M has a thing against secrets. He can’t stand ’em. The couple of times we thought it would be fun to tell him about a secret (like We’re going somewhere special tomorrow – it’s a secret), he insisted on knowing and quickly moved on to a borderline, teary-eyed fit. I was surprised he was taking it so hard, and revealed the answer to prevent the situation from needlessly escalating. We’ve learned it’s not a a game to play with him. Dunno why, but he can’t stand it. So it figures that we’d think that he’d be able to keep a secret, right?
Yesterday, J lost her favorite doll (named Doc) during a trip to the mall. She slept in the car and when we got back I had a talk with M that until we had a chance to go acquire another one, we were going to tell her the partial truth that we did not know where it was. That part was true – we had no idea exactly where it might be. This would be plausible to J, since toys get lost all the time. We could then hold-off on reacquiring the doll for a few days.
When J woke up she and M were in the bedroom by themselves for a bit. Within a few minutes she miraculously found out that Doc had been lost at the mall, and was, as might be expected, quite upset. I was in the grocery store at the time and made a sidetrip to buy another doll, hoping the whole time the store would have one in stock. On the way there, I was upset that M told her. Why would he do it? It’s not unusual for them to argue and her to get upset, but it’s usually because he’s brutally honest and doesn’t stop talking.
It didn’t make sense that he would say something knowing that she would get upset. And I tried to think along unschooling lines, to think that a child is trying to do right instead wrong. So I came back to expectations – maybe we were expecting him to do something that he honestly couldn’t. That’s when I made the connection with his aversion to secrets. It did seem unreasonable to expect someone who couldn’t handle having a secret kept from him to keep one from someone else. He’s done it lots of times, actually, like revealing presents to people before they can be opened. M can’t do secrets. It made sense.
After I got the second-to-last doll, I called Trish on the way home to discuss my realization. And instead of asking him to keep another secret, I told him I found the doll ‘in a fold of the stroller’ that had escaped our attention before. M was pleasantly surprised, J was happy Doc was found, and I’m glad I wasn’t home to just get upset and jump to a conclusion.