White Lies and Homework Time

Some evening, a well mannered mother may find herself helping a child with a homework assignment in which he is required to write a compliment for each classmate. After dashing off a few compliments to his friends, the child lays his head on the table, taps his pencil on the table, stares off into space. Though she may be thinking “Are you kidding me?! This is what passes for homework these days?!” the well mannered mother takes a deep breath and peruses the class list. “One of these people must be funny. What about him, he makes you laugh, right?”
The child responds, deadpan, “He’s not funny.”
“Ever? Even a little bit?”
“No”
“He seems funny to me.”
“He’s not.” Head back down onto the table. “He just thinks he is.”
Children are raw and uncompromising in their assessments of one another. Though some may learn to tell social lies from a young age (“that sweater is beautiful, Grandma”) their world is not greased by the polite pleasantries of adults. They know who their friends are and who has been making faces behind their backs. With only a few scrawled compliments standing between the child and his bedtime, the well mannered mother may be tempted to say, “if he thinks he’s funny, just tell him he is and he’ll feel flattered and complimented.” But she knows she can’t ask her child to say something he doesn’t believe. Not for social expediency. Not for bedtime expediency. One could call it a white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless. So, the well mannered mother and child review the adage posted on his classroom wall: “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?” And, she may say, “Lets try again and think of something true. He did a good job in the school play, right?” Kind? Yes. True? Yes. Necessary? To finish this homework assignment, absolutely.

3 comments:

RTP said...

Reminds me of the white lie, "That is not a dumb homework assignment."

Hugo said...

That RTP really sounds like a piece of work. Maybe she (he?) can do better? Unbelievable.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Hugo, does this mean the peanut gallery is up and running? Should I be scared? Or maybe RTP should be.

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