Monday, July 21, 2014

On Being Truthful

We had some friends stop in, and during the course of conversation the mother turned to Sunbeam and asked her what grade she is in.

I could almost see the wheels churning in her head as she paused for a moment before saying "4th grade." Later Sunbeam and I were talking and she was telling me how she dislikes when people ask her what grade she is in during the summer, because she's between two grades and she feels like she isn't being honest whether she says the grade she finished or the one she is ready for.

I can certainly understand how she feels, because I used to feel the same way when I was a little girl. There were numerous times when I was accused of lying, when people simply didn't stop to hear how I came to my answer.

One instance in particular that stands out in my memory as the perfect example was when I was in first grade and while we were eating lunch at school everyone was sharing what they had for supper the previous evening. When it was my turn I happily told them we had potatoes, meat, and fresh sweetcorn.

"Was the corn from your garden?" the teacher asked.

I cheerfully told them it was. I had helped get the corn ready for canning and knew all the corn we had, had come from our garden.

What followed was not pretty, the teacher sought out a fitting punishment for the lie I had just told. My cousin went home and told her mother what a liar I was, because it was the middle of the winter and there was no way to have fresh corn. Her mother of-course was very concerned with the amount of "lies" I was telling and informed my Mom what a naughty little girl she had, which in turn brought me to a dreaded talk.

To me the corn was fresh, we had opened a new can that night. Leftovers were no longer fresh and would be served the next day often fried in little fritters or in a casserole. To this day I still don't think I told a lie that day, there was simply a misunderstanding.

I try to keep this in mind with my own children and truly understand what they are trying to say before accusing them of telling lies.


  1. That's terrible! I don't think you told a lie at all; the corn WAS fresh - fresh from your garden when you canned it!

  2. Makes you wonder if it's good practice to get clarification from a little one before assuming they lied.

  3. The truth is often related to our own experience. Was the corn fresh ? For you it was indeed fresh and so no lie was told, Lies can only exist with intent to deceive.

  4. Regarding the question of "Which grade are you in?" Adults should phrase questions more carefully to children: What grade did you just finish? or What grade will you be in this fall? are more specific questions with no ambiguity.

    Your teacher should have asked you what you meant or asked you to clarify how it was from your garden. She missed out on a good teaching moment to praise you for recognizing that the corn was canned fresh from your garden and then eaten fresh from the canning bottle. Sometimes adults are lazy, and anxious to fault a child for what is really a misunderstanding.

  5. This should make us as adults careful in how we treat children. As adults we should be wise enough to discern the spirit of a child. Too much judging is going on in the world and it never hurts to err on the side of caution before ACCUSING a child of wrongdoing!! These children will be grown ups one day and may well be a real judge in a court room scene one day. How would WE like to be judged in the same manner WE judged THEM????

  6. I'm so sorry that you had that experience. I agree with the other comments here. Intent needs to be known before an assumption is made. Children understand things a bit differently than adults do and that doesn't mean that they are lying or wrong.
    I'm so glad that you are teaching your children this difference.

  7. Poor Sunbeam -life is tough when you are an honest child! I made a huge, but innocent mistake when I started school.

    A 'big boy' (probably a 7 yr old, as I was not quite 5 yrs old) asked me if I was Jewish. I had no idea what it meant. So he pointed to the Anglican church across the road and asked if I went to that church. No, I didn't. So he told me to get into a line in the yard to go for my dinner.

    For two years I went with the long line of Jewish children to the local hall to eat kosher dinners, cooked by volunteers and paid for by the Jewish Board of Guardians.

    Only when my older cousin saw me in the line as he crossed the yard with a message for the 'infants' department (under 7 yr olds) was my mistake found out.

    I was punished at school and at home for stealing. My monthly dinner money had been handed over but nobody had missed me in the standard school lunch hall or returned the money to my parents - that was considered a mistake but my error was thought to be deliberate theft. The little boy was Jewish and thought all non-Jewish people went to the same church, I didn't know what 'Jewish' meant, only that that was not my particular church building and that the dinners I ate were wonderful!

    My father requisitioned the contents of my piggy bank and I recieved no spending money or treats for months. Then I was taken to the synagogue in town to hand over the money as payment for the 'stolen' food. The rabbi was the only one who saw the innocence of the mistake we two little children had made. He tried to refuse the money, but my father insisted.

    Since then, I have always subscribed to the idea that children have their own way of knowing about the world and adults should pay more sympathetic attention to mistakes they make.
    One other thing I do know - Jewish ladies can turn out meals for 100+ children in an hour or two, that taste as good as any chef could offer!

  8. When I was growing up, it was understood that your grade changed as of the last day of the school year. That's when kindergarden graduation happened, so... must be when all grade level graduations (even if they had no ceremony) happened.

  9. Children can be really literal-minded.

    I think adults need to remember that, and not just in situations where the child's truthfulness is in question.

  10. Wow! That's terrible. I have a story from my childhood that still resonates with me to this day.

    I was about 5 or 6. I was at a neighbor's house, standing in their driveway. I noticed that there were deep scratches in the door of the car that was parked there. I remember thinking that someone must have been naughty and scratched the car with a rock. I thought about how it must have happened. I foolishly picked up a stone and traced the outline of the scratch without actually touching the surface of the car. The woman of the house looked out the window and "saw" me scratch her car. I told her that I hadn't and of course she believed I was lying because she had just "watched" me do it. I remember feeling horrified and running home to the safety of home...crying all the way. I was not allowed in their yard ever again or to play with their little girl.

    It was of course a dumb thing of me to do...but I was very little and it never occurred to me that someone would really think I had done it. I also knew that I really couldn't blame the mother because she truly believed she had seen me make the scratch. I was glad when that family moved away because I was afraid that they would tell everyone what an awful little girl I was, when actually I was quite well behaved.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I love hearing your thoughts.