Last updateMon, 28 Jan 2013 9pm

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Words can hurt

Jellybeans manage to have an inbuilt honesty when it comes to what comes out of their mouths. Whatever happened to tact and diplomacy? Errrr, wazzzat?? Those words just aren’t in our dictionaries, and if they were, you’d have to explain them carefully because we’d be asking why all the time. I mean why, if we’re supposed to be honest, do we sometimes need to lie to other people? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

But think about this - how many times honestly have you been shocked, mortified or horrified at what’s coming flying out of your jellybean’s mouth like some armed missile. Honesty can sometimes be perceived as offensive or inappropriate and be met with glares and surprised expressions.

How do you deal with a jellybean who mistakes the nearest fat woman in Sainsbury's for someone pregnant ? My son has done this on a number of occasions and whilst I’ve been turning a deeper shade of crimson, hiding behind the baked beans, he’s become engrossed in a conversation with a complete stranger. ‘Are you a homosexual?’ he once asked a very flamboyant young man in a ticket queue at the station.

Situations like this occur daily and with alarming regularity. Sadly this form of communication is met with suspicion and surprise. What on earth do you do? Apologise profusely? Offer explanation or just smile sweetly, mouth some form of sorry and disappear behind the freezer wishing you were in it?

And then I have to think, well I do that, too! The doorbell rings unexpectedly and inconveniently (anytime in a jellybean’s life is inconvenient because if we’re busy with something we just can’t change our attention to something else) , you open the door in a very ‘get lost’ manner, maybe even say it, only to find the woman next door with your disgruntled and bedraggled jellybean whom she’s just saved from her garden pond? Whoops, blunt speaking gets us into trouble. Remember the incident I spoke about in chapter 3 involving my tsunami with a very kindly local bobby? Telling him to f... off is not my most brilliant of moves. I just didn’t THINK before I spoke.

‘Have I lost weight?’ our daughter asks. Reply: ‘No, you’ve put it on!’
‘Does my bum look big in this?’ I ask my son. ‘Huge!’ he agrees. He thinks he’s being honest and hasn’t worked out that for once in his life I want him to tell a lie.The problem is that we find the idea of a ‘little white lie’ really hard to get our jellybean heads round. Grandma doesn’t want us to agree with her that her Yorkshires are too flat. She wants us to tell her we think they’re lovely, even if they’re not.

Here’s what I’ve learnt. There are two kinds of lies. The black ones are when you’re lying to cover up something you’ve done and you don’t want to get into trouble and they’re nasty and pointless cos I’ll find out anyway. The white ones are the ones you tell so that you don’t hurt someone’s feelings. But if you’re not quite sure what someone’s feelings might be, how do you know? That’s a toughie! You just have to think, ‘Would I like someone to say that to me?’, and if the answer’s no, then don’t say it. Sometimes, saying the wrong thing is worse than saying nothing at all.

So here’s some shorthand to teach your jellybeans. Teach them how to hold their tongue, LITERALLY, stick their clean little fingers into their mouths and do just that! Fantastic, they can’t talk. So train them that a sign such as index finger pointing to the tongue means, ‘Don’t you dare open your mouth’, something that takes a millisecond. Start early, remember repetition and rules are crucial, simple and easy.

Bluntness doesn’t always have to be rude and offensive, it can be charmingly humorous as well. Truthfulness may extend to telling Uncle George he smells! Phew, what a relief, something you’ve wanted to mention but didn’t like to! You look horrified but inside it’s difficult to conceal a huge jellybody giggle. And that’s something we’re often grateful to our little jellybeans for as they take the words right out of our mouths and they’re forgiven because they’re only kids. It’s a bit different when you’ve reached the age of 47 and you still sometimes say the first blunt thing that comes out of your mouth. ‘How was that for you, dear?’ he asks. ‘I’ve been lying here thinking we ought to repaint the ceiling to cover up that patch of damp, love,’ you reply. Whoops! There’s a frosty silence for the next week or so.