For the most part, I try to be honest with my children and I hope for honesty back from them. We talk frankly about death and dying. We use the correct words for our anatomies. We encourage questions without guilt. But here are a few instances when I am okay with lying. And by “I am okay with lying” I mean I embrace the heck out of it. For instance:
- My omniscience. I am not all-seeing. But my kids don’t know that. Case in point. The other day I was not home for breakfast. Yet I deduced that my daughter had yogurt for breakfast and then put the empty yogurt cup on her head. (Can you tell how?) When I asked her later that day if she had put a yogurt cup on her head, she looked at me puzzled for a moment before fessing up. I see it all, children. I see it all. So don’t even try to put the cat in the refrigerator.
- I don’t know where it is. Yes I do. I know exactly where it is. I know with a weird accuracy where every single thing the kids have ever touched is at any given time. I can’t remember the word for “wagon” occasionally and I have to write down any potential plans to have even a shot of remembering to be where I’m supposed to be, but I know where that Lego guy’s arm is that got torn off 3 weeks ago. I also know where in the basement I put the toys that the kids have outgrown, are too loud, or otherwise have been relegated to toy purgatory. So – no kids, I don’t know where that guitar is that the baby got for his birthday. (Yes I do. It’s hiding in the basement.)
- It’s seven o’clock. We start our bedtime routine at 7 p.m. Unless I decide that bedtime needs to be started at 6:45 p.m. Or 6 p.m. Or whenever the heck I feel like it based on a complicated calculus of how tired the kids seem; how many tantrums they’ve thrown; how badly I need a break; and how much stuff I have left to do, among others. Then bedtime is “7 p.m.”
- The perils of smoking. The perils of smoking are real, don’t get me wrong. But I may have slightly exaggerated the probability and speed with which the potential perils may appear. It all started about a year ago when we spoke in passing to a man who had a laryngectomy. After we passed him, I weighed the pros and cons of explaining why the man sounded different, and then decided to just go ahead and put the fear of smoking in them: “Did you notice that man had a different-sounding voice? He had to have his throat taken out because he smoked cigarettes.” This led to more questions about smoking, and ended with the conclusion that if you smoke you will smell bad, your clothes will turn funny colors, you will lose your throat and eventually die. What can I say, I don’t like smoking. I have dialed this back a bit after my son started accosting strangers on the street about their smoking habits. Bad choices, not bad people.
- There’s no more. This is not technically a lie, because there is no more that they are allowed to eat. But sometimes it’s so much easier to just “run out” of the maple syrup rather than have sugar-fueled arguing for the rest of the morning.
- That’s a big help. I want to get my kids involved in cleaning and cooking. At this point, their attempts are not always huge successes. Their idea of putting things away is throwing things into a box with no consequence as to whether they will be able to find them again. Watching them stir in the dry ingredients gives me a mild panic attack as I envision all the baking soda landing on the counter. But I hope as they continue to practice and get satisfaction out of making things look or taste good, they will get better. So I always tell them they were a big help.
- My motivations. SUCH a big help in fact, maybe they can watch an episode of Diego as a reward. Nothing to do with me needing to clean up flour from all over the kitchen uninterrupted.
- I have to go the bathroom. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I just need to check my phone in peace.
How about you? Are there any lies you tell your kids without guilt? (And thanks for the idea Tumbleweed!)