Monday, November 28

Be Honest with your Kids, Not a Bitchface

There are many balances in parenting.  There are many situations in which giving and taking and picking your battles wisely save parents' sanity.  One of the things that seems hardest for parents is the difference between being honest and being a big, fat, meany.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth, after the jump.
        Kids need to hear the whole story.  Bits and pieces get scrambled or blown out of proportion (and often the realm of reality) very quickly in the brain of a child.  Child meaning . . . pretty much everyone under the age of 21.  People in general need to know the whole story.  It's the reason that cliff hangers are effective, we like to read mysteries, and people are interested in history.  But, as anyone who has ever engaged in popular culture can tell you . . . the difference is between a story that leaves so much to the imagination that you just become irate because you'll never truly know what happens . . . and the story that leaves just enough mystery to engage your imagination and you finish the story yourself.
         What does this mean to a parent?  It means that you have the be the excellent writer, sharing just enough to let the kiddos know how the story ends, but not so much that it's a bleak, heartbreaking, shitstorm.  Don't tell your kids that Grandpa is sleeping.  Then you're just making it up and totally freaking out the kid because, guess what?  You sleep, too.  It's hard for kids to understand that Grandpa is sleeping and never coming back, but somehow you still manage to get up everyday.  One of the hardest things I have had to do in my job is tell a toddler that his Mom had died.  But, he adjusted rather quickly.  The caregivers were consistent that Mom was gone and in heaven.  The kid of course had no concept of what heaven was, but he came to understand that Mom wasn't coming back but she loved him.
          Tragically, kids are smart.  And they can be relentlessly annoying.  It is for both of these reasons that it behooves you to just tell them what they need to know.  This doesn't mean that your 16 year old should read the entire custody decision in your divorce decree; she's no lawyer and that is some murky, deep, legalese to slog through.  But you should tell her that Mom couldn't visit her this week.  Just enough information, nothing that will heavy her burden of curiosity.  Don't tell her that Mom couldn't visit this week because she's back in the slammer or out of money or MIA.  All of those little extra tidbits only add anxiety or anger to the crushing weight of being let down again by Mom.
         Don't tell your 16 year old daughter that you think she's fat.  Don't tell your 6 year old son that his Mom is a dirty whore.  Don't tell your 9 year old daughter that the reason Mom isn't with Dad anymore is because her Mom dumped yo' ass.  Don't tell your kids these things.  Just don't.  Because even if you win that battle, I assure you, as they get older, they will win the war and banish you.  Your dick moves, will be held against you.  Tell them the whole story, without the details.  Satisfy the curiosity without over saturating the mind.  Give them the truth without any backhanded honesty.  Be an honest person, not a bitchface.