What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You

What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You April 3, 2009

Okay, in general I completely disagree with that statement. But I got a chance to rethink my position just yesterday, and now I am just not sure at all.

See, we recently found our iron. This is a very sad commentary on either the state of our unpacking priorities (as we moved almost 14 months ago) or on the value we as a family place on the task of ironing our clothes.

Basically, I personally don’t do it.  Ever.  And that’s saying something about our family because, out of all of us, I am the most likely to iron. So you see the situation. I figure, if something really needs to be ironed it is not fit to be worn . . . or, our very friendly local drycleaner would surely be glad to help, right?

Yesterday, however, I completely broke with tradition. I have this one shirt, see . . . it’s such a pretty purple color. I bought it in a fit of insanity, as it is 100% cotton and very wrinkly when washed. As a result, it often sits in my closet until I take a trip and stay in a hotel, in which I know there is always an iron. But that shirt caught my eye yesterday. And that along with the knowledge that Mark had recently uncovered our long-lost iron gave me a sudden surge of inspiration to iron that shirt and wear it.

Of course we don’t own an ironing BOARD (why would we have one of those?) so I was doing my best to makeshift iron using a whole lot of folded towels on the kitchen counter. I was making excellent progress, if I do say so myself, when Sam (age 10) walked in and asked with a look of confusion on his face and an obvious earnestness: “What are you doing?”

I looked at him incredulously and asked him what he meant. He went on to ask me what the “thing” was in my hand and what I was doing to my shirt. I finally realized: the child could not remember ever seeing me iron and had no idea even what an iron was.This is what we call an "iron".

After I patiently explained to MY TEN YEAR OLD what an iron is, I started to wonder if I should have just kept him in the dark. I mean, how would his life be negatively impacted-really-if he never, ever, in his whole entire life even knew that irons existed?

Honestly, I couldn’t really think of anything ultimately debilitating. In fact, the only thing that came to mind was that perhaps if I had protected him from ever finding out what an iron is then, in effect I was giving him hours and hours of extra time he might use to plant a garden or tutor a child or pick up litter.

And while I concede that probably knowing what an iron is is a helpful life skill in the long run, I wonder if there might be some things our kids could never know and it wouldn’t hurt them.

 Like what if they never knew there was anything unusual about all the different skin colors in their classes at school?

What if it never occurred to them to think that Americans were better than the rest of the world? That being a Christian means excluding certain people? What if they never used a plastic grocery bag . . . or heard hurtful words at church . . . or knew kids whose parents didn’t have enough food in the house to pack them a lunch for school? I am not completely sure, but the whole iron thing made me think that there might actually be things my kids know that I would wish they never had to know at all.

I think this sort of trend will continue, especially with technology moving at the speed it moves now (picture confused and horrified children who could not believe email was not in use when Mark and I were dating). And while I’ll do what I can to prepare them for what’s ahead in their lives, I think I’ll start paying more attention to the things that, come to think of it, maybe they didn’t need to know after all.

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