Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Rant about Being Honest with Children

This post was written by our brilliant and wonderful friend in real life, Mrs. Darling.  She's written about books for us, and last year's summer vacation and lots of other things. We sort of worship her because she's someone who totally GETS IT.  She's a loving, caring, hands on mother who adores her kids (who, by the way - are amazing) but will totally send you an IM on Facebook very late at night that says something like: "I've had three glasses of wine because I think I lost my mind. Is it at your house? No? OK. Pretend you never saw this when I see you at preschool tomorrow."


Let me first start by saying that for three weeks this summer my Darling family went on a cross country vacation in our minivan. I’ll let you take a moment and use your imagination.

Done? Good. Now that you’ve filled in your own blanks I don’t need to ruminate on the actual trip itself. Everyone has taken a vacation with their family - and there are any number of far better written accounts of the family jaunt - so I need not bore you with our details.

Except one - because I feel it is my duty as a cautionary tale.

You see, if my husband and I were asked to produce a Darling family motto (which would be a pretty weird request unless you were planning to put it on a pillow for us) it would have to be “The Kids Don’t Need to Know Everything”. You, complete stranger who does not know me, are free to chide me on my love of half-truths or even outright lying. But I myself have found that my Darling children’s delicate sensibilities are pretty pleased to live in a world where your lost dog definitely found another happy home but will always love you best and the firm belief that a shot more than likely won’t hurt after the first minute.

We were totally expecting this.
It was this handy skill that allowed us to tell the children that going across the country for three weeks in a minivan was a wise and prudent move. We excitedly laid out the itinerary whereby we would see friends that we hadn’t seen for years and visit awesome works of natural wonder. The Darling children’s beloved parents, we smartly assured them, knew exactly what we were doing and there was not a thing in the world that could go wrong.

Mr. Darling and I knew it would be tough, but we also knew from the bottom of our resilient little parent hearts that our kids are pretty well behaved and are more than occasionally an utter joy to travel with. Even in a minivan.  What we didn’t realized until it was far too late, is that all of that careful couching of a truth, so easy in every day home life, can get exhausting if you are driving across the country in a minivan.

We tried at first to make a good stab at deflecting what was literally staring at me and our youngest offspring in the skeeviest bathroom stall in the world (“F_U_C_..... Yes that’s good honey you know all the letters and I think it spells the name of a special kind of dinosaur"). But when we passed yet another fire in Oklahoma (“I think that will be dying out any second now”) a funnel shaped cloud in Iowa (“well yes it does look something like that but I know for a fact that it isn’t…Who wants to watch a movie?”). Before Mr. Darling and I were even aware of what was fully happening, we had sunk ourselves into full blown honesty and began trotting out the absolute ugly truth even before the poor children asked.

Not too bad you say? Every child needs to grow up and accept some hard won honesty? Especially while you drive through the country in a minivan? Maybe a brief (and by no means complete) list of complete and utter truths we saw fit to fling at the Darling children will change your mind.

A quick note- although all of these brutal truths were borne of stressed induced traveling hysteria, they were also delivered calmly and in a pleasant cheerful tone... I‘m pretty sure the psychic scars will heal right quick.
  • “Buffaloes are wild animals. That is why you can’t go out of the car and pet it and have me take a picture. If you’d like to see a picture here is one the ranger gave me. This is also why we are not going to ‘shoo’ the buffalos away from our car, we will just wait till they move and then we will drive quickly away.”
  • “It’s called a gentleman’s club because it’s a place where women take of their clothes and dance for money that’s why we can’t go there for dinner.”
  • “We aren’t driving through a lake. This is what is called massive flooding- see the people in the orange jackets putting up sandbags? This is why we can’t go to the playground- the playground is under water.”
  • “Those people are screaming because they are drunk. They have ingested too much alcohol and when you do this you become stupidly drunk and don’t use your best words. Let’s keep walking.”
  • “Our car sounds funny because there is something wrong with the car. We cannot ask anyone to fix it because, in your parents’ smart choice to see the real off-the-interstate America, we have yet to see another living soul for the past two hours. Our only hope is to drive as fast as we can for as long as we can until we find a place that has a repair shop and a hotel.”
  • “Cooking meth means making drugs that will make you even more stupid than being drunk. We are not coming back to this hotel because this is where some not nice people were cooking meth. This has nothing to do with food. Get in the car now.”
  • “People are talking about a grizzly attacking a camper because a grizzly did attack a camper yesterday. They say the best thing to do it not to startle a bear by quietly coming upon it - so let’s keep being LOUD.”
Last parting honesty shot the evening we got home: “Your stomach is cramping because I have given a lovely dinner of whole wheat pasta, a salad, and strawberries for dessert. About 17 days ago I discovered that there was nothing to offer you for lunch in the middle of nowhere but cheese sticks, a banana from yesterdays’ free breakfast and a crumpled bag of goldfish dug out from under the car seat washed down with a lukewarm cherry coke. It was then I realized that there was no going back and we were going to have to pray that the hiking will counteract the deep fried crunchy goodness that would be your diet until we lit on for home. In an ideal situation, you will always remember this feeling of tummy war and will thank me then next time we bypass a happy meal and offer an apple with hummus as an alternative.”

But you won’t. That’s ok. The truth is that if we ever again have to drive across the country in a minivan I know it will be worth it because I’m with you.

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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