appropriate behavior. The only way to learn is to not make excuses for him and not say or imply that the woman is not entitled to her feelings. This is such a great opportunity for him to learn to be responsible for his words. Saying that the woman shouldn't have acted that way takes the responsibility for the incident off of him and onto her.

The fair manager bungled, in my opinion. That "the customer is always right" line of thinking is crap. He basically sent the message to the employee that her feelings didn't matter and she's supposed to stand there and take insults.
We cross-posted.

1. He is a 5 year old CHILD. He wasn't flinging insults; he made a comment. I'd bet the majority of young kids would comment on an adult who was the same height as himself.

2. The woman is first of all, an ADULT. At WORK. So this isn't some jerk at the bar making fun of her. It is a child in her scope of work. Yes, she can consider that term offensive. But when said innocently by a child, at her place of employment, the correct thing to do would be to tell the child the correct term, nicely.

3. You said by the time the child is 7, he should know better. I'd tend to agree. But the child in question is 5.

The only part of it that I'm unclear about is exactly what the child said. I think the OP said she wasn't close enough to hear the child's part. There is a big difference between "are you a midget?" and "ha ha ha - look at the midget!" I could understand the woman's anger much more at the second one.
post #19 of 102
I would just try to teach him what the correct terms are and go from there and know that they will change over time.

He may have just asked a question but she may get so many insults that she may have reacted funny. He may have heard someone else in line say something about her being a midget and he may have been curious, I know I would have asked or wanted to when I was that age.

Just be glad he isn't a two year old. My son, at the mall, said "wow, floor jump" when a very obese woman walked by. And an almost two year old has one volume level. He thought it was so funny that the floor was vibrating, and I was getting an awful look and I was so happy she didn't say anything since I couldn't figure any way to explain why my 22 month old son said that without sounding rude.
post #20 of 102
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirsten View Post
3. You said by the time the child is 7, he should know better. I'd tend to agree. But the child in question is 5.

The only part of it that I'm unclear about is exactly what the child said. I think the OP said she wasn't close enough to hear the child's part. There is a big difference between "are you a midget?" and "ha ha ha - look at the midget!" I could understand the woman's anger much more at the second one.
But, my line of thinking is how will a 7 year old know that this is innappropriate if the 5 year old is taught that the woman over-reacted?. She may well have, but like I said, that is not anything the OP or anyone else can do anything about. And, telling the 5 year old that 'it's ok, she was out of line," does nothing to teach him that what he did was wrong.

Yes, he is a child, but she is a human being too. She does not need to stand at work and be insulted by anyone, children included. She deserves a little empathy too. I think treating her like she deserves respect, instead of like she has no right to her feelings teaches the child far more than teaching him that she had no right to her anger. What a strange message to send a child!

I prefer the "honey you made a mistake, you should apologize" approach. And then explain to him why what he said was a mistake and why the woman was angry. I don't like the 'she should have never been angry with you, you are just a child' approach. It's demeaning for both the woman AND the child.
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