AW

Spilling the Beans

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on January 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

Did you ever wonder where cliches come from?  Most of the time, these little catch phrases that we throw around make little  (if any) sense when taken literally.  Yet we constantly use them as a part of our regular vocabulary without ever giving it much thought.

We have all accepted that “spilling the beans” means revealing a secret of some kind.  Most of the time, they are not secrets that are life-altering.  In fact, the most common use of the phrase is when someone ruins some kind of surprise that would have been revealed in the near or distant future anyway.

If you ever want to make sure that someone “spills the beans,” tell your secret to a 3-yr old and tell them not to tell anyone.  It’s a virtual guarantee that the secret will be revealed as soon as humanly possible. At least that is the case with my little girl.

You should see the smile on her face when she reveals the contents of a gift-wrapped box, just as the recipient is about to open it. Sometimes, it doesn’t even get that far.  There have been times recently where my daughter literally “spilled the beans” as we were walking in the door to someone’s house with a gift.

Clearly, 3-yr olds have no filter.  If you are ever looking for an honest opinion about something…ask a 3-yr old.  They are like miniature versions of Simon Cowell – brutally honest, with no regard for someone’s feelings.  So it should come as no surprise that their ability to keep a secret is virtually non-existent.

Yesterday, my daughter found a way to bring the cliche from the abstract to the literal as she grabbed a bowl of beans that my wife was preparing for dinner, and spilled them all over the floor (see photo above). This, despite several warnings not to touch the bowl.  Although I wasn’t there to witness it, I was only in the door for about 30 seconds when my father-in-law and son “spilled the beans” about what had happened shortly before my arrival.

Unfortunately, this was just one example of defiance in what has become a bit of a limit-testing ritual.  Yesterday was a particularly bad behavioral day, filled with tantrums, bossy demands and my 3-yr old’s version of vandalism.  We all have our bad days, but they usually are based on the day’s events, not random, attention-seeking acts.  Had I been there to witness this, I would not have been pleased (to put it mildly).  But by the time that I found out about it, everything had been cleaned up (although not before photo evidence was taken at the scene of the crime).

I lied down next to my daughter in the living room and calmly asked her why she spilled the beans all over the floor.  She rolled over, smiled from ear to ear, gave me a big hug and a kiss, and said…“because I love you!” Suddenly, her irrational act of defiance didn’t seem so bad.  Sure she spilled the beans, but she obviously had a perfectly justifiable reason for doing so!

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  1. Kids! Gotta love them! It doesn’t stop when they get older. My yougest son told his friends what he brought them for their birthday gifts last year when he was 6!! But love your daughters reason for “spilling the beans” what a doll!!

  2. Adam,
    The derivation of this expression is sometimes said to be a voting system used in ancient Greece. The story goes that white beans indicated positive votes and black beans negative. Votes had to be unanimous, so if the collector ‘spilled the beans’ before the vote was complete and a black bean was seen, the vote was halted.

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