I lied to Kathryn last night. In fact, I do it almost daily. My husband lies to her, too. We do our best to teach our child to always be truthful. It’s something I attempt to instill in all of my Girl Scouts: To be honest and fair. Yet, in the same troop meeting, I may end up lying to my girls. Hypocritical as it may sound, though, my child was grounded for a week for doing just that: Lying.
We all lie to our kids, really. It’s not always consciously planned. When we know we’re expecting, we plan the decor. We plan the name. We have aspirations of what they’ll be when they grow up. We plan what schools they’ll attend (sometimes right down to the University). But, do we always sit down and ask our partners “Will we lie to our progeny?”? Typically, no. However, it was a debate in my home when we were pregnant. It continues to be one that typically ends with one of us rolling our eyes.
We started lying to our child when she was about 10 months old. We have it on video. It involved two Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, a little stuffed puppy dog (that my daughter still adores), candy and some Link-a-Doos. Last night, it involved a crisp dollar bill.
We lie to our children in the interest of preservation. We want them to be shielded from some the awful realities of the world as long as possible. Consequentially, we give them fantasies and we revel in the joy of imagining these fantasies played out. We tell them about Prince Charming, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny because we enjoy seeing their faces. Sometimes, however, we tell them lies to prevent having to further explain something horrible. Sometimes, we just gloss over some of the truth.
I remember when I was five and we lived in Atlanta, GA. Another missing child had been reported the night before. “Mom, do you think he went to Six Flags?” I remember asking. “No, baby, I don’t think so,” my mom replied. I remember not asking for more details, or even why my mom doubted that a young child would want to run away to an amusement park. I mean, it sounded like a great plan to me! I just remember the somber quiet in our Toyota Corolla as we drove past the roller coasters.
When I was 11, we were a week away from moving again; this time from Houston to a suburb of L.A. Before I left for school that January morning, my mom told me to be sure to say good-bye to my orange tabby, Beezus. I recall thinking it was odd for my mom to tell me to do so, but I obeyed with no questions asked. That afternoon, when I was picked up from school, she told me that Beezus had died earlier in the day. Several years later, it occurred to me that she had suggested that special attention to my kitty because she was putting him to sleep. He was seriously ill with FLV and would have never been able to survive the cross-country trip. She hid the truth from me to prevent me from blaming her for his passing. It was all in the interest of preservation of my innocence.
Earlier this year, a stray cat had found its way to my parents’ home. Kathryn adores cats. She’d go out on their porch for long stretches just to play with him. It was obvious he wasn’t terribly healthy. He was ravenous, skinny and slightly matted. One morning, my dad was walking along the dirt road that runs along side their rural Searcy home. There, he found the trace remains of the stray. The cat was a victim of a coyote attack the previous night. To this day, Kathryn believes he just ran away. Because she’s so inquisitive, I chose to give her that answer rather than the disturbing details of my father’s find.
And so, as I mentioned earlier, my husband and I still debate over lying to Kathryn, as he calls it. I call it a tradition that every child goes through that most parents enjoy playing along with. He is bracing himself for her heartbreak when she learns the truth. I want to make it last as long as I can, though I know that she is at the age where most children learn the truth. He once said he didn’t want to be the one to break it to her since we’re only doing it upon my encouraging, anyway.
Last night, I lied to Kathryn. I told her that I had to leave the front door unlocked to let the Tooth Fairy in. Kathryn leaves a note for the Tooth Fairy each time a visit is warranted. Last time, she asked the Tooth Fairy for a photo of herself. The Fairy replied that she doesn’t carry photos of herself, but said that she’s so tiny, that it was hard to get a good photo of her anyway, especially in the dark. Kathryn seemed satisfied with that answer. What Kathryn doesn’t know is that last night, instead of wearing wings, glitter and a tu-tu, the Tooth Fairy was actually 5’11”, 190lbs, has a deep voice, facial hair and would never be caught dead wearing pink or glitter. I’m also sure he locked our front door.