Lies Parents Tell

by Nancy Davis Kho
Originally Published: 

As a parent, teaching your child to be truthful is right up there with teaching them how to walk, talk, and use a flush toilet. Important life skills, to be sure. No one likes a liar. That’s why their pants spontaneously combust.

But learning about hypocrisy is also important. Herewith, girls, your hypocritical mother comes clean with the four lies I have lobbed at you over the years. I had my reasons, which you may yourself understand some day. Here are four lies parents tell… yes, even me:

1. The cleaning man must have thrown it away. Once a month, we have a very nice young man and his helper come clean our house. They are lovely people who may be the only people on earth who can get the kids’ bedrooms to look, for a brief shining moment, like they’re going to be in a magazine shoot. The tschotkes on the dresser are lined up, the books are straightened, and they even have a special way of arranging the stuffed animals to look charming, not messy.

These are not throwing-away people. But your mother is.

Under cover of the cleaning people, I have made periodic sweeps to pick up items like Mardi Gras beads you’re hoarding until next February, books that are “novelizations” of half hour children’s sitcoms, old Halloween costume components, and stuffed animals languishing at the bottom of the toy box. Cluttered room, cluttered mind, I always say, and I want you to have space for your expansive thoughts. You rarely miss these items, but when you do? I blame the cleaning man, and swallow the guilt as you fix him with a hairy eyeball stare when he crosses the threshold. Then I overpay him.

2. Our car radio doesn’t get Radio Disney. Radio Disney programming consists of a never-ending roster of ads and songs by Disney Channel “stars” and their latest overproduced songs. I had been warned by more experienced parents who’d been trapped in the car as they did their daily rounds, saccharine pop songs ricocheting off the interior like flak. As their children sang along gaily, the parents’ own musical souls were being slowly beaten like a chained junkyard dog.

As someone who sleeps in a “What Would Joan Jett Do?” t-shirt, I could not take that risk.

This was an easy one, because by law you kids were both still riding in the back seat of the car during the years you requested Radio Disney. The dashboard, from that perspective, is an inscrutable collection of gauges and knobs and dials. I would just grab the air conditioning dial and turn it up and down a few times, then say “Huh! That’s really weird. We just don’t seem to get that station. Let’s listen to Mom’s new Crowded House CD instead!”

Result? You have been bred with such excellent musical taste that for your first concert, you asked to go to see Neil Finn solo show at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and I wept tears of pride.

3. Dad must have finished the last cookies. Kids, do the math. Dad is an ectomorph who rides his bike 125 miles a week and spends eleven hours a day at the office. You watch him leave, and you watch him come home.

Mom is a stay at home writer who will stop at nothing to avoid the hard work of, you know, actually writing. Do you think unguarded chocolate chip cookies in the jar upstairs stand a chance of survival when deadlines are still two weeks away? Think again. The apple slices I offered you instead were a much healthier option anyway.

4. Those accessories DO make my outfit look better. When you guys insisted that my little-black-dress-and-heels combo would be much improved if I wore a pair of dangling earrings you made out of paperclips, my great aunt Edna’s cocktail ring so big it has a hinge, and the pop-apart pearl necklace Grandma Laura gave you to play dress-up, I never disagreed. I may have looked like one of the bridge and tunnel office workers from “Working Girl,” but I wouldn’t have risked hurting your feelings by taking those things off. In fact, I probably complimented your sartorial eye.

But if you were watching me closely, you’d have seen me slipping a couple of things from my good jewelry box into my purse. You’ve certainly wondered aloud why the fancy jewelry you picked out for me a few nights prior was still in the well between the front seats of the car.

When I told you that I took them off after the party, the only lie was in the timing.

Related post: 18 Lies Moms Tell Their Kids to Stay Sane

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