Imagination vs. Reality at 10 yrs.? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 08-12-2014, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Question Imagination vs. Reality at 10 yrs.?

I'm babysitting my BFF's DD for a few hrs. each day this summer - she is 10 (Alice). My own DD is 11 (Melody). We've been friends since the girls were babies. Today, I ran into a problem and could use some input from other moms - I'm so confused. OK, so here goes...

My DD comes in the room to say she's frustrated that Alice isn't telling the truth and won't admit it. I asked Alice what was going on, and she said, "We once had a huge spider in our house, it was THIS big (she makes a circle with her arms outstretched), and Mel doesn't believe me. I said, Alice, I don't think spiders get quite that big, I think the biggest one in the whole world is about at big as a dinner plate. Mel says, Ya, Alice - dinner plates aren't THAT big. I said, well, I know that in our imagination we can remember things to be different from what they actually are. Alice says, No, you ask my Mom - it's true, it was really THIS big. Then, I said let's just remember everybody is different, and is this something that you two really want to argue about is it or can you let it go? Reluctantly, they went on to play.

So, when my BFFcomes to get her DD, I explain what happened. I said that I can understand Mel's frustration, because it's obviously not true, but I asked the girls to let it go so they could keep playing. My BFF's response was not what I expected, and now I'm questioning myself...

She said this incident happened when Alice was 4 and the spider was huge, and in Alice's mind she still sees it as huge. When she grows up she'll know it's not true, but for a child it's OK to have a big imagination, and she simply accepts her DD's memory whatever it is. I said, but it's not true! She said, that in the big picture it doesn't matter if a spider isn't really that big. But, for now that's what she remembers. And, by insisting that no spider is that big just doesn't matter, and it's my issue that I had a hard time letting Alice's spider be as it is. But, I said, what about the truth? She said she'll figure it out when she's ready. I said Alice already knows spiders aren't that big. She's 10! I can see letting this go when she's 3-6-ish range when kids can't quite separate fantasy from reality, but at 10 isn't it lying, ignoring reality, and putting a lesser value on honesty?

So, what do you think? Should we correct a child's imagination of things like giant spiders or go along with the fantasies until the child recognizes the difference on their own - even when they have passed the stage of not knowing the difference? She thinks that by always bringing reality into the situation, I am thwarting my child's freedom of imagination - that I'm putting too much pressure on my DD to face reality before she's really ready. I say it has nothing to do with imagination, and everything to do with valuing the truth and not wanting to be wrong.

I'm so confused now, and feeling a little bit guilty - have I thwarted my child's imagination by interjecting the truth? Or is my BFF simply avoiding conflict by letting her child ignore reality? I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have!!
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#2 of 24 Old 08-12-2014, 10:40 PM
 
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What great questions! I am bumping this thread to see what others have to share about this. In the mean time I am contemplative...I can understand both sides and my own parenting reflects my sitting on the fence ( so to speak).
What I DO feel strongly about is that parents should not bring any more feelings of guilt their lives ... There's too much food for those guilty feelings as it is!
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#3 of 24 Old 08-12-2014, 11:15 PM
 
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I don't think you should feel guilty, and I do see both sides. I think she is doing her DD a disservice.

While letting our children enjoy imagination is a worthy goal, teaching them socially appropriate behavior is also part of our job. Not always the fun part, but still. It isn't socially appropriate for a 10 year old to insist that others believe that spiders are the size of a dinning room table, and get upset with their friends for not humoring them.

Alice is going to have to face reality, but it won't be coming softly from her mother. It will be from other children. There are things that I've told my kids because *I would rather them hear it from me, nicely* than to hear it from a peer, not so nicely.

Alice is going to get told a lot of things from her peers, and besides how unpleasant that may be for her, she will also learn that her mother isn't a reliable source of information.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#4 of 24 Old 08-12-2014, 11:53 PM
 
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I'm so confused now, and feeling a little bit guilty - have I thwarted my child's imagination by interjecting the truth? Or is my BFF simply avoiding conflict by letting her child ignore reality? I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have!!
You have not. It's not as if you interrupted little kids playing princess with a lecture about how they weren't born into the royal family and chances are slim to none on marrying into the line so tough luck, kiddo, go play office instead!

I think your friend is taking it to the extreme, and is doing her daughter no favors. I've done similar with younger kids to spare a pointless arguement, sure, but not by taking their perception as gospel truth and telling others to humor their delicate feelings!

We had a neighbor friend that came up with whoppers all the time and would defend them 'till the end of time if you let her. I remember her at 10 or 11 literally following me around as I tried to disengage insisting that elephants DID SO survive on 1 pound of peanuts a day. She wouldn't cite her sources, though.
I don't know what her Mom's approach was to her stories, but she's 16 now and still at it so I suppose peer disbelief didn't work either.

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#5 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 07:35 AM
 
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I definitely don't think this is about honesty so I, personally, would move away from that angle. If this were my child I would "let" her honor her memory but I would probably interject that she remembers the spider being that big. DC remembers getting a soft pretzel that was "as big as her head". It wasn't actually as big as her head but that story can stand forever as far as I'm concerned.

If I were you, I think I would have said something like, "Oh, really? That would be huge because the largest spider I've ever heard of is way, way smaller than that." Then I would turn to my own DC and explain about memories and how they can warp over time. And, later I would have a talk with my DC. Are these two girls BFFs or are you BFF with the mom? It's hard when two kids who may not gel get stuck together. It's possible that another child wouldn't have minded in the least that this story was exaggerated and then this would have been a non-issue.

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#6 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 07:45 AM
 
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Reading the responses, I realize that I missed the part about her sort insisting that you and your DC believe her. That's annoying. Is it possible that Alice's mom didn't really understand that this was one of the main causes for concern?

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#7 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 08:07 AM
 
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This is how children's natural inclinations to art, stories, and imagination get ground out of them so they become boring obedient office drones. So sad. Why do you care so much how big the spider was? Who cares if she remembers it as an acromantula? Who is this hurting? Why is it so important for you to be "right"? Not to jump all over your case, but I think it's sad you felt the need to jump on hers for something that doesn't matter at all.
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#8 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 08:13 AM
 
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Why do you care so much how big the spider was? Who cares if she remembers it as an acromantula?
I was kind of thinking this, although not at all negatively towards the op, until I noticed that it sounds like Alice was pressuring her friend to accept her version rather than the other way around.

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#9 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 09:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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discalceata , no problem at all - your opinion is exactly the same as my BFF's and that's what I'm trying to clarify in my own mind - why does it matter to me? I think it's that I don't believe that honesty/truth is somehow opposed or in competition with imagination. Still thinking.... thanks for your input & feel free to add more to this discussion!
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#10 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 10:09 AM
 
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Truth doesn't always mean everything has to be a certain way. Her memory is HER truth. She remembers the spider that way, and it's just as frustrating to her that you don't believe her as it's frustrating to you that she maintains her story even though it isn't "true." As she gets older, she'll gradually come to realize the subtle ways that her experience colors her memories. But for right now, I just don't see why it matters. The size of a spider that's been dead and rotted for half a decade is just not an issue worth going to bat over, especially when the unspoken goal is to teach her to doubt her own memories, to deny her experience, and to conform her mind to external dictates.

All creativity and everything that creates deeper truth in the world - not just mere facts - is the product of people who retained some of the imagination that they were born with. And I personally believe that a lot of the dissatisfaction and frustration that adults suffer is due to the loss of that imagination, of being taught that there is only one right way to think and only one right way to experience the world.

I had one of those mothers who thought it was important that I conform to the correct way of thinking, and I was a creative person (still am). It's pretty depressing to look back over my creative projects over the course of my life and see how they got less and less inspired until they stopped altogether for a decade. I'm still working on reclaiming ownership of the stories that make up my truth, fictional though they may be. That's the only reason I'm speaking up here; I'd hate to see another well-meaning person put another creative kid through the loss and struggle I've been through.
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#11 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 10:22 AM
 
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If it's part of a larger pattern of dishonesty with this girl, I might be concerned, but if it's just a single hazy memory that has gained myth-like status in her mind, I wouldn't characterize it as lying.

We all have those larger-than-life impressions from early childhood, and it does take a while to really get that our memories of those impactful events might not match up with reality. I probably would have just said, "I bet it seemed really huge to you when you were little! Was it outside or in the house?" to move the discussion away from the size argument and into just letting her tell the story of the huge spider.
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#12 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 02:57 PM
 
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She's not being dishonest, she's just telling you how she remembers it. Memory is tricky. I know grown ups who swear they remember meeting Bugs Bunny at Disney World and "have the pictures to prove it." They truly think they remember this thing that could not have happened (because I don't see Walt flinging open the doors to the Kingdom to competitors!), it's there, they have the picture in their brains. I have three brothers. There are several things from our childhood we all remember differently, sometimes mixing up sizes (because something scary might seem bigger to whoever was youngest or most afraid), location, who was there, other events, etc. It's memory, not lying.

This little girl probably honestly remembers the spider as THAT BIG. At some point she's going to think hang on, that's not possible! But in her memory, she's still going to have that image. What difference does it make? She's not pretending and wanting you to go along with it. She's telling you a memory and you and your daughter, who weren't there, won't either let it go or believe her. In fact, you want her to distrust her own memory.

She's not mature enough to realize sometimes memories are wrong and it's not important enough to argue about.
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#13 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 03:33 PM
 
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She's not mature enough to realize sometimes memories are wrong and it's not important enough to argue about.
She's 10. She's old enough to get it, and the thing standing in her way is her mother. Eventually, one of her peers will call her a liar or tell her she's full of sh*t. (just being realistic) Desperately needing others to validate the size of a spider you saw 6 years ago isn't a sign of mental health.

Bippity, I think the reason that it matters to you is because it affected your kid. Its not reasonable to tell your child to go along with nonsense from their peers. Being able to tell the difference between when someone is telling the truth and when they are talking smack is actually a good thing. May be you could work with your DD on responses, such as "well, I don't believe the spider was quite that big, but its a really good story."

But you don't need to tell you 10 year old that its her job to join in on this. The ability to stand up to her friends when they are wrong will serve her well in the next decade of her life.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#14 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 04:42 PM
 
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She's not mature enough to realize sometimes memories are wrong and it's not important enough to argue about.
A 10 year may not be mature enough to have figured out for herself that sometimes memories are wrong, but she should certainly be able to understand that idea if someone explained it to her. I agree that this particular false memory probably isn't important enough to argue about. It's not vitally important for her to learn the truth about this spider. But learning the truth wouldn't be harmful, either. I think it would be somewhat helpful, actually. Learning to doubt your own memories is a good thing. I think it's important to understand that it's possible to have a false memory. You don't need to doubt every single thing you remember, but if there's evidence that your memory might be wrong - maybe it contradicts established scientific fact or maybe someone else who was there remembers it differently - then you ought to consider that evidence and be willing to accept that your memory may be wrong. You don't necessarily need to understand this at 10, but I think you ought to understand it eventually and I don't see how it could be harmful to learn it earlier rather than later.

There's a difference between having a good imagination and believing that everything you imagine must be true. Believing what you imagine isn't creativity; it's delusion.

If I were Alice's mother and I heard her insisting the spider was really that big, I would gently point out that it was actually only this big and that she remembered it as bigger because she was so small at the time and because it had happened so long ago that the memory had gotten fuzzy. But if I were the OP I wouldn't freak out about the idea that Alice's mother wasn't interested in telling her the truth. It really isn't important if Alice remembers the spider as bigger than it was. Ten year olds have a lot of misconceptions about a lot of things. This is undoubtedly just one of many things she's wrong about and it won't ruin her life if she doesn't learn the truth immediately. And it won't be the last time your daughter comes across someone who believes something that's obviously not true. It's good to learn when arguing is pointless and it's better just to drop it.
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#15 of 24 Old 08-13-2014, 05:20 PM
 
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Very well said, Daffodil.
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#16 of 24 Old 08-14-2014, 08:08 AM
 
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Learning to doubt your own memories is a good thing. I think it's important to understand that it's possible to have a false memory. You don't need to doubt every single thing you remember, but if there's evidence that your memory might be wrong - maybe it contradicts established scientific fact or maybe someone else who was there remembers it differently - then you ought to consider that evidence and be willing to accept that your memory may be wrong. You don't necessarily need to understand this at 10, but I think you ought to understand it eventually and I don't see how it could be harmful to learn it earlier rather than later.
Do what now? Isn't this how people get away with being pretty awful to little kids?

This a ten year old who thinks she remembers a big spider in her house, not a ten year old trying to convince your daughter fairies are real and grant wishes. It's just not that big a deal. Did someone say she was "desperately seeking validation" because I must have missed that. It sounds to me like she thinks she remembers something and she's being told it wasn't true by people who weren't there. Who cares? Leave the kid alone.
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#17 of 24 Old 08-14-2014, 10:12 AM
 
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Isn't this how people get away with being pretty awful to little kids?

.... Who cares? Leave the kid alone.
She's not a little kid, she's 10. She had a conflict with a peer over it, not an adult. And yes, her peers will leave her alone, which isn't what she actually wants.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#18 of 24 Old 08-14-2014, 10:52 AM
 
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Who cares? Leave the kid alone.
Like Linda said, it sounds to me that somewhere in the conversation things turned from this child retelling her memory to another child joining the conversation with what she knows about spiders and from there a disagreement started between the two children.

I'm on the side of not thinking that any adult needs to intervene if an educated child chooses to retell a memory as she remembers it but I'm sympathetic to being a little at a loss for how to handle this scenario once two kids are fighting.

At 10, I think that kids should be learning how to be flexible. It sounds like Alice was being a little inflexible with how the conversation was evolving. It's possible that the other child was being inflexible as well. Either way, there was a conflict as a result of this story. It's possible that if these were just friends that letting them work it out would have been the best choice but if there was a caregiver situation, I really understand the OP stepping in.

I am a creative person and come from a long line of siblings, parents, and grandparents who participate in the arts. From the response of the mom described in the OP, it sounds like the mom may be conflating memory (and false memory) with imagination. If the child truly believes the spider was that big because of time and memory, I am not sure I believe that it is linked to imagination. Remembering something incorrectly is not imaginative. I do think that being open to different sorts of truth is a sort of creative "out of the box" way of thinking but I don't think we sabotage that by helping kids think about how they think. To the contrary.

If it is imaginative, then it's a "tall tale" and that's fine so long as the child can find some friends who appreciate this sort of play. That's where I kind of feel like this was just a personality clash more than anything. 10, if I'm recalling correctly, is about when my DC took the shift from wanting to play with any and everyone to really picking and choosing her friends for the characteristics she likes in a person.

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#19 of 24 Old 08-14-2014, 12:32 PM
 
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If she was MY child I wouldn't worry too much about it but I would slip in how big the spider actually was. Perceptions do change as you get older and I don't think it is ruining their imagination. An imagination is make believe. If the child actually believes that the spider was that big then it isn't as much imagination as it is reality for them. I get where you are coming from with lying though I wouldn't call it that. It is reality vs make believe. I don't think this is imagination.
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#20 of 24 Old 08-15-2014, 03:41 PM
 
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It sounds like the mom was trying to say that she did not want to tell her daughter that the spider was not that big; that she was aware of her daughters memory and willing to let her have it. She probably did not feel comfortable with you as an adult getting involved in 'needing to tell her daughter the truth.' My feeling is that what might have worked was you honouring your daughters experience by telling her that you were in agreement with her (Not saying this in front of the other child of course.) , but that her friend for whatever reason believed the spider to be that big - as at the time you didn't know this was a young memory of the other child. And yes, by not 'correcting' her child's memory' - she (other mom) risks her child being told that it could not be true by other children. As this does appear to be the age when things become very black and white for children. This is fair/ not etc. I guess at that time, her mom could have a talk with her about it - if she was upset. It sounds like you have two different points of view/almost philosophy's - one to always tell the truth - and the other what is truth - but our experience of it at the moment.
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#21 of 24 Old 08-16-2014, 06:02 PM
 
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I would focus more on how my daughter can tactfully handle this situation in the future. I know a few adults who don't like to be wrong and will argue with you till they're blue in the face. I guess they just have a healthy imagination! I think it's a good lesson that it's not worth it to get in a struggle about the truth or run and tattle to your mom with these types of people (at least when you're talking about something meaningless like the size of spider). Rather, you can know in your mind that the person is telling a tall tale, but still find a way to connect with them about what's really important about the story. "Wow, that must have been so scary! What did you do? Did you scream? I don't like spiders either!" Actually, that's probably what I would have said to the kid in the first place.

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#22 of 24 Old 08-18-2014, 11:56 AM
 
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Have you ever revisited a place from your childhood and been shocked by how small it was, because in your memory it was gigantic? A park, an old house? I think it's a pretty universal experience, no? I remember revisiting as an adult the home I lived in ages 5-10 and being shocked by how tiny the back yard seemed. If you had asked me to describe it before then, I would have said it was sprawling, at least an acre, but there it was in front of me, probably a quarter of that. Also, the "huge hill" that the house lived on, that we would ride our bikes down, was hardly a slope. I'll also never forget seeing an uncle of mine when I was about 18, after not having seen him in over 10 years - he was so short! How had I never known he was so short?

She's recalling an actual incident, and I don't doubt that in her mind the spider actually was that big. I wouldn't expect her to have the perspective of an adult, to be able to realize that things in your memory are often not exactly accurate. It's annoying that she insisted you agree with her, but how big of a deal is that really? And, assuming that she truly does believe that the spider was that big, how frustrating to have no one believe you! After all, she saw it with her own eyes! WE know it wasn't really that big, but her memory tells her otherwise. I certainly wouldn't file this under "confusing fantasy with reality" unless it's part of a recurring problem.

I'm not really sure what my response would have been...probably similar to what @mnj77 said - "Holy cow! What did you do?! Did you keep it as a pet?" Then if the argument persisted that she insist DD believe her and DD insists she relent, I'd encourage them to drop the subject and move on. I just don't see any upside to trying to convince her that her memory is lying to her.



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#23 of 24 Old 08-18-2014, 06:39 PM
 
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I'm can't speak for the OP, but I got the impression that this was the part that bothered her, more so than the original conversation.
[quote/]  She thinks that by always bringing reality into the situation, I am thwarting my child's freedom of imagination - that I'm putting too much pressure on my DD to face reality before she's really ready. I say it has nothing to do with imagination, and everything to do with valuing the truth and not wanting to be wrong.[/quote]

I do get the perception thing. I remember the "ballroom" (my parents kept the dining room empty for dancing) in our house when I was 3 or so as being grand-hotel-HUGE and my room as being tiny as a ship berth. We went back to look years later and it was the exact opposite-normal size dining room and a big 10x12 bedroom.
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#24 of 24 Old 08-19-2014, 09:18 AM
 
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I'm can't speak for the OP, but I got the impression that this was the part that bothered her, more so than the original conversation.
[quote/] She thinks that by always bringing reality into the situation, I am thwarting my child's freedom of imagination - that I'm putting too much pressure on my DD to face reality before she's really ready. I say it has nothing to do with imagination, and everything to do with valuing the truth and not wanting to be wrong.
I do get the perception thing. I remember the "ballroom" (my parents kept the dining room empty for dancing) in our house when I was 3 or so as being grand-hotel-HUGE and my room as being tiny as a ship berth. We went back to look years later and it was the exact opposite-normal size dining room and a big 10x12 bedroom.[/QUOTE]

I drove past my grandparents' house recently (they passed some time ago) and the HUGE HUGE forest of enormous trees on the side of the house with those massive trees we used to climb? It's like a clump of four little tress. Ha. Who knew.

OP, I think I'm reacting to the idea that we always should over-explain and bring reality into everything. My husband is like this with our daughter and she finds it just kind of a heavy load to carry. It kills fun conversations and makes Big Life Lessons out of nothing. It's exhausting and it's a drag. Let kids be kids. If she's not outright lying, it does not matter. Your daughter doesn't have to agree, she just doesn't need to argue. There will be LOTS of things that are "true" to her that aren't true to other people. I think learning which of those things would be worth arguing about is JUST as valuable as knowing the actual size of a spider.
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