Help! My kid has no filter—and it's getting embarrassing

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk realizes she needs to be more aware of what she says (and does) around her four-year-old daughter.

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Anna has gotten into the habit of repeating stories she hears from Mom. Photo: Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

I’m an open person. I write a lot about my personal experiences. Some might say I over-share. I just find it easier to lay all my cards on the table, I suppose.

When you have children, people tend to cover their mouths with their hands and say things like, “Oh, I shouldn’t say that in front of the kids.” However, I’m not a “not in front of the kids” mom. I maintain boundaries: I don’t talk about things I know will upset my four-year-old daughter Anna and I believe kids don’t fully have the context to understand a lot of the things we hide from them.

When your toddler starts talking, people make comments like, “Next thing you know, she’ll be repeating everything you say,” or “Pretty soon you won’t be able to have this type of conversation in front of her.” Let me file those tidbits under Advice I Didn’t Listen To… But Maybe Should Have.

Last week, we ran into a friend on the bus and Anna told her I have to get something removed from my foot. While this wasn’t the most private thing that could have been shared, it’s not exactly something I would have told my friend—or the bus-load of people. Later that same week, she told a complete stranger that I’d been so late picking her up from school that she had to wait in the office while I took a taxi to get to her. It was true—I’d arrived two minutes after the pick-up window ended, and our school is diligent. I’d never been late before. I wanted to explain this to the woman on the bus, but restrained myself. Was it important? Not really, but it certainly was a blow to my pride to have my mistake announced publicly. I’m lucky my daughter tends not to exaggerate, because it could have been that much worse.

So far, the majority of announcements Anna has made have been about me—it was my own information I chose to share. A turning point happened recently when Anna and I saw one of her friend’s dads walking around the neighbourhood, casually eating a slice of pizza. Anna asked me why he was eating pizza. Without thinking I replied, “His family is out of town, so he can eat whatever he wants.” It was an unnecessary comment made more to the other adult we were walking with at the time, and I didn’t mean anything by it. Of course, my lesson came when we later saw his wife. Anna tells this woman that we ran into her husband, and, verbatim, informed her “he can eat whatever he wants…” You get the picture.

This particular example is thankfully more charming than humiliating (although there was bit of that too), but it alerted me to the reality that a bit of censorship might be a good thing. It’s funny, the little parenting tips and tricks we pick up over time. I may have to reconsider my stance on not being a ‘not in front of the kids’ mom. Now, to rack my brain for scandalous things I may have said in front of my child before we leave the house today…

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a four-year-old. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.

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