Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lying to Your Kids

I recently a read an article about the lies we tell our kids that makes lying seem ok, and even, well, fun.  I struggle with this view of the world.  Lying to get kids to wear seatbelts in the car or to stop kicking the seat on an airplane?  I understand being harried and quickly coming up with these falsehoods in a moment of weakness, but I hope these parents followed up at some point and told their kids the truth.  And telling kids that ice cream is really cauliflower so that they won't want any seems to me to just avoiding the difficulty of saying "you can't have ice cream right now" -- and I find that a symptom of the perenial problem of parents who can't say "no."

There is no doubt that it is difficult to tell the truth sometimes.  Kids ask tough questions at times when you're not expecting them.  When my son was about 2 or 3 he asked where babies come from in a crowded elevator -- and you've never seen an elevator empty out so fast!  More recently, my boys have expressed curiosity about our finances and income -- and the temptation coat the truth is certainly there since it isn't information we think they need right now.  But instead, DH and I tell them that we don't want to discuss it with them at this point, that we don't think the numbers are meaningful until they can really understand the larger context.

I remember when I was little, my mom referred to beer as my dad's "brown medicine" (because his brand came in brown bottles).  I still don't know why she did that.  Why not just say "it's beer and it's not for kids?"  These kinds of lies led to more lies, such as the time when I was about 6 that I was hit by a car while on my bike and I hid the incident from my mom for years, despite a huge scar on my stomach that took years to disappear.

Note: A version of this post is included in the anthology Songs of Ourselves, published by Blue Heron Book Works.

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