The child responds, deadpan, “He’s not funny.”
“Ever? Even a little bit?”
“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.