It’s the age-old debate – is it OK to lie to your children?
Let’s settle the debate right now – it absolutely is, and it’s actually rather necessary to survive being a parent.
This point was driven home as I was at dinner with my family recently. In a nearby booth was a young girl, maybe 3. It was evident that she is close to being potty trained, based on her repeated attempts to go use the restroom. After the 37th attempt to climb out of the booth and go potty, I heard her dad say, “No, we can’t. Remember – the potty is broken here.”
The potty was not broken. But that parents resorted to one of the lies of necessity needed to ensure that you survive parenthood and, on a rare occasion, finish a meal in a restaurant.
My wife and I have told my kids our share of whoppers. Some are just for fun, and they realize that. My daughter, for example, no longer believes that we got her at the zoo, shaved her and cut off her tail. My son is starting to see some possible mistruths in the story that he was hatched from an alien egg, although some days I’m not totally sure that’s made up.
But most of the lies we have told our kids were what I call Survival Lies, much like the lie about the bathroom being out of commission.
So allow me to confess some of my great lies:
• When my daughter was a baby, I never once drove to Cleveland. When she was a baby, she was allergic to naps, and the only way we could effectively get her to sleep was to drive her around. I would go to put her in the car, and, as I was buckling her in she would always ask where we were going. “Cleveland,” I would say. Never even came close to Ohio.
• My wife did not attend a meeting every night during the time when my son was between the ages of 2 and 4. During that stretch, he developed a quite particular bedtime routine. If my wife was around, he would want to hang out with her and play and frolic and just, you know, not sleep. If I took him and rocked in a chair with some music, he would be lights out in a few minutes, assuming Mommy was not home. Thus, “Mommy’s at a meeting.” Mommy was usually downstairs, being as quiet as possible.
• We cannot, in fact, predict the future. However, we have told them that we can since they were old enough to understand that superpower. Oftentimes, it would involve something like my son standing on the window ledge outside of our house. “Parker, don’t take another step. I’ve seen the future. You fall.” He would respond with “Nuh-uh,” take a step and plummet to the ground. Future predicted, in his mind.
• Halloween candy does not go bad. At least, not in a week.
• Yelling in a car not does make cows go on a stampede. My wife once brought a rowdy car to a beautiful silence by pointing to a field of cows and loudly stating, “Kids! There are cows! Be quiet while your dad is driving past them!”
• The splatter radius of hot grease is not the entire kitchen. From an early age, my kids heard, “I’m cooking. You can’t come in the kitchen. Grease could splatter you.” Yeah, I just kinda wanted a few minutes of peace and quiet and maybe watch some “Jeopardy!”
Granted, I realize now that I have been simply doing what my parents did to me. For example, when I was a kid, my parents sent the kids out of the den so that they could watch the TV show “Barney Miller.” They said it was not appropriate for kids. I have since watched “Barney Miller.” I now know they told me that because they just wanted 30 minutes of peace and quiet to watch a show.
So, the short answer to the debate – lie away. Just make the tall tales worthwhile. They’ll understand one day, when they lie to their kids. And I know they will. Because I can predict the future.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @StandardMike.