Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Higher virtue: Truth or Peace?

If you've ever worked in customer service, you know the expression: "The customer is always right."  Let me put it this way: "The two-year-old is always right."  Here's the catch: I have two of them, and they can't both be right. 

It started as newly verbal one-year-olds, the arguments.  Frequently, in their car seats in the car.  Barely able to form coherent words, much less sentences, they would argue the finer points of the name of a truck, what "M" is for, or on whose side of the car they are sitting (mama's or daddy's).  One son (we'll call him Ham), would argue for the pure joy of provocation.  The other son (let's call him Shem), argued for Truth, Capital T Truth.  It would always end in tears, almost always in screaming.  It was amusing for awhile.  We would eavesdrop from the front seat, amazed at our sons' precocious ability for debate, and occasionally interject somewhat helplessly when the crying became too ferocious. 

However, as reasoning skills advanced, so have the arguments.  Yesterday it was over letters and numbers. 

Shem (gleeful in his knowledge): 1, 2, 3, Yay, 3 is a letter! 

Ham: 3 is a number.

S (agitated): No, 3 is a letter. 

H: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8....

S: No, no, stop saying that!! (crying now) 3 is a letter!

Me (to Matt): Uh, truth or peace?

Matt: Shem, there are letters and there are numbers.  1, 2, 3 are numbers.  A, B, C, D are letters.  Yay, aren't number and letters neat! (OK, probably not quite that cheesy, but you get the idea.)

S: hysterical crying, NO, NO, NO, NO!!

H (singing): A, b, c, d, e, f, g...."

S: total breakdown.

Parents: distraction attempts from the front seat: So, Christmas, who's excited about Christmas?

This scenario is a daily occurrence.  Often now, the argument is not even with his brother, but with me.  Colors, I give room for interpretation.  Truck names, you got it, you probably know them better than me.  But some things?  Some things are just wrong.  Am I doing my job as a parent to say, "Yes, okay, good job" when my son is clearly wrong?  Is this justified in an attempt to keep the peace?  I confess.  I pacify.  I agree, not wanting a full-scale fall-out over the fact that this small red fruit is called a strawberry and not a cherry.  Peace prevails. 

Matt summed it up yesterday, oh so philosophically: You cannot have true peace without truth.

Yes, yes, and okay Shem, that's a letter. 


  1. aaahhh!! I love it! Way to capture their personalities in this post! So wonderful!

    That's a hard question. I don't know. I guess you pick and choose your battles depending on what you can handle. It's hard too, because although Ham can understand the difference between letters and numbers, it's very normal for a 2 year old like Shem not to fully grasp it yet. And he will, in his own time.

    Sometimes truth, sometimes peace.... I mean, as long as they are toddlers. But aim for truth? Ack - I don't know!!

  2. Yes, Rachel, I think I do have to choose my battles. I try to find ways of giving the correct info to "Shem" without shaming him. Like, yes, that looks exactly like a cherry and we call it a strawberry! Don't contradict but also give the right info. It often doesn't work, esply when an argument is already in process. The crazy part is that the TRUTH is SOO important to him; he just doesn't always know the truth. With Ham, Truth is much more relative, lol.