At the height of the #metoo movement, Kim Goodwin tweeted a chart clarifying the concept of mansplaining. Presumably, her goal was to illuminate the path for men who were blind to their patronizing behaviors. This inspired a way to express my thoughts on a very different paternalistic mannerism.
We all have blind spots — they are gender neutral. But, not seeing this may have a big effect on the little people in your life, so you might want to pay attention.
I’ve been using this word to describe the unaware, automatic or impatient act of answering questions for little kids, instead of letting them answer for themselves. I’d like to submit it as a Wikipedia title.
It describes a wide-spread phenomenon that I’ve been tracking for nearly 15 years. You see, I love talking to kids. I’m fascinated by their candid and creative responses to open ended questions. The younger they are, the longer it takes them to formulate their response. Oh, oh.
Parents, aunts, grandparents, nannies, caregivers et al feel an irresistible urge to fill in a void if a child is asked a question and god forbid does not answer immediately. When my elder son was around 2 years old (17 now), I caught myself answering for him. It’s an automatic feature of adulthood, apparently.
Try this game: Strike a conversation with an adult you know and surprise the kid next to them with a question. The questions can range from simply how old are you, to what’s your favorite color, all the way to, is there life on mars? Then, watch carefully what happens.
I need not look far. Yesterday, I was in the midst of a conversation with a woman at a social [distanced] gathering, when a child, roughly 5 years old, passed by us. She pulled him over and gave him a warm bear hug, stating that he is her best friends’ son and she loves him m-a-d-l-y. The boy grinned in delight; you could tell the feeling was mutual. Touched by the moment, I smiled and said, “I’m pretty sure I know the answer, but why do you think she loves you so much?”
I swear I could hear his brain cells firing as he processed the question. But he didn’t stand a chance. Within seconds, she protectively hugged him even harder and said, “I don’t think he understands the question”.
I’m acutely aware of adultsplainers so I quickly conceded and narrowed it down to a yes or no question.
“Umm…could it be because of your beautiful smile?” I asked. He giggled and said “noooooooo” [silly me].
Just in the nick of time, I tapped her shoulder to stop her from interfering again as he thoughtfully replied, “I want to think about this a little more in the car on the way home. I’ll tell my mom and she can tell you later”.
Guess who was speechless now.