A few weeks ago Kitty went to one of her very best friends’ birthday party. It was princess themed (naturally) and culminated in no less than five Elsa’s (all in slightly different dresses) sprinting around the hall along with an Anna, a Tinkerbell a couple of Cinderellas and a handful of knights in shining armour. And last week she came home from nursery with a very sweet little thank you letter from her friend, handwritten at least in part by the birthday girl in pink and purple and decorated with several pictures from Frozen. Kit loved it. She folded it up into a tiny square and carried it everywhere with her. She showed it to Grandpa and Gran and Grandad and her aunts and really anyone she could see in passing. I think it even came to church with us.
She certainly had it with her the last time she wore her favourite red skirt, she was tucking it in and out of the pocket all day long. And when it came to bedtime the skirt went into the laundry basket and it appears that the letter was still in it.
Because you see I forgot to frisk her pockets when I came to do the laundry, I did’t check for hair clips or bobble or H’s torch or any number of other tiny things that have been smuggled into her pocket recently, and I certainly didn’t check for a letter.
And so the first I knew of it was when I pulled her skirt out of the laundry basket to pin it on the line, saw the wodges of white papier mache tumbling soggily to the grass and knew in an instant and with that horrible sinking feeling that this was what remained of her beloved letter.
Which gave me a quandry. She’d not mentioned the letter in a few days, should I say nothing, feign ignorance if it were ever mentioned again and hope that she believed it irrevocably lost in the depths of the box of treasures on her bedroom shelf? Or should I fess up and apologise for accidentally turning her letter to mush. I did contemplate the first option, we’ve certainly done a bit of magical mending in the past and replaced broken things rather than upset her at their loss, but this couldn’t be mended or replaced as four year olds are not known to be the master of subterfuge, and so I braced myself for the onslaught and went and told Kitty of the water end of such a prized possession.
The tears fell thick and fast, punctuated only with the wails of “My letter! I want my letter!”. She knew in her heart of hearts that I couldn’t bring it back, much as I wanted to, although she’s still just on the cusp of leaving the age of believing that I’m omnipotent and I think there was a lot of hope in those pleas. I cuddled her close and after a while the sobs subsided and we were all happily distracted by dyeing some boiled eggs (and our fingers) pink and blue for Easter.
We’ve always said that we prize honesty in our children, and if that’s the character trait we want to see in them then that’s what we have to model and on that line of argument I was absolutely right to tell her. But the other part of me says that I had a choice, to tell Kitty something that would upset her for what felt like hours but was probably only 20 minutes, or to not tell her and that perhaps I prized honesty above my daughter’s happiness. Which is an uncomfortable sort of feeling.
What would you have done?