To entertain ourselves, recently Elana and I have been thinking up small falsehoods we could tell the Lentil when he or she is old enough to learn stuff about the world, but not old enough to do fact-checking on the internet. For example, that different types of milk come from different animals: whole milk comes from cows, 2% comes from sheep, and skim milk comes from goats.
Or here’s an elaborate scam that I think we could keep going for years — we would try to convince our kids that sodas come in 5-packs. We would only buy sodas when the Lentil wasn’t with us, and whoever bought the sodas would drink one on the way home.
LENTIL: What’s this other ring for?
ELANA: That’s the handle.
LENTIL: Oh. But why are there six in the store?
ME: That’s for ease of stacking. But they take the sixth one off at the register.
ELANA: How else could you carry it home?
We’re kidding around, of course. But really, doesn’t everyone do some version of this? We teach kids what we know, whether it’s our religious beliefs or half-remembered high school science and history or just a general outlook on life. We teach our kids with everything we say and how we interact with people and the choices we make. And then they go out into the world and discover that at least some of it was wrong.
Yes, it was the best wisdom that your parents had to give you, but it was wrong, or at the very least completely inapplicable to your own situation. And then the whole carpet of knowledge begins to unravel. What the hell else do I think I know that I don’t actually know?
For parents: humility and caution. For kids: patience with error and a certain degree of independence.