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My daughter can detect when I am hiding the truth

By Lynet Awuor Otieno | December 14th 2014

The way children grow, for first time parents, I assume, can sometimes be challenging.

We tend to treat them as lunatics.

We think they are fools, always willing to take whatever we say for gospel truth.They, on the other hand, assume the status given them, albeit only for a while. The sad thing is that they do not announce their discovery, and if they do, it may be at the least expected place.

There are moments I have been forced to fake a smile, to brush aside nagging questions from my child.

One such incident came a day after the Westgate Mall attack. She had seen images in newspapers as we travelled upcountry to attend a funeral. Someone, across the aisle, on our right, was reading one of the local dailies, which had a graphic image on the front page. She saw it.

“Mom, is she dead?” she asked.

I did not respond, pretending not to have heard her speak, then offered her my share of the snacks we had been offered in the flight. She had finished her share. The attendant had given her double of what every other passenger got. She quickly thanked me, ate the biscuits, gulped the juice and was visibly unable to wait to swallow before she could ask her question again.

I pretended to be concentrating deeply in what I was reading, when I felt her taps on my lap. The questions fell like rain: “Mom, mom... someone has poured blood on the girl? You said girls don’t cry? She is crying, why is she crying...?”

I was caught off guard. First, in an effort to make her a strong girl — my way — I have always discouraged her from crying in public, using the phrase: “Girls don’t cry”.

Secondly, she wanted to know who had done such harm to the girl. I had to change my statement about girls crying, and add “sometimes” to the phrase.

It was becoming difficult to explain what “bad people” and ‘Al Shabaab’ who did that to the woman whose photo was on the front page mean without touching on religion. It was going to raise questions about her friends in school and some of our neighbours, who say they are Muslims.

To date, I still try to explain that, careful not to create harmful opinion in her mind. That same Sunday, when we got to the funeral, I cried, and being a “girl”, had to fake a smile when she asked why that happened.

“Girls should not cry over small things like when boys snatch a bike from them or pinch them,” I said, amid a forced smile penetrating the tears dampening my handkerchief.

Many more instances have followed. I have been asked why I dress in certain ways some times, told to remember to wash my hands when I leave the toilet, or reminded of the lie I told the previous week.

At times, it is embarrassing, but there are lessons to learn. To date, I see my traits in my daughter, one being the ability read body language, and detect lies. Conscious of that, I try to get as close as possible to the truth, even in cases where I really have to deviate.

My biggest lesson is that with a child, you may always sustain a relationship with lies. You have to be as close to the truth as possible, because then they will rarely forget what you told them, months, days or hours ago.

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