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My three-year-old has just entered into the ‘no filter’ zone. By this, I mean having absolutely no care in the world about what he says, where he says it or who he says it to. Examples include announcing in his loudest voice to the other restaurant diners, “Daddy needs the loo!”, saying to the dishwasher engineer “excuse me, man, fix my car too please!”, and my personal favourite, shouting to the fragile elderly couple walking towards us in the darkened alley, “GOT YA!”. He’s done that one twice.

As proud as I am that he has finally found his voice, events like this are inevitably awkward (and if I’m honest, quite funny). But short of inappropriately sticky taping his lips together, there’s not much I can do about it. However, the most mortifying episodes happen when we bump into someone unexpectedly. Whether we’re walking the dog, playing at the park or shopping for food (read: sticky tape) my heart sinks when I realise, yup, I know them, they’re coming over here and we are about to engage in a really uncomfortable conversation. Without fail, the dialogue goes like this;

“Hello Bertie!” says friend/friend’s mum/friend’s dad/acquaintance.
“NO! GO AWAY!” he replies, kicking, screaming, bright red with all-consuming rage. (And if they give him the added gift of physical contact, the earth sometimes shifts off its axis.)
Friend looks shocked.
“Sorry, he’s really shy,” I say, burning up, eyes twitching.
End of catch-up, humiliating wave goodbye.
Cringe.

Whilst he’s nailed ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘goodbye’ and generally being a sweet, kind, wonderful little boy, for some reason the concept of saying a simple ‘hello’ to someone, whether he knows them or not, is lost and I frequently find myself willing the ground to swallow me up.

However, it’s slowly becoming clear to me that to everyone else, he is just a normal three-year-old boy, simply caught off-guard. But he is still figuring out who he is and, as much as I long for everyone’s first impression of my son to be total adoration (name me a mother who doesn’t) it’s only natural for him to occasionally show a bit of uncertainty. Fact: Toddlers can sometimes be shy, then the next minute they surprise you by being the complete opposite. It’s baffling

“Fact: Toddlers can sometimes be shy, then the next minute they surprise you by being the complete opposite.It’s baffling”
He is trying his best to absorb every little thing we teach him and, whilst scaring old aged pensioners down dark alleyways doesn’t exactly scream shyness, for now, putting pressure on him to greet people properly is perhaps a bridge too far.

In sticky social situations, I’ve learnt to pick my battles and to completely under-react -the bigger the deal made, the bigger the complex, the bigger the meltdown at our next chance meeting. But most importantly, I’ve learnt to stop apologising for him – this one thing may cause me a few seconds of petty embarrassment but when you put it alongside the hundreds of proud moments he rewards me with on a daily basis, the awkwardness pales into insignificance.

Philippa Pearne
@philippapearne
Former Beauty Editor @ Glamour UK. Freelance beauty, lifestyle and parenting journalist.
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