Yes, I know lying is wrong. We have a strict no-lying policy in our house. For kids, that is. However, as the parent, lying is not only necessary, but a matter of survival…
1. Lies to protect our own sanity. These are the lies we tell because no one prepared you for the most heinous invention ever: battery operated talking toys with no “off” button. And because as a former Riot Grrl, you simply cannot read Barbie’s Princess Charm School without banging your head against a wall. And because the Pinkalicious game has no fucking point. So yes, we smuggle these items out of our kids’ bedrooms in the middle of the night like a Columbian drug lord and then tell them we don’t have a clue where there objects went. We have to keep what sanity we have left.
2. Lies to keep the magic of childhood alive. These cover everything from those treats left by the Easter Bunny to the good old “the cat was too old to walk up the steps of our house anymore, so we sent him to a farm where he will be much happier.” Seriously, do you want to explain to your three year old what’s in that teeny mahogany box engraved with “Our Beloved Hobbes” on it? Let them be a kid a little while longer. They have many years to ponder the existence of an afterlife.
3. Lies to manage behavior. These bad boys are the lies you use to scare your children into acting like civilized human beings. Like when you tell the kids they are only allowed to browse in the toy aisle for 5 minutes, or else the Target police will come ticket them for loitering. Or “I’m on the phone with your dentist right now- he says if you don’t brush your teeth he has to take them all out”. Or “Hannah Montana always listens to her mom and dad”. (This example is pretty much worthless now).
4. Lies to raise their self esteem. This is why we have a whole nation of kids who expect a trophy for just putting on cleats. Let’s not kid ourselves, it does matter whether you win or lose. But we keep telling kids they’re doing a great job, even when they’re not. Like praising my son for his talents in recorder-playing. Even if played properly, that instrument sounds like dying cattle. So I tell my son he’s doing a great job. Mostly because if I don’t, he’ll keep practicing.
5. Lies to avoiding admitting you don’t know the answer. Sometimes your kids’ questions catch you off guard, and they demand an answer before you have a chance to Google. This is tricky, especially when your kid starts to catch onto the lie, as demonstrated by my discussion with my son about evolution when he was five years old:
“Mom, what was here before people?”
“Where did the people come from?”
“We just evolved”
“Uh…” (I don’t know, it’s like explaining ‘savory’- there’s no way to do it. But I have to give it my best shot)
“Well, basically after a lot of monkeys started getting good at things like standing up, they became people” (Somewhere Darwin is rolling over in his grave).
“After many millions of years of monkeys, the newest monkeys were just born standing up, and we call them people”
“Weren’t they just standing monkeys?” (Shit, he’s onto me)
“No, they were people.”
“But you said they were monkeys”
“Yes, monkey people”
“yes, there were monkeys, then monkey people, then just people”
“there were monkey people?” (Oh crap, I hope he doesn’t tell his teacher about this….so I just stare at him)
He repeats: ” monkey people and standing monkeys?”
“Exactly!! evolution! Do you want a cookie?”
Eventually, you stop lying to your kids. Partly because lying is inherently wrong. But ultimately you realize you no longer need lies to get through this crazy ride called parenthood. Instead, you reach into your parenting arsenal for two new weapons: truth and trust. You wake up one day and see your kid is growing into an actual person, one with tough questions and even harder decisions. Honesty and trust become the foundation of the bond you and your child need to have so you can help them navigate through this crazy world.
Oh, who am I kidding. You stop lying because you get old and you can barely remember what you ate for dinner last night, let alone which lie you told which kid.