M. Peevie had a big bat in her softball game on Sunday, and I complimented her on her excellent hitting. "I know!" she said happily. "My first-ever home run."
"It was great, M. Peevie! I said. Then I ruined everything. "But it wasn't really a home run. It was a triple with a one-base error."
"Gee. Thanks, mom," M. Peevie said in a small voice. "Thanks for ruining my good feeling."
Well--what was I supposed to say? Am I supposed to go along with her misconception? Wouldn't that be like letting her win at CandyLand--which I could not in good conscience condone?
So I presented this moral dilemma to my non-parenting colleagues.
"Wow," said Young Master O. "You're that person in the room who always has to be right. Way to ruin her childhood."
"Yeah," said The Psychiatrist's Daughter. "My mom used to do that to me, too. She'd even cheat at Monopoly to make sure I knew what the real world was like."
I was flummoxed. "Really?" I asked. "I shouldn't have said that? But it's true."
Something can be true but not necessarily the right thing to say to an 11-year-old, they said. This sort of made sense to me, but I still needed more clarification. I asked for a script.
"Here's what you could have said," said Daughter, "How about: 'That's great, honey. I'm proud of how you drove those runs in.'"
Oh. I was starting to see a better way.
"But then," Daughter continued, "If she insists that it was a home run, you can say, 'Well, I'm very proud of you for getting that great hit, but technically it wasn't a home run.' That way you're putting the emphasis on what she did well, rather than on the fact that it wasn't as good as she thought it was."
"How do you know all this?" I asked her. "You don't even have kids."
I've been doing this parenting thing for 17 years now, and still messing things up. But hey, that's what therapy's for, right?