How wrong is it to lie to your children? I mean we tell all those elaborate fibs about
Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and that Mischievous
Magic Gnome that sometimes locks mommy and daddy in their room for no apparent
reason in the middle of the day… Um… Of course, not everyone celebrates the same…things… I’m just saying we go to a lot of trouble for
this stuff. Milk and Cookies. Hiding eggs.
Risking life and limb to sneak into a dark and treacherously messy room
to exchange that little tooth for a dollar.
It’s like a game for grownups. A
few nights a year, we pretend to be covert agents. Tell me you’ve never played the Mission
Impossible theme music in your head as you slide your hand under that
pillow. It can’t really just be me.
I’ve heard of people who get really bent out of shape about
these kinds of lies. They feel betrayed. They trusted their parents and how could they
dare tell these blatant lies to an innocent, impressionistic child? Really?
Personally, I think these people are WAY too sensitive. Seriously, grow up. I love that my parents cared enough to give
me a little magic in this otherwise grim and unsympathetic world. No matter how cold the world becomes, at
least I believed in something magical at least once in my life.
But what about all those other lies? As parents, we want so badly to protect them
from the world. And as such, there are
truths that we’re not immediately comfortable with. Like where meat comes from. No mom is in any hurry to tell her children
where pork chops come from. Or
cheeseburgers. Or Chicken
McNuggets. And we certainly can’t discuss
sex with our children! God no! We cannot possibly tell them where babies really come from. We invent stories of noble storks and magical
cabbage patches to explain away those perfectly natural, if incredibly
uncomfortable questions about the origins of our individual lives. And really, after we’re all grown up, we look
back on those lies we were told with heartfelt gratitude. Because Mom DID NOT DO THAT. End of story.
And if birth is an awkward subject, death is unthinkable. Family pets don’t die. They just go away. The goldfish is just taking the toilet back home
to his family who live out in the ocean.
Sparky didn’t get run over, he just ran away. Great Grandma moved to Florida. We don’t even realize how many lies we
And then there are the lies we can’t help but want to tell
them. After you’ve spent all day
cleaning that messy closet, don’t you just want to tell them about the child-devouring
monster that lives in there so they’ll stay the hell out of it and leave it
nice and clean? Because you know
otherwise it’s going to be trashed by bedtime.
Aren’t you at least a little bit tempted? And what better way to keep them out of the
basement? Or the attic? Or the cabinet where you keep your Spice
Girls doll collection? Or…you know…whatever
you happen to be into… All I’m saying is
that fear is a powerful motivator, people!
Parents have been using the boogeyman and his kind to keep kids in line
since the dark ages. To this day, I’ve never
incurred the wrath of the unthinkable demon that dwells in my dad’s
dresser… (Mental note: sometimes when we outgrow the fantasy, what
remains is infinitely more terrifying…)
And really, it’s not exactly
a lie that too much candy will give you nightmares. I mean it could…right? Maybe?
I mean it never gave me nightmares,
but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen to my kids... Better safe than sorry, right? And so what if I don’t have proof that my favorite kinds of candy just happen to
cause the worst nightmares? It’s still a
Is it wrong to tell them that it’s against the law to take
them to the ice cream shop because you forgot to renew your ice cream buying
permit? Should I feel bad for showing my
kids a picture of Hiroshima and telling them that’s what happens when a child
shakes the soda her dad asked her to bring him from the fridge? What about saying we can’t get a puppy
because we live next to a Lutheran church?
(It’s a religious thing. I don’t
really get it.) We can’t buy that doll
because it might offend certain social stereotypes. You can’t spend the night at Billy’s house
because his parents are communist spies.
Little things like that. Like
when you tell them they need to take a nap because you need to take a nap. Or
that they need to eat more Brussels sprouts because they’re good for them, not
because you hate them and don’t want to have to finish off the dish.
I’m just saying that sometimes a little white lie can’t
hurt. And if Santa Claus can really
come down the chimney once a year, when we don’t even have a fireplace, why
can’t a few nightmares help ensure that they leave some of that candy for me? I don’t think it’s all that