I'm learning to not get all hot under the collar about honesty, particularly as it pertains to a certain 6-year-old boy. Because it seems that his definition of honesty is quite a bit different from mine.
This morning he locked himself in the bathroom for about 30 minutes. This isn't unusual, the bathroom is a favorite play-place of his. But normally there are sounds of water, or at least of toilet paper unrolling and being stuffed into his clothes to make padding so he can bounce off things without injuring himself (at least that was the theory).
Today there were no water sounds. After a little while, just a little tinkle, like of glass falling and hitting the counter.
Using my super-mama hearing, I decided it sounded just like my glass thermometer falling onto the counter. So I called in: "Max, that wasn't the thermometer, was it? Did it break?"
OK. Maybe it just fell and didn't break. That's fine. I go back to cleaning the cat litter boxes--fun! More time passes, child is still sequestered in the bathroom, still there are no sounds of water. You know how you know something is wrong because it's too quiet? Well, my mama senses were tingling. "Max, are you sure everything is OK?"
There's not much more to this story. He eventually came out of the bathroom and went into his room. I went into the bathroom to find a broken thermometer and a large bead of mercury on the counter. Then I went into his room to find him sitting on the bed, with a few beads of mercury around him on his bedspread. They must have gotten onto his pajamas and then fallen on the bed.
A call to the pediatrician, a call to poison control, looking up mercury clean-up on line. An hour later and we're mostly contained, rooms are ventilated, and we're off to clay class, where my still mercury-sensitized eyes are noticing every shiny thing on the side of the road and noting it so I can come back and pick it up with my eyedropper and take it to the hazardous waste facility. I still need to get powdered sulfur to bind any remaining mercury, and take everything (bedspread and pajamas included) to hazardous waste. And get a new, non-mercury thermometer.
It seems that honesty is situation- and age-dependent. At 6, being honest means telling the truth unless doing so would mean you don't get to play with the really cool mercury bead anymore. I had assumed that he wouldn't be able to lie so easily to a direct question, but I failed to take into account the allure of the mercury bead. I'm assuming that this will change as he gets older, but for now I must remember to not necessarily accept verbal assurance. If it's a case of health and safety, I'm going to require additional proof.