“Nature is amazing isn’t it”, i said to my daughter as we were reading a book about caterpillars, she said “it’s also pretty disgusting too”. This is what I love about 8 year olds they are the masters of one-liners yet haven’t developed the social filter to know when to say what in front of whom. There has been many a moment when she has made me squirm in front of other people. Children know (and see) too much. There are many examples but the most obvious being statements on my driving ‘Mummy drives too fast’; or my language ‘Mummy swears’; or my marital affairs ‘Mummy shouts daddy’.
Children can also act as back-up for the little voice inside your head called ‘conscience’, although with a little more drama. For example, when drinking a glassed champagne, my daughter shouted at me ‘dont drink that it’s toxic!’
I find the best policy to have is to be transparent with friends and family, because of you arent this can make it all the more uncomfortable when your children inevitably spill the beans. When i am talking to someone in the presence of my daughter i anticipate now what she is likely to say and then mention it before she even has the chance.
If you try and explain to children that certain things shouldn’t be mentioned in public, this will only make things worse.
My mum once asked me not to tell my neighbour’s daughter how much (roughly) she earned (i was age 9 at the time). I cant recall how i came to know about my mum’s wages but i still mentioned it to my friend, i just added ‘mum told me not o tell you this….’
I got a taste of my own medicine in my early twenties when my mum told my stepsister how much i earned. I scolded Mum for doing this and just as she couldnt see what the issue was, i experienced the discomfort my mum felt all those years ago.
It must be hard, therefore, when your children are required to give a character reference to a third party about you as a parent. It is no doubt the most honest, if not slightly exaggerated account of yourself you are likely to receive – a kind of personality equivalent of looking in the mirror. It is probably a good exercise to encourage children to use adjectives to describe parents so that parents can see what they are doing well and what is not so good. Social workers no doubt do this when assessing a home for adoption. Sometimes it is difficult to look in the mirror but nethertheless an important exercise. I will do this with my daughter and let you know how it goes – should make for an entertaining read.
This blog is for Unicef.
Thanks for reading.