Truth, a Boy and a Bewildered Mom

Do these eyes look like they’d accept a simple answer?

My five-year-old, J, has caught me off-guard with his inquisitiveness on several occasions over the past few years.

Before he was three, he grilled me about how and why Rudolph’s carrot got back into the house after Santa and the reindeer came on Christmas Eve.  (After all, the reindeer would have eaten it outside, right)?  Ha – and we thought we were clever gnawing on it and putting it with Santa’s partially eaten cookie to show that Rudolph had indeed chewed it.  We should have left the carrot in a snowbank!

Then, when he was almost four and I was pregnant with our second son, he had questions about the place from which his baby brother would leave Mommy’s body and come into the world.  After I calmly and repeatedly explained that the baby was growing in Mommy’s tummy (an unsuccessful distraction tactic), he started to get annoyed… in his opinion, I obviously didn’t understand the question.  “No Mommy, but where does the baby come out?” 

Sigh.

So his question the other day – not a bizarre one by any means – shouldn’t have caught me by surprise.  My husband and I were hanging out with him, enjoying a family movie night.  All was well and we got wrapped up in the story.  Then my heart sank as I watched the main character charismatically tell sky-high tales about himself to all the new people he met, in order to impress them… and it worked.  They were impressed.

No big deal, right?  But it bothered me.  I wasn’t sure I wanted my tender-aged little guy to see this kind of situation yet.  I didn’t particularly want to introduce the idea that if you’re not comfortable with who you are – something which most kids experience at some point – you could make fantastic stuff up about yourself so people will like you.  Or the idea that lying could make you really popular.

So in the moment, hoping to gauge his thoughts on what he was watching and casually reinforce the idea that lying isn’t a good thing, I made a comment to J.  Something to the effect of, “Wow, he’s lying quite a bit, isn’t he?”  And then J asked the simple, fair question I was unprepared for.  “Why would he do that, Mommy?”

Damn.

Red alert!  Red alert!  Parenting manual please!

How do I explain our hero’s identity crisis and dishonest actions to my son, whose eyes were glued to the screen?  “Well, I guess he’s confused about who he is, so he decided to make up stories about it.  But it’s sad, because his new friends won’t believe what he says anymore once they find out, will they?”

Oh well.  We do the best we can on-the-fly, right?

When I was growing up, my parents jumped at every opportunity to stress the importance of honesty.  In fact it was the biggest rule in our house: Tell. The. Truth.  “We’ll love you no matter what, but always, always tell us the truth.”  If we did something bad we got in trouble for it, but if we did something bad and then lied about it,  well, we were in much hotter water.

So now I, in turn, try to impress the importance of truth upon our little man.  Can’t help it, I come by it honestly.  (sorry, bad pun).  And we also try to reinforce the idea that he’s amazing exactly as he is, and to believe in himself and his own ideas no matter what.  He’s doing pretty well with that so far, though we’ve already seen signs of him altering his wants and likes to match those of the kids he looks up to.

We all try to be the best parents we can be, to guide our kids well, yet give them enough space to figure out who they are, not who they think we want them to be.

Here’s a question for you.  When there’s such an incredible, natural desire for children to emulate the “cool kids” rather than simply be their own unique selves, how do you instill a sense of self-worth and the importance of truthfulness and authenticity?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

alexdk3 February 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

I think you are doing the right thing, telling him to be honest, which should include being honest with himself as well as others.
I have learned that the truth is always better with my kids. Celeste in particular asks a lot of questions, big questions and I have always answered her with the truth. The truth in a way that she can handle at her current age. My mother-in-law was asked by her some tough questions. She stared at me, trying to figure out how to answer her (it was about divorce). I just said “just tell her the truth because she will know if you don’t”. she does. kids are really good with seeing past adults’ lies.
Got to go but I might add to this later 🙂

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Christine (The Brighter Side of Life) March 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Thanks so much for your comment, Alex! I agree – I think we need to be truthful with them, to a level that’s appropriate for their age. And kids are so smart and intuitive. But oh, it’s emotionally hard being a parent, isn’t it? I have to make a conscious effort to NOT try to shelter him from the tougher issues… we have to let them see and experience the world, right?

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alexdk3 March 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Yes, I do agree that we have to let them experience the world. One reason why I do homeschool, I want them to be aware of the world around them. We also do a lot of geography, which is more learning about all the different cultures out there. We can’t go and visit them right now, but they are aware that not everyone lives just like we do! I have never felt that we should be sheltering our children from the world. We talk about issues as they come up. My kids are older so that includes many more topics now 😉

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louise March 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I agree with the truth, always the truth but it’s oh so hard sometimes. I do sing a song with the kids…f I were a Butterfly” you can google it…it’s all about different animals and how if they were that animal they would would thank God for something unique about themselves (i.e the butterfly would gave thanks that she could fly) but the chorus goes back to “but I just thank you Father for making me, (clap) me because you gave me a heart, a smile, made me God’s child..” I try to remind them I like them just the way they are (unique individuals God made them to be). Kids are so smart and I haven’t had too difficult questions to answer-yet but I know that will come!

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Christine (The Brighter Side of Life) March 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Yes, I think it helps when we remind our kids of the unique things we love about them, the traits that make them really special. Hopefully they’ll hold onto that good stuff so that later when they’re faced with difficult situations, they’ll believe in themselves and have enough of a solid foundation to not feel the need to follow the pack when it doesn’t feel right. Thanks so much for your comment!

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