Liar, liar, Mom Jeans on Fire!Posted: August 15, 2011
I’d be lying if I said I always tell my children the truth. And while I’m sure it doesn’t make me a lock for Mother-of-the-Year, (that ship undoubtedly sailed the morning I served fruit rollups for breakfast) I don’t think it makes me unfit either. The truth is that telling a few well-intentioned white lies can actually be a fairly effective parenting strategy. And to be honest, sometimes it just gets me through the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging inventing vast networks of lies that you need a spreadsheet to keep track of. But our kids don’t need to know everything. Nor can they handle everything. Obviously, you adjust what you choose to share with your kids as they get older and more mature. My kids are 7 and 10, and by this point I’d say 99.9% of the time, I tell my children the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They both know where babies come from. They both know that nobody lives forever. And they both know Mommy’s hair doesn’t necessarily grow out of her head this color.
The lie one chooses to tell, ultimately depends on one’s motivation. More often not, we fib to either keep our kids safe (“If you go outside with wet hair, you will catch cold,”) or to simplify a complicated situation (“The mechanical horsey is broken,” when you have one quarter but two children). Below are some of the various lies, half-truths, fabrications, and otherwise un-true things I have told my children at some point during their relatively short lives. Sadly, I can no longer get away with most of these.
I have lied in the best interests of my children:
- The car engine won’t turn on until your seatbelt is buckled.
- Eating spinach will give you big muscles.
- College is mandatory by law.
- You’ll love this new kind of chicken (otherwise knows as Tilapia).
I have lied to save my children’s feelings:
- Yours was the best pinch pot in the whole class.
- The shot will only hurt for a second.
- That bunny in the road is just sleeping.
- That is a hilarious knock-knock joke.
Then, there are the lies I’ve told for completely and utterly self-serving reasons.
- Only one Reeses peanut butter cup comes in a pack.
- Santa won’t come until you’re asleep.
- We’re out of batteries.
- Mommy and Daddy are taking a nap.
Of course, there are the societal and seasonal lies (think: holiday friends and dental darlings). These are things we tell our kids in the spirit of preserving their innocence and creating a sense of magic. The adult world is appallingly un-magical and since they have the rest of their lives to live in it, I feel no guilt whatsoever in inventing a bit of wonder and joy while they are young enough to believe. Besides, these lies have an internal expiration date (usually between six and ten, depending on older siblings and know-it-all classmates). I believe these are victimless lies and very rarely do they cause a child to feel betrayed when the truth eventually comes out. In fact, most kids play along long after they’ve stopped believing because they enjoy the charade so much.
Undoubtedly, there are some parents out there who never, ever tell their kids even the smallest of fibs. (They are probably the same people who use cloth diapers, eat only organic foods, and drive electric cars.) If you are one of these parents, then good for you. I admire your resolve, your integrity, and your discipline. But for the less virtuous among us, there are some instances when stretching the truth – or circumventing it entirely -can sure come in handy. Believe me. (Or maybe not, given what I’ve just confessed.)