I’ve always known that I’d have to lie to my kids one day. It’s one of those weird parenting moments (because parenting is all super normal) where you have to make hard decisions (because parenting is normally really easy). We have to teach our kids not to lie, while still occasionally lying to them. Then, once they figure out that we lie regularly, we have to teach them the difference between a white lie, an out-and-out lie, a lie of omission, and pure delusion, as well as when it’s appropriate (or not) to use each. It’s very complicated stuff.
One day, I’ll tell my daughter about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny
as incentive to behave to give her a sense of magic and help foster her imagination. And though I know it’s a lie, I think it’s a lie that will do her more good than harm. I hope to be a parent who is open and honest with my daughter, but I know there will be times when I’ll lie to her. Sometimes I’ll lie to protect her, other times to give her hope, and, more often than not, because I’m still trying to convince myself.
1. Everything will be OK. Well, baby girl, fingers crossed and here’s to hoping! A sentiment spoken to reassure and soothe, the truth is that sometimes it won’t be OK – at least not right away, or for a while, or on any kind of timeline that you would like. Whatever wounds you suffer will heal when they’re supposed to but not before then. At some point, you’ll fall in love and have your heart broken. People will give you advice; they’ll tell you how quickly you’ll heal, they’ll tell you it will be OK. But you might not be OK for a while. Until one day you’ll wake up and you will be.
2. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Bullshit. There are lots of things to be afraid of. I’m still afraid of the dark and things grabbing my feet when I step off the bed. I’m afraid that someone will stab me as I sit enjoying a meal. I’m afraid that I won’t be a good parent and that I won’t write the book I so desperately want to write. And I’m afraid for you, sweetheart. I’m afraid of all the terrible things you’ll run into in life. I’m afraid you’ll get hurt. I’m afraid you’ll get lost. I’m afraid you’ll hate me. I’m afraid of SO.MANY.THINGS. The point is that it’s OK to be afraid as long as you don’t let your fears debilitate you. Don’t let them keep you from living or loving or being yourself.
3. If you’re a good person, good things will happen to you. Sure, and sometimes you’ll be a good person and bad things will happen to you. Like you’ll get cancer, or lose your job, or someone you love will leave you. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, and you’ll feel defeated and worthless. You might feel like there’s no one on your side and no one understands. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, things just suck. Embrace the suck because it won’t last forever, and try to find the good in life, however small or seemingly insignificant, amidst all the awful because the good is what makes life worth living.
4. You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up. If this were true, I’d be a professional writer living the easy life in my Manhattan penthouse. But that’s not how life works. For some, yes, it’s as easy as pie to achieve your dreams and be all that you can be, but for most of us, it takes a lot of work. You’ll need talent, skill, perseverance, and dedication. And sometimes even that isn’t enough. I thought a big smile, passion for dance, and good attitude would be enough to make me a professional dancer. They weren’t. I thought writing a book with relatable characters and quippy one-liners would make it interesting. It didn’t. I thought waving a wand around and making up spells would get me into Hogwarts. It didn’t. If you understand that it won’t always be easy and you don’t let failure discourage you, eventually, you’ll get wherever you want to be.
5. Love is all you need. It is if you want to live on the street with your five kids and loving husband. Only (mostly) kidding. It’s a lovely and romantic notion, but love alone cannot sustain us. Love is patient and kind, but it doesn’t guarantee food or clothing or safety or warmth. It won’t provide you a home. It won’t cure you when you’re sick. It won’t guarantee you security. So while love of self, of others, of God is essential, it alone is not all you need. Don’t let anyone convince you that it is. That, my dear, is a trap you don’t want to fall into.
I don’t want my child to be a cynic like I was, at least not before some heartbreak and rejection, so I’ll tell her these lies to (hopefully) give her confidence and comfort. I’ll tell them lovingly, in the hope that she grows into an optimistic, fearless woman who believes that she can conquer the world. I’ll tell them with a smile and a hug because I’m her mom and that’s my job.
I’ll leave out the fine print though. I may be a liar, but I’m no ruiner of childhoods.