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But why had he entrusted us with his deepest secret? I asked him why.
"Because you're children and you can understand it," he said, "and because I heard that one-"
He jerked his head at Dill: "Things haven't caught up with that one's instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry. Maybe things'll strike him as being—not quite right, say, but he won't cry, not when he gets a few years on him." (20.18-22)
Growing up means going from weeping uncontrollably at displays of injustice, to feeling a vague sense that things aren't quite right. The good: it's hard to get through the day if you're weeping uncontrollably. The bad: vague feelings aren't usually enough to make anything change. Is there a way to keep the sharp sense of injustice without needing to carrying a hankie everywhere?
The adults in Maycomb never discussed the case with Jem and me; it seemed that they discussed it with their children, and their attitude must have been that neither of us could help having Atticus for a parent, so their children must be nice to us in spite of him. The children would never have thought that up for themselves: had our classmates been left to their own devices, Jem and I would have had several swift, satisfying fist-fights apiece and ended the matter for good. As it was, we were compelled to hold our heads high and be, respectively, a gentleman and a lady. (26.10)
Faced with an adult conflict, the children are forced to act like adults. It may be less violent than the kid's method of fighting it out, bottling up those emotions means that they fester more than they would otherwise. Would matters have calmed down faster in Maycomb if, instead of a trial, there had been a celebrity death match between the two sides?
I said I would like it very much, which was a lie, but one must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can't do anything about them. (13.20)
Adulthood lesson numero uno: sometimes doing what people want you to do is the best way. Is it moral? Well, when it comes to little white lies to spare someone's feelings—maybe it actually is.