Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lies We Tell Our Children

I am a liar.  I lie daily to my children, if not two or three times a day.  Some of these lies are mere bluffs. Imagine my lovely four-year-old refusing to brush her teeth before bed.  Frustrated, I tell her that if she isn't polishing her pearly whites by the time I count to three, she's in time out.  In actuality, there is no way I am going to prolong the bedtime routine another five-minutes while I drag her kicking and screaming to her room.  However this one little lie accomplishes my main objective; its a quicker path to me sitting in front of the TV watching Bravo.
Photo courtesy of Karin Ascencio.
My lies vary in great degree.  There are small lies like "Sure I'll buy you that princess ballgown for your birthday!".  In reality I am just attempting to make it through Target without a collasal breakdown and her birthday is over five months away, so the possibility that she will remember this request come April is nil to none. 

There are also big lies, such as, "Neko (our cat) went to live on a farm."  We all know what the farm metaphor really stands for, but at the time I wasn't prepared to tell my three-year-old about the harsh realities of pets and death. 

As parents we lie for various reasons.  Many of them are for the benefit of our children, but in all truthfulness, the majority are for our own sake.  Here are just a few:
  1. To save time.  On a typical weekday morning I am in a rush to wrangle two kids into their carseats and make it to preschool by 8:45.  In the process one asks, "Can we watch Team Umizumi this afternoon?" Instead of explaining that there will be no time, what with the myriad of errands I need to accomplish, including toting both girls to the doctor's office for their annual flue shots, I simple respond, "We'll see." The child, satisfied with the response, climbs into the car.
  2. We lie because sometimes we don't know all the answers.  "Mommy, why is that flower blue?"  Having no clue, and knowing that admitting this will get me nowhere with a toddler, I respond, "So that it can combine with the red flowers to make purple ones."
  3. We lie because it is often easier than telling the truth.  "If you don't eat your vegetables, you won't grow big and strong."  To be honest, I've known plenty of children who refused all things green or orange and lived to be healthy adults.  However, explaining nutritional health, the national obesity epidemic, and the value of consuming one's daily vitamins is futile with the four-and-under crowd. 
  4. We lie to be nice.  "I made you a beautiful picture of a butterfly.  Do you like it?"  Umm... what butterfly?  All I see is a pink scribble next to a green one.  "I love it!"
  5. We lie to keep their innocence.  That is what Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy really are- lies we perpetuate to keep our children innocent, young, and believing in magic.  
  6. We lie to protect ourselves.  For parents, simple lies to avoid the subject of death, flow from our mouths like cheap wine-in-a-box.  When seeing a dead pigeon on the sidewalk, I have effortlessly fibbed, "Oh Honey, he is just sleeping."  While I do want to protect my girls from sorrow, I know that the larger part of me is lying to guard my own uncomfortableness with mortality.
I am not advocating dishonest parenting- I know fully well that these are just excuses for my behavior.  I've read the articles that explain how children learn to lie from their parents, and I hope to raise my own girls to be honest and trustworthy.  However, I am still not sure if I am ready to give up my white lies; I just foresee too many extended conversations delaying getting out the door for school, not to mention dinnertime and bedtime.  

1 comment:

  1. I have a 1 year old and I'm not looking forward to the day when I get "Totti, how are babies made?"

    Not quite sure how to answer that for you...