“Mom, when are you going to stop embarrassing me in front of my friends?” An important parenting lesson I learned from my 6-year-old son

When I make a parenting mistake, I want to own up to it so my sons see that I make mistakes, too. And, boy, did I make one the other day.

You see, I unknowingly brought up a very touchy subject for my six-year-old son. Yes, I’m talking about the number of teeth you’ve lost by the time you’re in first grade.

I love seeing kids with toothless grins. And, when I see any new gaps in the grins of my sons’ friends, I always ask them if they lost a new tooth.

Usually, they respond with a wide smile, antimatedly recounting when and how they lost it, where they were when they lost it, and of course, the tooth fairy’s twilight visit to their bedroom.

I know it makes them happy, but I failed to see that it makes my younger son unhappy.

Why? Because he hasn’t lost any teeth yet.

So, when my son’s friend asked me how many teeth my son has lost so far, I responded by saying “zero.” To make matters worse, I unknowingly emphasized the sore point by forming the number zero with my thumb and pointer finger.

What I didn’t know then was that I added salt to the wound by doing both together.

But, that wasn’t the worst of it. I had unknowingly given the child something to tease my sensitive child about when they saw each other at school the next day.

And, for that, I felt utterly terrible.

I am proud of my sons for who and what they are. And, that means the whole package – baby and adult teeth included.

I never dreamed that not having lost any teeth yet was a bad thing. To me, it was just a different thing. And, we’re all different from each other, right?

And, that’s what I told my son as he asked me when I was going to stop embarrassing him in front of his friends – and then burst into tears.

That hurt. Bad.

I couldn’t believe I singled my son out for being different and unknowingly played up one of his insecurities.

So, I tried to make the most of it by turning it into a good, positive discussion with both of my sons.

We talked about how I want them to be proud of who and what they are – their race, their religion, their height, their hair color, their favorite TV shows, their favorite subjects, and, yes, even their teeth. And, I never want them to base their own happiness or pride in themselves on how they compare with others – or what someone says to, or thinks of, them.

I’m glad we had the discussion. I just wish it hadn’t come at the price of me being the one to sadden my son and subject him to any unnecessary teasing by his friends.

But, I will tell you that I am in awe of my son for totally and completely calling me out on my mistake and telling me how it made him feel.

I am so glad that he felt confident enough in himself to speak up and tell me the error of my ways. I can only hope he’ll do that for many years to come. And, I hope he’ll allow it to be a two-way dialogue, with both of us respecting the other’s opinions, points of view and reactions. No matter what.

Chances are, as his mom, this probably won’t be the last time I embarrass him in front of his friends. I mean, we’re not even close to hitting the teenage years yet.

My wish is that one day soon he’ll be able to stand strong if anyone teases him for being different, and be able to proudly say that they’re right. He is different – and that’s a good thing. And, I’ll be proud of him – even if he says those words with all or none of his baby teeth in his mouth.

Related posts:
Celebrating diversity: Can pointing out our differences help bring us together?
Lesson from the playground: We're all different - and very much the same
- Parenting is a two-way street: Kids expand our horizons, too
- 5 ways you can encourage your child to be an "upstander"

Baby Teeth

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