‘Mama, your neck looks old’
‘I’m sorry what?’
‘Your neck Mama. It looks, y’know, old and I know something that can help make that better…’
I didn’t hear the rest of what Snr Son was gibbering about, this so-called cure for an old neck (what am I, a turkey?) because it was a cold, grey, miserable morning. And as usual, I was rushing about trying to get both sons and myself ready for the nursery/school drop off and then psyche myself up for the comute to work.
My friends and family know that I am most definitely NOT a morning person. I have never had that morning spark, that get up and go, that eagerness to start the day that some people have. You definitely could not (and would not) use the word pep to describe me in the mornings. And to add insult to injury, I am pretty much permanently sleep-deprived thanks to Jnr Son’s night-time antics so suffice it to say that my mood is not the best in the mornings. So my usual response to something like this would probably have been a short, sharp reprimand for being rude and unkind.
But I looked at that face and I realised he wasn’t being unkind, he was just saying what he saw. You see, Snr Son is a few weeks away from 6 so hasn’t quite learnt the finer points of discretion or empathy so I knew I couldn’t blame him for speaking honestly.
Even though my feelings were hurt and even though I wanted to bark at him for being so mean, I took a breath and told him calmly that I am getting older so parts of me will start to look older. And I also told him that sometimes people don’t like to hear that they are looking old.
It’s a tricky stage of childhood this one. I believe it’s (Husb and) my job as parents to teach our boys how to be kind, thoughtful and honest. This is particularly important at the moment as Snr Son has recently discovered lying and is starting to test the boundaries. So while we have to teach him that he has to try and be honest, we also have to teach him empathy and sometimes, being empathetic means not always saying the truth out aloud. If I ask you ‘do I look old’, then by all means tell me the truth, but if I haven’t asked you, don’t offer this information up to me!
It’s a tricky concept for a five year old (one that some adults still haven’t mastered) – always tell the truth when you’re asked but if you’re not asked then don’t point out the truth because it can be hurtful. It’s even trickier to try and instill this as a rule to live by and the last thing we want is for Snr Son to stop being honest, to start lying. But we’ll keep trying our best.
And now that I’ve had a whole day to think about it, I need to get home and ask him what this wonder cure is. And maybe, just maybe, I can make my millions from it!