There’s just something refreshing about honesty. If you spend your days surrounded primarily by the over-18 set, you might not be so familiar with the concept. See, we adults have learned how to be good liars. We’ve also given it a name: We call it tact.
There’s just something refreshing about honesty.
If you spend your days surrounded primarily by the over-18 set, you might not be so familiar with the concept. See, we adults have learned how to be good liars. We’ve also given it a name: We call it tact.
It is with such tact that we avoid pointing out one another’s flaws. Sometimes, the most sophisticated among us manage to insult someone while making it appear that they are being tactful. That skill is particularly practiced during high school.
As a rule, however, people who are significantly younger than 18 tend to be quite honest. Heartbreakingly honest. Over-the-top honest. The one exception, of course, is if they sense that they might be getting into trouble. Then you get to see truly novice-level lying:
“Did you take a cookie?”
Eyes begin to dart wildly. “Nooooooo …”
“Are you sure you didn’t take a cookie? There’s one missing.”
“Elmo took the cookie?”
A look of relief washes over the young face. “Yes! Elmo cookie!”
I prefer brutal honesty to bad lying. I even prefer it when the truth isn’t so easy to take. Kids don’t hesitate to wonder — loudly, most of the time — why someone is fat or where their hair went.
It’s embarrassing, yes, and an early opportunity to introduce the concept of “tact.”
Sometimes, however, brutal honesty is just plain funny. I attempted to give myself a minifacial one day recently in hopes that using spa products would give me a sense of Zen. My relaxation was broken, however, by a 2-year-old who couldn’t figure out why mommy would voluntarily smear mud all over her face.
“Mommy, nose,” he said urgently, tapping his nose.
“My nose?” I asked innocently. “What about my nose?”
“Mommy nose dirrrty,” he said with a look of disgust. Then again for emphasis, “Dirrrty. Wash it!”
Perhaps strangely, I took quite a bit of pride in another recent moment of honesty. While looking at old photos, my little boy saw a picture of me when I was nine months pregnant. He looked at me, then at the picture.
“Mommy belly all gone!” he pronounced.
I smiled to myself: The diet must be working if a 2-year-old can tell that I’m no longer nine months pregnant. Success!
Sometimes I think it’s a shame that we all can’t have the innocent honesty practiced by children. Think of the inferred insults that would be avoided, the hurt feelings that would be spared. Politicians would be able to talk about problems openly. Corporations could identify their weaknesses immediately.
Of course, we all would be forced to explain over and over again why our thighs jiggle when we walk, and that could get a little tedious. We would hear about it incessantly every time we got a farmer’s tan or had a bad hair day. No one would have the grace to ignore it when that first gray hair sprouted.
On second thought, perhaps there’s something to this lying ... ahem, tact ... thing. I’m beginning to appreciate everyone who only thinks about my shortcomings and doesn’t actually say them out loud.
After all, I have a toddler for that.
Elizabeth Davies writes for the Rockford Register Star in Rockford, Ill.