Childhood, I believe is about happiness. Children need not know the truth about everything. I think we as parent sometime get too caught up in doing the right thing. What’s the right thing anyway? How do we know that is not better to bend the truth than to tell something to a child that he or she can’t digest?
I’ll tell you why I say this.
A few days after the earthquake in Japan my five year old daughter came to me and asked me what an earthquake was. It was a mama-what-does-this-word-mean kind of question. Now, whenever my daughter asks me a question, I try and give her a detailed answer. In fact, we play a little game around it, with the aim that she remembers the answer. It mostly works. So, when she asked me about the earthquake, I drew a little diagram, got out the globe, cut an orange to tell her about the earth’s crust and layers etc etc. She loved it. That was that.
About three days later when I was putting my daughter to bed at night, she sobbed and sobbed and refused to sleep in her bed. She said that an earthquake might come at night. I told her that it won’t. She asked me how I could be so sure. After all, if the tectonic plates could bang into each other under Japan, the same could happen under India! I winced. Great, I thought, in my enthusiasm to teach her I’d given her too much information! I’d gone and scared her.
Damage control, I thought. So, I launched into logic. And zones. India is in a zone that is not really prone to earthquakes, I told her (true) and that there are some countries that are more prone to them and we are not one of them. She seemed a little mollified, though not entirely. Phew! (Still refused to go back to her bed). I had dodged a tricky question.
Unfortunately, there was more to come. A few days later she asked me (and this is some sort of a recurrent theme, we’ve talked about this before, in snatches) about death. Agh. Not again, I thought. I was not in the mood for this. But she was, and her questions were not general, they were specific. “Can babies die?” she queried. I decided to lie. “What about dad?”. I told her that only very old people die (One day, sometime ago, when I’d told her, on one of these bedtime question and answer moments, that mamas can die, she’d wept uncontrollably and clung to me for days) . So I decided to let her believe happy things. Why cloud her little five year old mind with unpalatable truth? Dad will be with you till you are as old as mama, and even after that, I said. “And you?”. Ditto, I said with a straight face. She thought, then she smiled. Not sure if she believed me entirely, but she liked the reassurance.
Like I said, and many may not agree, childhood is about happy things. Truth is for grown ups.