Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Enjoy the Children

Children tend to speak the unvarnished truth as they see it -- most of the time. Obfuscation and lying are learned, and adults are the teachers. Children are comfortable with saying what they think and feel, but sometimes their honesty makes us uncomfortable.

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. She announced that she was not going back. When asked why she said, "I am wasting my time. I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk".

A woman took her 4 year-old daughter along on her rounds to deliver meals to elderly shut-ins. The child was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances used by old people, particularly the canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. One day she noticed her daughter staring at a set of false teeth soaking in a glass. The mother braced herself for the inevitable barrage of questions, but the child merely turned and whispered , "The tooth fairy is never going to believe this!".

A colleague, Dr. Wesley Wachob, wrote of this experience in his newsletter.

A father punished his daughter for lying by forbidding her to go to the neighborhood

swimming pool for a week. The child felt that the punishment was much too severe for

the infraction. She decided to let her father know exactly how she felt. When the father

came home from work the first night after the restriction had been imposed, he found a

note written by his daughter on his pillow. It simply read: "Dear Daddy, I hate you! Love, Megan."

Have you ever seen a better example of ambivalence?

Children see reality directly with little or no regard for social nuances. A little boy got lost at the YMCA and ended up in the women's locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The child watched in amazement and then asked: "What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a little boy before?". Propriety is all in how you see reality.

One evening at dinner my wife said to our four year old daughter, "Becca, you have not touched your vegetables." Becca immediate reach out with her forefinger and touched her vegetables. Children tend to be literalists.

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick told of meeting a couple of parishioners while taking a walk near the Riverside Church in New York. He greeted the young woman and her four year-old daughter. After they talked for awhile and when they were ready to part, Dr. Fosdick said to the little girl, "Tell your daddy that you spoke with Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick this morning.", to which the child replied, "And you tell your mommy that you talked to Susie Smith this morning."

Listening to the children can be a real learning experience. Sometimes they will make you laugh. Sometimes they will make you cry. Sometimes, if it is your child, you will say, "Good Lord, I wish she had not said that out loud."

Enjoy the children. They will be grown and gone before you know it.