08/25/2011 03:08 pm ET Updated Oct 25, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

My daughter taught me about honest communication when she was two.

"What color dis?" she asked, holding up a crayon.

"That's blue," my husband answered.

"Oh. What color is dis one?"

"That one's yellow," came the answer.

"How 'bout dis one?"


"No, brown, Daddy," said our daughter.

"Well, honey, actually, it's blue," said Daddy.

Silence. Then, "You go over there." Apparently the child did not care for that last response. She wanted that crayon to be brown. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized she may be on to something. No fuss, no muss. Just "okay, get out." She would do the same thing at bedtime.

"Good night, angel," I would say.

"Good night, Mommy," she'd reply.

"I love you," I'd tell her.

"I love you too, Mommy," she'd reply.

"Sweet dreams!" I'd say.

"You too, Mommy," she'd reply. "Go downstairs."

It's so simple and yet so deep, isn't it? She said what was on her mind. If we said something she didn't want to hear, she dismissed us. If we said something wrong, she corrected us. If we said something stupid, she laughed at us -- it's communication at its most primitive level.

And I learned something. Her innocent take on life lends a certain clarity to the art of conversation that seems to escape most of us big folk. Age sometimes seems to rob us of the ability to say what we really want to say. Coming from us, it would sound hurtful, mean, or just plain irritating. From our daughter, even now, it's refreshingly honest.

Oh, sure, the theory has its drawbacks. There are times when such refreshing honesty is somehow less than refreshing, times when we really, deep down, wish that kids did not in fact say the darnedest things. In those particular instances, I've learned not to take my cues from a child.

For instance, I don't announce when I'm going potty. Nor do I look at someone's thighs and squeal, "Dimples!" And I certainly don't use my little toy shaver on mommy's whiskers, no matter how long they've gotten in the last year -i I mean, jeez, what's up with that, anyway? First my butt droops down to my calves, and now I can braid my face. Welcome to midlife.

So these are all areas on which my daughter and I disagree when it comes to complete honesty. There are some things I -- er, people -- just don't want to hear.

But otherwise, I say let it out. Speak your mind. There may even be an amendment or something to that effect. And it's certainly a mainstay in our home, this freedom to speak out. My husband and I practice it regularly, as evidenced by my recent undertaking to buy a new car.

"You want that color?" my husband asked. "Are you kidding me? And don't get a stick; they're too much work. What about this one? Sure it's ugly, but what you want is more room, don't you? And I wouldn't go to that place to get it; why not go where I got mine? But, hey, do what you want. It's your car."

I gritted my teeth and replied, "Thank you, honey. That was helpful."

"Oh, and one more thing," he continued. "Get the price down. There's always room to move on these things. Don't settle for the sticker price. And you should get a V-6; it's got more power. And why not get a sun roof this time? But hey, I'm not driving it. Do what you want."

While I appreciated his honest input, I couldn't help borrowing from my daughter's philosophy when I told him where to go.

And of course I meant, "over there."