Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of Repetitive Parenting: Day 30 "You can't always believe what you hear from a ______"

We've been at this parenting business for 17 years now and I think we've learned a thing or two from our kids.  The most important lesson we learned, fairly early on, was that we just can't believe everything they tell us!

It is not that we have a couple of compulsive liars in the family, it's just that sometimes they don't pass on the message correctly.  The parental process involves interpreting a lot of games of whisper down the lane!

As our kids grew older and went to school, they needed to become more independent.  This involved assignment books for taking down homework and upcoming dates for projects or events.  If I had assumed my kids had always been paying attention and had written down everything correctly, I think I would have missed quite a lot!  As a parent, it's okay - even part of our job description - to check up on our kids at all stages of life.  This is how they learn to check things for themselves - it becomes a habit.

What they also learn is that they can't always believe everything they hear from their friends, they need to check with the teacher or the coach or the director.  Because, as we always remind them, "You can't always believe what you hear from a ...."

The conclusion of that quote depends on the age of our kids:

"You can't always believe what you hear from a preschooler."
"You can't always believe what you hear from a first grader."
"You can't always believe what you hear from a sixth grader."
"You can't always believe what you hear from a teenager."

At times, when I have passed on some piece of information incorrectly, I will hear my own words laughingly echoed back at me, "You can't always believe what you hear from a forty year old!"

Even Cupcake is not immune.  When she started preschool this year, after the first day she told me she had missed me.  She also told me that she had been crying and that the boys had thrown toys and had a time out.  I thought I would inquire of the teacher after the next class to see how she was adjusting.  Both the teacher and aid mentioned that Cupcake loves school, is quite sociable and talkative.  I asked if she had cried?  Not a bit.  I asked about the boys?  Apparently no time outs or throwing toys, either.  They laughed and said, "She's got a creative imagination?"  My quip, "There's a fine line between creative imagination and lying!"

So now I know that I can't really trust Cupcake's assessment of her school day.  Not that she is intentionally making up stories, but perhaps explaining how she feels without really knowing how to express it or perhaps confusing reality with a video or storybook she saw.  Either way, I know that I can't believe everything I hear from my three year old!

Now we don't want our kids to assume that everyone around them are pathological liars, but to use wisdom and discernment when relying on information from others, especially before passing it along.  Is this person a reliable source?  Should I check it out myself?  Am I responsible for this information?

Sometimes it is not just a matter of correct information, but a matter of perspective.  Having worked with teens for a couple of decades we always let our parents know to come to us with any issues, but to remember beforehand that there are two sides to every story.  Before barreling in to discuss an issue with a teacher, it helps to remind myself of this concept: I only get half the story from my kids.  This has been helpful to calm me down enough to inquire about whatever event may be bothering me and help me asses the situation to find out what really happened.  Sometimes my kids have overreacted to a situation and other times they have under-reacted...in either case it was important that I discover the truth and not just accept what I might have heard from them.

Misinformation.  Perspective.  Short attention span.  Active imagination.  All very good reasons for us to continue to remind ourselves and our kids, "You can't believe everything you hear from a __________."  Think I'll be repeating this one ad infinitum!

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