Thanks to a trip to the grocery store I found myself contemplating the simple honesty of children. They call things as they see them. Ask a child a question and an unfiltered response will come back at you. Just beware, it may not be what you expect!
If you don’t believe me, consider the exchange that I witnessed and which led to this column.
As usual I was struggling to decode the information on boxes of toothpaste, trying to find something that was a gel without sparkly bits in it. Why does the packaging seem to change on a weekly basis? I wondered. Where was the kind I got last time? I wondered. This weighty matter was making my brain hurt. Then I spotted a young boy rushing past me leaving his mother in the dust.
“You have to stay near me,” the mother called out.
“Why?” the child asked, darting up another aisle.
“You don’t want a stranger to take you, do you?” the mother asked.
From afar, I heard the child’s immediate response: “Yes I do!”
There was stunned silence from the mother. In the same moment I embarrassingly spluttered as I choked back laughter while pretending not to have heard the exchange. If only such innocence was justified and not ruined by the harsh reality of modern life.
I assumed my kids were past the age of open honesty, believing that they told Lydia and I what they thought we wanted to hear. This error was revealed when I temporarily lost my cellphone.
Lydia insisted it was pointless trying to remember when I had last used it.
“You still can’t remember if you lock up the house,” she said.
“You could always use the GPS to trace it,” Mitchell suggested.
“I could, if I’d activated it,” I said. “It eats up battery power ... I think.”
He was not amused at missing a chance to try a high-tech solution. Nor was he interested in my idea of old-fashioned legwork which involved calling around to the last known places I’d had the phone. The caretaker at All Saint’s Anglican Church in Bedford checked their parking lot a couple of times for me. Unfortunately, their kindness did not result in a found phone.
Finally, I took Lydia’s phone and retraced my steps as I dialed the other cellphone. As unlikely as it seems, this method actually worked. My cellphone was located under a clump of grass in Fish Hatchery Park where it must have dropped out of my pocket. Pumped up by this success, I went home expecting to be complimented on my ingenuity.
Upon walking through the front door Lydia advised me that the kids had been enjoying themselves at my expense.
“Hey, Sylvia, is it true that you guys have been laughing at me?” I asked.
“Probably,” was her immediate response. Then she paused and considered the question. “What was it about this time?”
I decided it was probably best not to pursue this further. Some things are better left unknown. What I had discovered was the fact that my kids still had a lot to learn about sugar-coating an answer!
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who will never ask his kids if a new pair of pants makes his butt look big!