Thursday, March 29, 2012

"The Truth must dazzle gradually"

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Circuit liesToo bright for our infirm DelightThe Truth's superb surpriseAs Lightening to the Children easedWith explanation kindThe Truth must dazzle graduallyOr every man be blind---

-Emily Dickinson

I was reading Lyn's blog post about truths the other day, and I got to thinking about truths and children.  I try to tell my children the truth, but I also try to frame these truths within the boundaries of their cognitive development.

Some truths, I have found, are simply to big, too horrible or too complex to simply tell them the truth.  There are hard questions in life with very sloppy, complex answers; there are other questions which have no good answer.  So I try to understand the context of the question and explain what I can that can be understood.  When my 9 year old son wanted to know why I don't see my brother very often, I struggled to find an answer that didn't frame things in the context of good or bad, but that made sense.  The reality is, my brother is an addict and frequently abusive when he doesn't take his medications to treat a mental illness.  I told my son that we don't talk because my brother and I don't understand each other and have a hard time getting along.  Both are truthful, but one doesn't take away from my brother's humanity.  When he asked why his grandfather smoked, even though he knew it was bad for him, and then died of lung cancer, all I could tell him was that Grandpa couldn't stop smoking.

Each year my children add new ways of understanding their world and add new experiences through which they can formulate the theories they use to make sense of this very confusing experience we call life.  Each year, my explanations get fuller and more truthful.  I struggle between being honest and sheltering them from things I don't think they need to understand yet.  The poem above, once made me angry, but now, I understand that sometimes the truth needs to be pieced together over time to shine brightly and illuminate, rather than blind us.

If you get a chance, you should take a look at the post that got me thinking.

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