Explaining hidden meanings (Or: What to do when “your daughter” calls someone a pig 😅)

I think I might start a new category/#hashtag on embarrassing moments in the lift with Clarissa. 😂

After one where she chatted up our next-door neighbour about her favorite charsiew rice and asked if he’d sought permission before going out, and another where she called someone a cat.

“Your daughter”.. 😂😂

I’m very certain she wasn’t being rude, because she does not understand that in the complex adult world and social context, a “pig” is in fact a negative and derogatory term to call someone.

But in the eyes of a 3.5 year old, it is simply a term to describe someone, perhaps a certain feature that she associates a certain character with.

It’s the same as a cat, a dog, a mouse, which are all neutral terms in her universe.

It was the same reason why she’d previously called her PD a “chatterbox” – because she was talking so quickly – and the intention was merely to describe, not to be impudent.

I’m not defending her or ourselves in any way, and I’m sure some people would already be judging us as parents by now (as in, “aiyo so rude, the parents never teach”).

But it’s not easy to explain to a young person, why a “pig” is not something everyone wants to be called, and why adults associate pigs with obesity and laziness when Peppa Pig and George look so cute to her.

I’ve also realised that “fat” to her is merely descriptive and not a negative term, because of the way she uses the word.

The way she says “my Daddy is handsome” is the same as the way she says “my Daddy is fat”. She says it happily because it’s all similar to her; she’s simply talking about her Daddy.

And “fat” was in fact introduced by her Daddy himself. 😂

She’d asked him why he had to play basketball at night and he told her, “Because Daddy is fat so I need to exercise”.. which to her, is probably just a very straightforward thing.

We’ve also had this ongoing thing about Daddy accidentally biting the inside of his lips while eating.

She’d asked why he did that, and I’d told her, “Because Daddy’s worried that someone would steal his food, so he ate too quickly.”

Once, she accidentally bit her lips while eating with me, and I asked her why she wasn’t more careful.

She smiled cheekily and said, “Because I’m scared Mummy would steal my food.”


“Why would I steal your food!” I asked her in mock surprise.

She laughed and said:

“Yes, Mummy cannot steal my food! If not, Mummy would become big, Big, BIG Mummy!”

Her hands spreading wider and wider until she could not stretch them any further.

Again she didn’t see “Big Mummy” as a bad thing – her tone was upbeat and cheerful, not mocking.

To her, it is probably just a result of eating both her and my own share of the food. 😆

I guess this is what makes parenting hard and yet fun (and funny) at the same time.

It is hard because we need to strike a balance between explaining and imposing socially acceptable norms and boundaries on our kids and giving them the freedom of expression.

It is hard because people judge all the damn time, regardless of whether they have a stake in the situation.. or not.

But explaining concepts, ideas and “adult” norms is pretty fun.

I’d keep exploring and learning, the different ways to explain something to her such that she understands both the literal and figurative meanings of various words, phrases and terms.

So far there have already been a few instances where I’ve had difficulty in explaining something to her.

Loneliness is one of them.

This came from one of the bedtime stories I read to her.

It was about a doll who was caught by a magpie. She was stuck in the nest with the magpie, and felt lonelier and lonelier as the day passed.

“What’s lonely?” The little boss asked.

“Hmm.. That’s when you are alone and you feel very sad,” I fumbled a little with the explanation but thought it was still quite decent. 😅

“But the magpie is with her? So she’s not alone?” She asked again.

Eh.. good point.

“Oh you are right,” I continued to fumble for the right words to use. “She is not alone, but she is lonely because the magpie is not her friend. So she’s sad because she feels like no one is there for her.”

The little boss let me off after this explanation but she’d still ask me what “lonely” means whenever we read this story, and she’s not used the word on her own so far.

I guess she has yet to really understand its meaning. 😂

As for today’s incident, perhaps the way to go about it is to ask her to greet our neighbours as either “Uncle” or “Auntie” (and “Gorgor” or “Jiejie” for younger folks) and tell her it’s because they prefer it this way?

I’m quite hesitant to expose her to too much of the adult world of hidden meaning, double meanings and all the mess and crap we have to deal with.

I don’t think she needs to know that adults don’t necessarily find pigs adorable or like to be described as one.

Growing up takes time, and please, I’d like my kids to be kids when they are kids.

Polite kids as much as possible, of course.

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