Well, my 4-year-old daughter has been presented with her very own blonde joke and like many things that happen to my oldest child I find myself wondering if this is a milestone I'm supposed to be celebrating or one I should be shuddering from.
Sure someone has made a comment about her intelligence at this young an age based on the color of her hair, but I imagine there are many who consider jokes like these to be nothing more than a little light-hearted ribbing with "nothing of any substance at the heart of them."
I guess then that it's a time to celebrate! To admire just how wonderful adults can be to kids! To recognize that some people still think it's more important to get laughs out of the other Bud Light drinkers on the bar stools beside them than it is to allow a kid to be a kid.
Of course, my daughter had done something to bring this all on.
"It must be the blonde hair," a man at the bar at the restaurant we were eating at explained to the patrons within earshot of both his seat at the bar and our table on the floor, explaining how my 4-year-old had managed to disrupt their drinks by spilling a full glass of chocolate milk all over the floor.
Hardy, har, har.
My partner, knowing I can make unintelligent decisions from time to time met my quietly whispered question of "did that just happen?" with a shake of her head that said "nope, not right now, don't say a thing."
I didn't follow her instructions completely. I muttered to myself upwards of 11 times: "Did he just make a blonde joke about my 4-year-old?"
Did the fact that it was made to get a rise out of a bunch of adults he was trying to impress make me feel any less appalled by it? No. Did I notice the people around him laughing at the joke? No.
I wasn't sure what upset me more, the fact that my daughter who has probably spilled 127 cups of chocolate milk on 127 different floors over the span of her life was being ridiculed by adults for doing something that millions of other kids were doing at that very moment or that it was the first of what I expect will be a lifetime of "you look this way so you're bound to be dumb," jokes.
Luckily, she didn't seem to hear it, or if she did, she didn't understand it (not that there's anything to understand about these jokes). Being a kid who believes everything adults say is a rough gig I imagine. Being a kid who believes everything adults say and hearing stuff from adults who don't seem to understand this would border on impossible.
First, kids who spill chocolate milk, or juice, or water or whatever glass is in front of their elbows at the time they swing them into it, don't do so because of their hair colour. They don't do it because they have long hair or short hair either. A kid with hair that was medium brown and of medium length and had just been shampooed and conditioned earlier that day can still knock over a drink. Because, well the kid is a kid.
Kids are also crap at driving cars, keeping spaghetti noodles on spoons and not running into walls when they're running around the house playing "Who Can Run The Fastest While Not Looking Where They're Going!" Hell, as an adult I spill coffee on my dress shirt before I've even technically started work for the day at least once a month since I've become eligible to vote. Kids make mistakes and that's how they learn. They don't need people reminding them of that in between their sips of beer.
Second, don't shame kids. Don't give kids even one single reason to think something they've done by accident is a fault of any part of their physical or emotional makeup. Yes, my daughter needs to learn to be aware of her surroundings, but I can promise you that if my daughter turns to me after hearing someone tell her she's bad at something either because she's a girl, because her hair is blonde, because she's being too quiet or because she's telling too many stories, it'll be you I talk to first, not her.
At the best of times there is zero reason to be making a blonde joke at someone who's done something, no matter what that something is. It doesn't take a lot of work to get yourself the title of adult. Really, you just need to get old enough that people think you should drive cars and live in homes that aren't the one you were born in. Acting like an adult, though, takes more work.
Adults are role models for kids whether they want to be or not. No, it's not the responsibility of adults who aren't me and my wife to raise my kids but it is their responsibility to not make any children feel insufficient in any way. Blonde jokes are cheap, blonde jokes are unintelligent, blonde jokes can make a 4-year-old feel like she's going to be doing something wrong her whole life because of the color of her hair.
Kids believe what you say, that's just how it is. And I know better than most, given that I'm a repeat offender, how often adults can be wrong without even trying. So please, next time a child spills some milk or falls over nothing, keep the blonde joke to yourself.