If you ask any parent out there what is one of the most important attributes his or her kids gain in life, honesty is most likely going to be mentioned. We want our kids to be trusted children that grow into trusted adults. We want them to be honest with us even when it hurts. (Well, I could do without the comments on certain outfits that do not meet my four-year-old’s approval, but still.) No matter how perfect we are in this endeavor, there are inevitable lies we have to tell them for their benefit. I find myself in this mental battle constantly. From the Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny issue, to where mommy and daddy go when we get a babysitter. I think the lies we tell our kids make us feel like hypocrites, but in most cases, I think we do this for their benefit. I categorize lies this way: lies of childhood; lies of convenience; and lies for life. Isn’t it horrible that I actually have categories? Please keep reading and I promise I’ll redeem myself.
Lies of Childhood: I have struggled with the Santa factor for years. The lying (especially as they get older) feels wrong, but I don’t want them to miss out on the magic either. I remember when I found out Santa wasn’t real in my own life. It was after a near fist fight in the lunch line. I was in elementary school and things got hostile after a debate over Jolly Old St. Nick’s existence. My own childhood experience is what had me doubting whether or not I should do the same to/for my kids. But if I really think about it, the fun and the magic of believing completely outweigh the coming of age fight with Carissa what’s-her-name. And when the guilt hit me super hard, I consulted Pinterest to see how other parents have revealed the truth about these magic beings. (There are some great ideas out there, and I’m not too proud to borrow solutions.) I have only had to tell one child so far, but he believed up until the minute I revealed the truth. I chose to do this in his 5th grade year, because middle school is hard enough without having to be the only kid that still believes.
Lies of Convenience: Another lie I find myself telling my children really isn’t a lie at all. My kids get the occasional babysitter, and ours are very good; however, my daughter wants only me at this particular stage of her life. We tell our kids that mommy and daddy are going to a meeting when we go out for the night. To be technical, at meetings, adults discuss issues, view presentations, and many times the meetings take so long that they have to eat during them. So, when my hubs and I get a rare night out, we go out to dinner, we converse about pressing issues, and we may catch a game on a TV at a sports bar. All of these can loosely be tied to what occurs at actual meetings. Therefore, we aren’t really lying, and the kids would rather be with the babysitter than at a boring meeting. I am really sort of proud of this one.
Lies for Life: There are times in my children’s lives where they don’t make the best decisions. For example, any time one of them tries to skip washing his or her hands after the bathroom, or when one of them tries to hide behind clothing racks at department stores, or even the dreaded feast of “freshly” fallen snow that was actually just moved over from the dirty street by a dirty snow plow. In order to put a healthy fear into them, I may stretch the truth of what could happen if these events occur.
Let’s take the hand washing. I may or may not have told all three of my children separately that neglect of hygiene such as that leads to terrible disease, and if they like dry hands more than they like not projectile vomiting, then be my guest. Or the Nemo threat. If they like to hide from mom in a store (where there are strangers) then they must not have paid close enough attention to when Nemo touched the boat after his dad warned him not to. “Look what happened to Nemo.” We are to the point now that if one of them makes the decision to hide, I simply say, “Nemo,” and they come crawling back. Finally, my son that won’t drink out of public drinking fountains because of other people’s germs, has no problem consuming handfuls of snow from our cul-de-sac’s ever growing snow pile. Like Kelly with her snow eater, I am forced to tell him that each time he dines, he could be consuming squirrel and bunny excrement, salt/sand mix from the road, and germs from each person who has ever driven in our neighborhood. The feast is cancelled and healthy snow play resumes.
To be fair, none of these lies are 100% lies. These things could be true; I may have just exaggerated for the benefit of their childhood memories, our family’s happiness, or their overall health. No, my lies are the truth stretched until it almost snaps (except for the Santa one). When the truth comes knocking on my children’s doors, I hope and trust that they will understand why I said what I did. After all, it was only for their benefit.