In Our Own Backyard….Truth – or tact?Tact is something that a lot of grown adults have a problem getting their arms around. Some believe that saying anything less than what you actually feel is pointless and that it stops just short of total honesty. For others – well, they are simply clueless.
Tact is something that a lot of grown adults have a problem getting their arms around. Some believe that saying anything less than what you actually feel is pointless and that it stops just short of total honesty. For others – well, they are simply clueless.
It’s understandable, then, that it would be difficult to teach children about tact. It’s hard enough to teach them right from wrong, much less when and why it’s sometimes appropriate to refrain from speaking your mind fully in the interest of protecting someone else’s feelings.
Two of our grandchildren visited our house a few weeks ago and we were amazed at how much they’d grown and changed in the month or so since we’d last seen them. It seems every time we get together, they’re into something new, and their tastes in television shows, super heroes and food have completely changed. That makes it a bit tricky when it comes to planning meals and activities they enjoy so we try to stick with the tried and true.
When the two of them – Ethan, age 8, and Evie, age 5 – came bursting out of the car and charging into our house, they hugged us and started telling us all about what they’ve been up to lately, asking a million questions and looking around to see what there was to do and what there was to eat. During a gap in the action, my husband, Ken, announced, “Guess what? Grandma Wendy made strawberry pie for tonight!”
“I hate pie!” replied Ethan matter-of-factly.
Ken and I looked at each other in bewilderment and shrugged our shoulders, but when I brought out the pie later and served it to everyone else but Ethan, he acted totally disinterested. Halfway through her pie, his mom asked him if he wanted a taste of hers and he accepted it without comment – and then had another and another. I said nothing, but secretly I was smiling to myself.
The next day I was playing outdoors with the kids and Ethan asked what we were having for lunch.
“We’re having tacos!” I declared.
“I hate tacos!” he said.
“You do not,” I replied. “You ate about 14 of them at your last birthday party!”
He gave me “the look” and nothing more was said.
Later at dinner, as Ethan sat at the dining room table building a giant taco out of all of the ingredients I had spread out in the center of the table, I asked him if he’d like me to pass him the tomatoes.
“I hate tomatoes!” he said.
By then, I decided I simply had to say something.
“Ethan,” I began in what I hoped was a strictly conversational tone, “have you ever thought about talking about the things you love instead of the things you hate? You don’t have to lie about it and say you love something you don’t like, but just talk more about what you actually like. That way you don’t hurt someone’s feelings. It’s something that’s known as tact.”
He looked at me as though I’d just told him to go sit on a tack.
I left him to ponder my words of wisdom, and it wasn’t until the next morning that I realized that someone else had been paying attention as well.
I was acting as a substitute in a hotly contested game of badminton – with Evie and I pitted against the stronger, taller Ethan. We weren’t doing all that well, and when their soon-to-be step dad came out of the house and offered to join in, Evie looked longingly in his direction before looking back at me and saying, “Grandma Wendy, are you ready to be done yet?”