Kids do not have the socially appropriate filter that adults not related to me generally have. They don’t know that some things ought not to be said, even if they are true. For instance, my friend Bleric is visiting us at the moment, and we took him to the Ben & Jerry’s factory yesterday, and when Edward asked why Bleric got a bigger ice cream than he did, this conversation happened:
Me: “Because Bleric is bigger than you.”
Edward: “Bleric is bigger than me?”
Me: “Yes, he’s bigger than you, he’s bigger than Ruby, and he’s even bigger than me?”
Edward: “He’s bigger than you?!”
Me: “Yeah, he’s a little taller.”
Bleric: “I’m 6′ 3″.”
Me: “And I’m 5′ 11″, so he’s about four inches taller than I am.”
Ruby: “It’s okay Daddy, you’re a little bit wider than he is.”
So I know that she was just trying to be helpful and console me because I had not gotten as tall as was clearly recommended, but being wider than someone else is not always considered a good thing in our culture. She did not know this of course, and so said a true thing that seemed okay to her. The problem is when kids know things that are not readily apparent to the rest of the world, and then start saying them to people.
Anyone can tell, just by looking at us, that I am a tad wider than Bleric, but perhaps they do not know that I sleep in my underwear and then walk around the house thusly. Luckily Ruby was happy to volunteer this information to our houseguest as well. And we learned a long time ago not to talk about people behind their backs. Or at least in front of the children about people they are going to see.
You really have to be careful about what you say in front of your kids, even if you think it is innocent. Kids can have a way of mishearing, misinterpreting, or slightly altering what you say, to potentially embarrassing/hilarious results. When I was a kid we had just arrived at my grandmother’s house for a stay of several weeks, and when we got to the door the overweight mother of my father offered me some candy. I declined politely, saying “My mother says I am not allowed to eat candy or else I will get fat like you.”
My mother remained silent and just continued walking past her mother-in-law, up the stairs, and into the guest room, and the incident was never discussed again. And you must know that my mother had never said those exact words. She had told me that eating too much candy would make me fat, and I just put two and two together and said a truth that I had deduced, but in a way that was not socially exciting to my poor mother. Because kids do stuff like that.
So all I am saying is, whatever you do in your house, whatever you say about people, and even what you don’t say about people, your kids are probably going to find a way to let the world know about it. Ask any elementary school teacher how much they know (and wish they didn’t) about the parents of their students. And there’s pretty much nothing you can do. Sorry. You have been warned.