Monday, 13 August 2007

Embarrassing Kids -- Part Two

Sitting in the hotel reception area one afternoon as we waited for the coffee house to open, my two children took to squabbling and play-fighting. Bored with the long, tedious wait, they decided to have some fun.

"Bakatari chin-chin," the eldest said to the youngest. Loudly. This is the English equivalent of 'silly penis' and it turned heads. Japanese heads, that is. None of the other westerners who were using the reception area understood this rude infantile colloquialism, so none of them batted an eye. But it certainly caught the attention of the Japanese guests, all of them rather staid, genteel types. Several Japanese children roughly my kids' age were sitting nearby, all of them minding their own business, and critical looks were directed at them. Who else could have said it, after all? There was no way my two children could have been speaking fluent, though foul-mouthed Japanese: obviously it had to be the Japanese kids. I found myself flushing with embarrassment.

"You stop that right now!" I hissed at my children. And they were quiet -- for the next thirty seconds or so.

Then my youngest spoke up.

"Kuso baba," she said cheerfully, giggling and prodding her sister. This is something that rather defies a literal translation -- and I don't want my Blog Rating to go from PG13 to R -- but suffice it to say that 'kuso' is one of the ruder Japanese expressions for human waste and 'baba' means 'old hag.'

Two elderly women turned to stare in open hostility at the innocent Japanese children. Fortunately, these children were engrossed in comic books and blissfully unaware of the angry stares they were getting, but I leaned forward and tapped my eldest on the knee. "You cut that out right now!" I whispered angrily. "I mean business!" They looked suitably chastised, and for the next two or three minutes both of them were as good as gold, but then the youngest pushed the eldest and it started all over again.

"Iya -- hanakuso! Kitanai na!" said the eldest, flicking an imaginary booger at her sister. The elderly ladies shook their heads and glared at the oblivious Japanese children, making a tsk tsk sound and looking around the room for the children's parents. Beside myself with fury, I stood up, beckoning to my two. "You -- stop -- that -- now!" I said from between clenched teeth. "If you've got something like that to say, say it in English from now on! Do you hear me?"

Sullenly, they nodded their assent, and I settled back in the chair and took a deep breath.

When the coffee house opened, we all went inside. We were seated in an area some distance from any Japanese people, surrounded by other Americans and native English speakers, and although I should have known better, I breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly the eldest, who had just settled into her seat, began to move about uncomfortably.

"I'm feeling a little sick," she announced in a sea captain's voice, in English this time. "I think I've got diarrhea!"

Of course she used a more colloquial expression for it.


Eryl Shields said...

I wonder at what age we cease to find bodily functions amusing and find them embarrassing instead. You just have to say 'poo' to a small child and it will die laughing but say it to a middle aged woman...

But the extaordianry thing, I find, is that really old people revert back to childhood in this regard. I love that!

The most embarrassing thing about Bob when he was little was that he had a thing about fat people. Once, when he was abou two, we were in a shop and the lady behind the counter offered him a biscut, he stared at her for a moment then said 'you're fat' I nearly died.

Carole said...

Your girls are funny. You have to like that. Of course since you understand Japanese, you might not find what they say as humorous, but still--good times.

Brian said...

While I was pushing my grandson aged 3 down to Coogee in a stroller , we passed an old lady. It may have been the plastic rainhat she was wearing that attracted his attention but he went into his pointer dog mode , fixing her with a well aimed finger . His comment was truly and completely justified , but embarrassing to me .

Look at that wrinkly woman! he cried.

And btw Mary I envy your ability to spell diarrhea . It is beyond my wildest hope ever to get it right first up


Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- Poor you, Eryl! And my heart also goes out to the kindly shop lady.

My younger sister was once patted on the head by an elderly lady at our church who bore a striking resemblance to the old witch in Snow White. My sister, rearing back in horror, cried out "You wicked old witch!" My mother almost wept from the shame and remorse.

Carole -- Yes, those were good times. It was provoking, though, that our kids would say dreadful things in English around Americans and Britons, then do the same in Japanese only when Japanese speakers were present. The other way around would have been a lot less embarrassing.

Brian -- Your grandson's comment made me laugh; when elderly people are involved, however, the one blessing is that they tend to be hard of hearing.

As for diarrhea, Brian, that is of course the American spelling! But I have a distinct advantage to everyone else: I was once a medical transcriber. I can spell all sorts of arcane medical terms, as a result, and am inordinately proud of the fact that I am one of the few people around who knows that cartilaginous doesn't have a single E in it...

Linda D. (sbk) said...

LOL! Embarrassing? you betcha.

Funny? Heck ya!

As embarrassing as the moment was, I'm glad you were able to appreciate some the humour in it. Odd how we can look back on horrifying situations and laugh at them later, isn't it?

Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier.


irreverentmama said...

Stories like this are precisely why adults should feel no remorse when they embarrass their adolescent children: they owe us!

Mary Witzl said...

Linda -- Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting!

When it comes to kid-instigated embarrassments, I could write an entire book. Most parents could, I suspect. But how useful they are later on in life, when one is preparing the 'father of the bride' speech, say. My husband is really looking forward to this and so I am.

Irreverent Mama -- You bet they owe us. I used to tell the kids they were legally obliged to let me hug and kiss them in public because of the pact they'd signed just after my long hours of labor with them. They quickly figured out that this was bogus, so I've had to resort to 'I'll tell about the time you ... ' threats.

library alien said...

One year when we were camping in a tent, my third child, a girl, was being naughty and we threatened, very quietly, to leave her behind the next day when we went to the beach. It was bedtime and all around us it was still, as families were settling their children to sleep, when she yelled at the very top of her lungs. 'Please don't do that Daddy, anything but that! I promise I'll be good, I promise! Don't let him, Mummy, please...'
We were mortified, died a thousand embarrassing deaths, met some very funny looks the next day and she spent 5 years at stage school!!

Katie Alender said...

How funny and clever your daughters are. Wicked things! I like a little wickedness every once in a while.

Mary Witzl said...

Library Alien -- How mortifying for you! We had something similar happen, and in the library of all places, shortly after we'd moved to this town. In Japan, you spread your futons out on the floor and whole families can sleep together this way. We did this for a while even in Scotland, as our kids were a little insecure when we first got here. Our then 10-year-old daughter was anxious to sleep on my husband's side (one night (we were all in one room) and she said in a loud voice "Daddy, can I sleep with you this time?" You could have heard a pin drop. Why do they have to pick the quietest times to do things like that?

Katie -- I like a little wickedness too -- honestly! But with kids, you never know when you're going to get it. That can be part of the fun, but it can make parents feel pretty uneasy too!

Anonymous said...

hey - this is MissAdventures... thanks for coming by my blog so I thought I would check yours out. Very funny. I don't have kids but I have worked with teenagers and younger for many years, so I completely understand. At least you've never had to evacuate a hotel because of what some crazy teenager did!! I'll definitely swing back by to read about what's going on in your life.

p.s. I did read James Frey's book...and actually liked it. But Manchild is SOOO much better :)

Mary Witzl said...

MissAdventures -- I pray to God that I will never have to evacuate a hotel because of what a crazy teenager has done! Just tell yourself that if some day you should for whatever reason decide to have kids, you're well prepared.

I never read James Frey's book, though I have heard that it is very well written and believable. But what Claude Brown wrote about actually happened, and just the fact that he survived ought to be miracle enough for anybody. Maybe someone mentioned his book when all the fuss about Frey's book came out, but if anyone did, I never noticed it.