I wish I could capture every conversation with our kids. They are sometimes beautiful, often hilarious, and always real. The one below is a little bit of each.

On they way home from picking up my kids a couple weeks ago, my seven year-old said excitedly from the back seat, “mom, you can get a bucket of whiskey at the auction on Friday!” Apparently, he and his buddies had looked through the school’s auction catalogue and whiskey was the talk of the class.

The conversation continued:

Me: do you know what whiskey is?

Kid: Yeah, beer.

Me: Actually, kind of, it’s a type of alcohol.

Kid: What does that mean?

Me: Well, sometimes adults like to drink it – but if they drink too much it makes them sick, talk funny, and do goofy things that usually aren’t smart.

Kid: Oh, well I bet dad would want the whiskey basket.

Later that night after dragging the kids down to shovel the HDM (Hockey Day Minnesota) rink and missing dinner (again), we stopped at Subway. A group of special needs adults were there spread across a few booths. One man was sitting alone, not far from where we camped out to eat our third fast food meal in as many days (not a norm, but a survival tool when life is crazy). My kids were aware and curious I could tell, but didn’t say anything.

At one point, the man got up to use the bathroom. He approached our table with a hitch in his step, a smile on his face, and food on his cheeks. He said “high five” and tried to get my four year old to smack his hand. She ducked behind me and hid. I can’t blame her. I watched her get sprayed with some left over Doritos when he talked.

My seven year old was at a table across from us watching the whole thing. I asked the gentleman what his name was and introduced him to my four year old (who stayed hidden behind my shoulder) and myself. I asked if he was having a good night and if I could give him a high five instead; my daughter was a little shy, I explained. He obliged with a “yay” and then turned to my seven year old and got his second high five.

As he disappeared into the bathroom, my seven year old crossed to our table, looked at me earnestly and whispered in my year, “Did that guy drink whiskey?” My, “no” was follow by, “but he was spitting and sounded funny…”

It took everything I had not to belly laugh at his serious little face trying to make sense of a situation that wasn’t the “norm” for him. Oh, how I love to see little minds processing; how I love when they are honest and real; how I love when they let us hear what they are thinking!

As we shuffled out the door I said, “Have a great night!” to the kind gentleman we just met. The experience allowed me to reinforce another important lesson. Our ride home included a conversation about recognizing when people are different and respecting those differences in a genuine way; about understanding that we all have gifts and were given lives that were meant for us.