Parenting lesson #32: You can teach little children honesty before you can teach them tact

Truth is paramount.  I keep telling Eliza and Zach how important it is to tell the truth, mostly so Greg and I can help them, protect them, and teach them.  I’m learning that it would be nice if you could teach children to be honest while at the same time tactful.  Whereas honesty is pretty black and white to a child, (“Mommy, that lady right there is really fat”), tact, I’m finding out, is going to take longer to teach.  (Sometimes people don’t ever get it right.)  We have to be able to teach what facts and information are important to divulge.  (Okay, maybe even I haven’t figured this one out yet.)  And sometimes truth worked out in the logic of a 3-year-old’s mind is simply hilarious.  I think part of the reason watching children between the ages of 2 and 4 is so entertaining is because, as my mom has always said, “they say the darnedest things.”

A few weeks ago we were staying with some friends, and I introduced the kids to “The Banana Song” by singing everyone’s name in the car to the tune.  Both kids loved it.  Eliza said she wanted to sing it, but she just couldn’t do it.  Then she said, “Maybe I can sing it when I’m older, when I have hair in my hiney.”  I then proceeded (as I felt compelled) to explain Eliza’s understanding that you get hair “down there” when you’re grown up.  (See, perhaps my children are doomed as far as learning what to divulge and what to keep quiet.)

Then we were in Florida with family, and while we were all together, we made a Thanksgiving meal and celebrated the holiday early.  My older brother, John Henry, is known for being a bit verbose when telling stories.  As he had just returned from a hunting trip, he wanted to share some tales.  He was in the middle of telling a story about how this deer and cat faced off, providing specific, colorful explanations of every move each animal made, when Eliza said, “Excuse me Uncle Henry, can you just tell me what happens in the end?”  We all burst into laughing fits.

In this stage, we are all really getting to enjoy watching the wheels in the kids’ minds turn as they think through things and then verbalize them (in Zach’s case, through babbles, a handful of words and facial expressions).  As I’ve said before, I have three different notebooks around the house where I try to remember to jot down the funny things they say so I have a document of them.  As long as you write things down somewhere, you’ll be able to remember them.  Then you can keep a shoebox for each child so you at least keep the memory.  We also set up e-mail addresses when our kids were born, and we send them e-mails to document milestones, write them love letters and memorialize the great moments.  Because the truth, especially if it’s funny (or blackmail material down the road), is worth remembering.

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