When our granddaughter was in kindergarten, she told us one day that a boy in her class had called another kid “a tootie-head.”
We know not to get ahead in a conversation with a child. At least, Helen does. When daughter Mary Beth was in first grade, she asked me one day, “What is sex?” I thought, “Oh, no, I’ve got to have the talk with her, and I have no idea how…” Helen jumped in, “It means whether you’re a boy or a girl.” “Oh,” said MB, going merrily on her way.
So, knowing one should not assume too far too fast with a child, we asked Brigid what tootie-head meant.
“I don’t know,” she said, “but it must be something awful, because the teacher sent him to the office.”
We respected Edna Jablonski, Brigid’s kindergarten teacher, a lot, and we knew she had sent a kid to the office for just calling another a tootie-head, so we were taken aback when Brigid told us one day that Mrs. Jablonski had threatened “to give us the finger if we didn’t behave.”
This time it was hard to hold back on the assumptions, but we tried. Turns out the dreaded “getting the finger” was when the teacher holds her index finger up in the air and wags it back and forth.
A lot of problems arise when we assume we know what is meant before we have checked it out.
When the afore-mentioned Mary Beth grew up and was a teacher, fifth grade, yet, a prime age for referring to others as tootie-heads and worse, like excrement-orifices, she had only one rule in her classroom: You cannot be disrespectful to anyone, in any way. “Not every kid can get good grades,” she said, “but every kid can be respectful of others. Besides, respect solves every other problem.”
There are a lot of people these days in high places that I think are tootie-heads, but I try not to call them that. I should disagree with them, and oppose them, when they are disrespectful to others, but that opposition cannot include a similar disrespect. No, not even if you add an honorific title first, like President Tootie-Head.
John Robert McFarland
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus of Nazareth