“If you want the unvarnished truth, ask a child.”
So the saying goes, and it’s true. In fact, you don’t even have to bother asking. A child will come up to you, unprompted, and lay you bare in an instant, without a second thought, without even bothering to look back at the mound of ash left in his wake.
Why is honesty a virtue again? I don’t want my kid to be a liar, but a little bit of tact wouldn’t kill anybody. (Especially me. I’m really fragile right now.)
I value my son’s honesty. Most of the time it’s refreshing, and even a little funny. Especially when he can’t help but spoil surprises, or gleefully announce his own secrets, his own hiding place, or even his own guilt at doing something he shouldn’t have done, that we may not even know he’s done! All merely because he doesn’t totally understand something we adults do: sometimes telling the whole truth isn’t always the best policy.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to rob the kid of his innocence, or of the delightful opportunity to learn for himself that world doesn’t always present itself in stark black and white. I just want him to lay off a bit!
We all tell white lies, or lies of omission, because we know that if everyone were as honest as children are, the world would be a different, more terrifying place. A place we probably wouldn’t enjoy as much, aside from the occasional awkward comedy that comes with someone blurting out something inappropriate. Because whether they’re true or not, words are like weapons. They wound sometimes. (So does the outfit in that video!)
Detective Munch is four years old; he hasn’t yet learned to hold back. This can put Mommy and Daddy in a tough position, like when we’re out in public and he loudly inquires as to the origin’s of a stranger’s birthmark, or wonders what that gross smell is (it’s B.O., kid, let’s change subway cars!) He’s lucky, though, as children are forgiven such indiscretions, the ignorant little scamps!
Can you imagine the repercussions if I told my boss or my wife what I was really thinking, let alone a stranger on the F train who may or may not have a hammer at the ready, in the fearless, thoughtless manner of a four-year-old? “Kids say the darndest things” and all, but they also lay the sickest burns.
Nobody pinpoints your insecurities with the instinctual accuracy of a child. And they don’t even mean it. The little idiots are running around like guns without the safety on, spraying armor-piercing bullets at everyone in the vicinity. Which is mostly their parents.
“Yes, kiddo, I know I’m going gray.”
“Yeah, bud, I know I have a belly.”
“Yes, goddammit, I know I know all the words to “Shake It Off” and I’m proud of it! I’M NOT AFRAID ANYMORE!”
This shit is hard enough for a formerly dark-haired, six-pack-having rock god like me to deal with without having the apple of my eye point them out. Of course, he isn’t trying to be mean. It would probably be better if he were, that way I could snap back at him and mock his stupid taste in clothes and his terrible Superman impression. But instead he’s just matter-of-fact about it. And none of the things he points out bother him at all, he’s just noticing stuff. He’s not trying to crush my soul.
But crush my soul he does. And then I spend the rest of the weekend curled up in a ball, reading about low-carb diets and ordering Just For Men.
A little tact would come in handy at this age, but it’s not something that’s easily taught to someone who doesn’t quite understand the nuances of human behavior. The whole “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” gambit doesn’t work when the person doesn’t know the difference.
Honesty may be a virtue, but so is silence. So forget tact. Bring me some duct.