Before I got pregnant, I was one of those people who was sure she’d never lie to her children. I’d teach honesty! I’d model how to deal with disappointment! How could they trust me if I lie to them? Lying to kids ruins them for life and turns them into crack addicts! This line of reasoning continued even when my twins were babies, although, to be fair, it was also a time when I was staunchly no-TV and completely anti-sugar. But these days, with two almost-3-year-olds, things have changed dramatically. Television has become my beloved co-parent, and I am totally not above bribing my children with chocolate chips or animal crackers.
And I lie to them all the time. (Sorry, not sorry.)
Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t a great idea. But as soon as I realized how much easier a few well-placed white lies made living with two energetic and sassy toddlers, well, it was just too good an option to pass up.
1. It’s Broken
A perennial go-to classic. You’re begging to watch another episode of PAW Patrol even though I’ve been trying to get us ready to go out for the past 15 minutes? Sorry, television’s broken. You want to press all the buttons on the cordless phone and probably accidentally call China or 911? Oops, looks like this freshly unplugged phone is broken. You want to climb up to the kitchen sink and splash water all over the floor? Oh, that’s too bad, the faucet’s broken.
Sometimes, if the stars have aligned and I’ve been able to sufficiently caffeinate myself, I’ll tell the truth and endure the resulting tantrum like a mature, responsible role model of a parent. But on the days I’m exhausted and stressed and counting down the hours until I can put them to bed? You bet a lot of stuff is suddenly going to be mysteriously broken in our house.
2. It’s Coffee
I don’t mess around when it comes to coffee. Mama’s coffee is sacred. We do not mess with Mama’s coffee. My twins quickly learned that coffee is hot, and little children do not drink coffee. They accepted both of those ideas surprisingly easily, so I decided to use this to my advantage.
Iced tea? It’s coffee. Diet Coke? Coffee. Wine? That’s coffee too. Any drink I don’t want them to have? COFFEE.
Eventually I’m sure they’ll clue in that no human being on earth could possibly drink this much coffee and still be alive, but for now it works, so I’m going to use it.
3. I’m Working
As a writer, I work from home, and I do it all on my laptop. Once, my husband explained to the kids that the reason they couldn’t disturb mom in her office was because she was working, and they were entirely accommodating about it. But I also do a lot of other things on the computer. Lots of other non-work things. Like Facebook, and Pinterest, and reading the latest news about Kim Kardashian’s fetus. The kind of mindless, time-wasting things that let me take a break and help me stay sane. But now, almost every single time my daughter sees me at the computer, she’ll ask, “You’re working, Mom?”
Uh, yes. Yes I am. Totally, very much, working on important things. Can you come back in five minutes?
4. The Dog Wants You To
I’m pretty sure that having a dog is pretty much the best thing in the world when you are 2. As a result, the family pet has a surprising level of clout in our household, at least according to the twins. But since I’m the one who feeds her and walks her and vacuums up her endlessly shedding fur, I decided it was only fair that she do a little something for me in return. My kids may not always listen to me when I ask them to do something, but they will listen to Penny.
Let’s go up to your room—Penny wants to tuck you in so you can take a nap! Oh, Penny’s barking. Must be because she wants you to lie down so I can change your poopy diaper. Penny wants you to go back to bed because she thinks 5 a.m. is not an acceptable waking time (okay, so that one has never worked, but you can’t fault a girl for trying).
5. It’s Medicine
My kids have recently decided, as kids do, that medicine is vile and that it shall not pass their lips no matter what the circumstances. This is frustrating and miserable 99 percent of the time, but sometimes I use it to my advantage, like when there is something in the cupboard I don’t want them to touch.
Oh, that box that looks like Girl Scout cookies? It’s actually medicine. We only have medicine when we’re sick. That chunk of $6 fudge that I bought at the farmer’s market in a moment of PMS-induced weakness? Yeah, that’s medicine. (Come to think of it, it does seem to take the edge off those cramps.)
I know that blatantly lying to my kids doesn’t exactly make me Mom of the Year, but I don’t feel bad about it. Because what I know now that I didn’t know then is that, sometimes as a parent, you just need to do whatever gets you through the day. No guilt required.