Children are naturally inquisitive. Many a time I’ve been left red-faced by the very public, unfiltered questions asked by my duo, such as “Why is that man so fat?” or “Why does that woman have a beard?” Kids learn about the world around them by asking questions, albeit at inappropriate times. But lately I’ve noticed a more worrying development with my ten year old daughter. Flump loves to eavesdrop. She soaks it all in, listens to every word when we are unaware, and then regurgitates it weeks, if not months later, much to my horror and astonishment.
I remember first being stunned when Flump repeated a phone conversation I’d had with my friend MONTHS earlier about the potential dangers of travelling in South America on her own. She brought it up casually at a completely random time. No warning. No context. Just word for word repeat mode. I had no clue she had been listening and only remember her walking in and out of the room once during my conversation. No harm done, this time. But the second time round she decided to repeat something of a more delicate nature to a group of her friends. Crap. Which was then passed on by those kids to their parents. Double crap. You can imagine the damage limitation that had to be done there! On both occasions, I had no idea Flump had been listening in on my conversations. And let’s just say, it was a rude awakening.
Many of Flump’s friends also love to eavesdrop. Kids of this age appear to be magnetically drawn towards adult conversations. The other day, I stopped to have a chat with one of Flump’s teachers and I could clearly see two of her classmates silently hovering in the vicinity, zoning in on our conversation. Their tiny ears pricked up as they eagerly awaited a juicy snippet of information. Now I’m wiser. Even the most innocuous passing comment can be absorbed by little ears and reproduced/distorted in the most explosive way.
Let this be a cautionary tale. If you don’t want an information leak, zip it up in front of the kids. Even if you don’t think they are listening, THEY WILL BE. Even if you don’t think it’s controversial, IT WILL BE, once regurgitated. Any conversation about anyone your kids know should be had when they are not in the room or at least 25 metres away. Kids have razor sharp hearing when it suits them.
There will, of course, be some people who say that adults shouldn’t engage in conversations in the first place that they wouldn’t want repeated. But that is, quite frankly, self-righteous fantasy. It’s human nature to discuss issues and share problems (I’m not talking about malicious gossip but regular day to day matters that come up). We can’t just sit and chat about the weather all day long. The more realistic solution to a potentially embarrassing revelation is to keep our adult conversations for trusted adult ears only. But do watch out for the little gremlins…they can often be found lurking in corners, quietly and dangerously waiting for their next golden nugget of information. And trust me, it will come back to bite you on the derrière.