Selective Ignorance

Who am I to question the wise words of Maya Angelou?

When I discovered that quote, it didn’t sit right with me, and yet I still posted it.  Now, I’m wondering if I posted her quote because I wish – with all my heart – that we could allow kids to be uninformed.  (I like uninformed better than ignorant.)

I wish my kids could waltz through their childhoods believing in the mischievousness of Larry the Leprechaun, the eternal kindness and generosity of Santa and the mystery of the Tooth Fairy without having to know the darker sides of human nature.

I’d love nothing more than for them to think all teachers are as endearing as Miss Honey.

I want them to sail through these years without having to know what sexting is.  I want Will to go to the skate park without my having to define the terms he finds written in spray paint in the bowls of the park.  I want Jenny to be able to wear her hair in braided pigtails without other girls teasing her that she still dresses like a little girl.

I’d give anything if they could believe that their father was invincible and strong and would protect them from big hairy spiders and the bullies that hang in a pack at the end of the street.

__________

I answer questions.

That is my job.

Children are smarter than they are given credit for, naturally curious and perceptive of things that many adults aren’t even aware of.

If they ask me something, I will answer them honestly and directly, but I will spare some of the details

When Jenny asks why a girl would make fun of her for wearing pigtails, I explain that some girls dress differently depending on what they see at home or on TV or at school.  Then I go on to explain that it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks of pigtails as long as Jen likes ’em.

I wouldn’t be doing her any favors by simply saying, “Some little girls aren’t very nice.”

When Will asks what the graffiti means at the skate park, I don’t go into graphic detail describing terms or positions.  I give him general explanations  because I don’t want him to be the naive little skater dude that doesn’t have a clue.

I give him enough information to satisfy his curiosity, so that he doesn’t go to an older skater and get more info than he can handle at his age.

 

 

__________

The first time Will asked me why his dad made fun of his hair, I could have said something like, “Oh, Honey, don’t be so sensitive.  Daddy loves you.  He wasn’t making fun of you.”

Would that have prepared Will for years of picking and emotional abuse?

Would that have given Will the tools he needs to deal with a father who sets standards so impossibly high that Will has no chance of ever reaching them?

The first time Jenny asked me why her daddy doesn’t think she does fantastic cartwheels, I could have said, “Honey, Daddy is a busy man.  He doesn’t have time to pay attention to your cartwheels.”

Would letting Jenny believe that she’s not her dad’s priority help her in any way?

Would she be better off believing that if she finessed the perfect cartwheel, her dad would finally love her?

__________

Will and Jenny will endure – dare I say thrive – with their spirits intact.  They will have a strong sense of self that can only come from understanding why their father treats them the way he does.

The treatment they receive has nothing to do with who they are.

Knowing the reasons behind the treatment sets the stage for them to understand how they might navigate this world – skate parks, snotty little girls, and all.

__________

I do perpetuate the myths of Santa, leprechauns, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

I see all the contradictions in that.

Call me a liar.

Kids are entitled to a little childhood bliss.

 

 

 

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7 comments

  1. Naive. Kids deserve to be naive. They are not equipped to handle the full truth of the world. I know I am not as an adult!

    I thought of this last night when I was watching the X-Men movie. The start of the movie was about the holocaust. We were taught in school that the holocaust happened and that it was a horrible atrocity in history, but to SEE those atrocities is beyond what my heart can handle. When I visited the Holocaust museum in DC, I was depressed for 2 days. There is a round room there where names of the victims are on the walls and family members go there to pay tribute. The wailing that occurred in that room the day that I was there was heart wrenching. It affected me so much emotionally and I don’t have any ties to it at all.

    As a child, hearing about such things was boring and even though I understood the lesson, part of me wanted the blissful ignorance. As an adult, I choose to remain in my happy world sometimes because the harsh outside world needs to be accepted in increments….on my own timetable.

    At my house, I keep Santa and the tooth fairy magical as long as possible because when you have to realize that magic is just a trick, it’s a little disappointing.

    My friend has a quote on her fb page and it says, “In my world, everyone’s a unicorn that eats rainbows and poops butterflies.” I think Dr. Seuss knew what he was talking about. :)

  2. Z,

    Like giving Children’s Tylenol based on body weight – give only what they can handle at the time – but make sure they get some if they need it.

  3. Great example!

  4. Jesse,

    I totally agree with this post. I have wished for a much better childhood for my kids than they have had and are having. In the middle of all this pain, I have always tried to be honest with them about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in the ways their dad has behaved toward them and me. I never want them to think that what we lived and are living is normal.

    We finally have a home that is a haven. It is not perfect, but it sure beats the way we were living.

    I am finding too that a GOOD counselor is a very helpful resource because she/he lets the children have a voice when the courts and others do not listen.

    We keep doing our best–that is all we can do.

    All the best to you and yours!!

  5. Lynn,

    That’s a great tip about a counselor giving kids a place to have a voice. There’s only so much they can vent to mom.

    I’m grateful for all my extended family and friends. They often stand in as counselors/confidantes.

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