This morning Bubby asked me a question that I cannot readily answer. I could, but it's not really a yes/no black/white question and answer.
He was about to leave for school and he had a look on his face like he was thinking deeply. I know the look. It's a mixture of emotion held back from the thought or memory playing in his mind. He shifted his body toward me and looked at me, in an almost demanding way and said:
"Mom, am I rude?" with a hint of almost irritation and defiance.
I froze. This is such a broad question. I was unsure of context. His sister tells him he's rude often. I'd prefer it be called blunt, than rude. He doesn't mince words. His future wife will need a Teflon ego or lots of support. This I am sure of. Still, where was this question coming from, and why did it have him so concerned?
So, I continue with the conversation:
Me: Well... I don't know that I would call you rude. Why? Why do you ask if you're rude?
Him: Luke (a classmate) said I was.
Me: (gulping at the possibility that he told someone they were fat, ugly, or some other such insult) "What did you say to Luke that made him say that?"
Him: "I told him to stop breathing on me! That's NOT rude."
Me: " Well, sometimes... it's best to leave some things unsaid and to ourselves. If it was bothering you so much why didn't you just move and not say anything?"
Him: "I couldn't."
Me: "So, you couldn't move away, and neither could he?"
Him: "No, but I was not rude."
Me: "Well, then the polite thing to do is to not say anything at all and try to deal with it. It's not his fault"
At this point, he is clearly getting worked up. Fists balled, eyebrows down. We are moving into meltdown at light speed and he is not even at school yet. I try to remind him about good manners, like please and thank you, make people feel good, and respected. There are other manners to use as well, like thinking about other people's feelings when we talk to them. This made him more upset. He contended he used good manners. I'm sure he did. I'm sure he said please, before telling the boy to stop breathing on him. I, also explained to him that I so totally understood that it feels so awful to be trapped in close proximity to someone with bad breath, and you can feel their breath on your skin. It's just sensory torture and what I hate about packed elevators and other such places. I also told him that if he can't move from someone, then it's not nice to comment on them breathing on him, or anything else they can't fix immediately in the moment, which moved us into stage 2 of meltdown approaching... The "Aplogize!" phase. This is the calm before the storm with Bubby. He needs you to tell him you're sorry for being wrong. This is a total Sheldon moment if you've ever seen Big Bang Theory. I can't say that I'm sorry for hurting his feelings, or upsetting him, or that he feels upset, or anything besides 'I'm sorry for saying you're rude'. I never said this, but I never didn't say it, either. He sees this truth. He sees this work around of words that intend to convey something, but relies on one to not acknowledge directly that you do, in fact agree with the other side. He is not interested in anything else, but yes or no, and he clearly is biased in the answer he wants. He knows that my careful tiptoe around the answer means that I think he is wrong and to him that is all that matters. I know from experience that to withhold an apology is one of the few things that makes his world crumble into pieces and send him into head banging, screaming for hours, meltdown. I know that many would think 'for shame, that you give in to this.' but... they don't know the aftermath of being on the right side of wrong with Bubby. I do. It's not worth it. To withhold an apology it would be so anxiety provoking and upsetting that it is not worth the lesson that he can't always be right.
So... I suck it up and tell him that I'm sorry and that he's not rude. After all, I know he didn't mean to be. I don't know how to explain it to him. All these arbitrary rules of what is considered rude and what isn't. I don't even understand them half of the time. "Why was that considered rude?!?" is a phrase uttered out of my mouth at least twice a month. In my opinion, I am just sharing my opinion, or letting someone know they have a fact wrong. To others, I at times, lack tact.
I gave Bubby his customary hug and kiss he always also demands after the apology, as routine dictates and he went off to school, hopefully feeling better.