I just had the privilege of having the most fascinating visit to my hooligans’ school. Ordinarily my wonderfully amazing fantastic father (love you still Daddy!) picks up my kids from school. However, due to extenuating circumstances, I’m on kid duty for the next few days. I arrive at the school and am standing out front talking to a couple of teachers that I’m particularly friendly with. My Young Hooligan (YH) sidles up and says (quite loudly) “Are you talking about Mr. Mystery Man?” (No, his name is not actually Mystery Man, but I’m not sharing his real name because HE is good, clean and wholesome – unlike yours truly – and does not deserve to have his good name sullied on a tawdry website.) The teachers burst out laughing and I said, “Yes, I am, now go play.”
One teacher, however, is not letting it go that easily and asked “What do you know about Mr. Mystery Man?” and YH says “Oh, he’s dating my mom.” My mouth hit the ground. Darling teacher said, “And what do you think about that?” YH shrugged his shoulders and said “It’s fine. He has two kids. I like the boy. The girl is just a girl.”
Dear God…I know I don’t actually go to church with anything close to regularity and the amount of times you’ve had to forgive me for sins is…significant…but could you please do me a solid and have the ground beneath my feet open and swallow me whole right NOW? Yours truly, LD.
Teacher sent YH off and turns to me with the biggest grin in the world as I shook my head and tried to gather myself. Because that is easy to do!
So here’s the lesson of the day my little cherry bon-bons. Children know EVERYTHING. You may think that you are being subtle and keeping them out of the loop in things they don’t need to know about. You are wrong. They know. They already have heard the whispers, seen the clues, probably read your diary. **Mental Note – Hide Diary…oh, who am I kidding…I’ll forget where I put it, but they’ll probably know and can tell me…sigh**
We often don’t give kids enough credit. We think they’re stupid. I’ve commented before about how much I love listening to them play. Here’s the kicker – they listen to us too! They know things often before we tell them because they pay attention, especially when we think they aren’t. They are as interested in what’s going on in our lives as we are in theirs. PARTICULARLY if it’s something that we don’t necessarily want to discuss with them. Then it’s just chum in the water, and the little ankle-biting sharks will have a feeding frenzy the more you try to conceal things.
So what is the solution? Be honest with them as much as you can. Sure, there are some situations we really can’t give our kids details about, but even then we need to tell them SOMETHING so that their imaginations don’t run wild. If there’s something significant going on in your life, talk to them about it. It’s so much better to talk before they start building things up in their minds. It is a lot harder to undo a perception about something than to just get it right the first time.
That’s what I did this afternoon. We got in the car and I asked the Hooligans if they had questions about Mr. Mystery Man. It led to a very positive conversation where I realized they understood a lot more than I thought, and were okay with it. It was also an opportunity to reinforce how important they are to me. And it ended with homework and afternoon snacks. They feel good and I feel good.
The bottom line is you can’t keep secrets from kids any more than you can keep a hunk of meat from a hungry lion. In the end, they’re going to get it and if you try to stop it, you’ll probably get mauled…in public…and provide a lot of gossip in the Teacher’s Lounge…