Rachel Buchanan

And other harmless lies we tell our kids

Photo by Miguel Andrade via Unsplash

Sometimes as a parent, we may hide the truth from our children in an effort to spare their feelings or to shield them from the harsh reality of life.

Of course I think the macaroni necklace you made is beautiful! Why am I not wearing it? Well…because I’m saving it for a special occasion.

And while I, for one, have never said Oh, the fish is just sleeping upside down right now instead of being honest and using it as a teaching opportunity about life and death, I have no qualms with those parents who have.

But in all honesty, the little fibs I tell my children are usually self-serving, and told out of my own convenience more than anything.

I’m sorry, they’ve sold out of Happy Meals®. Look, I don’t need another cheap plastic toy lying around the other house. Or in my car, rather, because that’s usually where they remain. And I know you’re going to eat more than 4 nuggets, so let’s just order the 10-piece combo meal so I don’t have to cook a second dinner when we get home.

You can’t find the toy you got in your Happy Meal®? Hmm…that’s strange. Maybe you left it somewhere. Or maybe it’s in the city dump by now. On the rare occasion that I do order from the kids’ menu, I eventually end up throwing the toy away. The same goes for anything from a claw or gumball machine, a goody bag from a birthday party, or any toy — cheap or not — that is broken beyond repair. But something strange happens, like a sixth sense being awakened in my child, the moment the worthless piece of plastic crap has hit the trashcan. Without fail, I will be asked for some obscure, smiley face eraser that has been buried at the bottom of a toy chest for two months— the day after I’ve tossed it. How does that happen?

Go back to sleep, it’s still nighttime. In reality, it’s 6:00 a.m. But to a toddler with no concept of time nor ability to read a clock, if it’s dark out, it’s not morning yet. And nobody — especially Mommy — should be out of bed before daylight.

Once upon a time…the end. Sometimes when it’s late and you’re tired, even a 5 minute bedtime story feels like an eternity. Perhaps you’ve read the same book so many times that now you just paraphrase the general storyline. Maybe you do read it word-for-word, but skip every other page. Or maybe, the lame-o book about a pig eating corn and walking around saying hi to his fellow farm animals is just so idiotic that you completely ad lib the entire story altogether. Whatever the case, no book gets read in its entirety, exactly as it is written. Ever.

You’ll turn into a fish, and an alligator lives in the drain. Admittedly, this one may require years of therapy later in life. I’m surprised he isn’t afraid to bathe. But when he was a little younger, my 4- year-old loved bathtime so much, he’d refuse to get out. I would have to yank his wet, flailing body out of the tub, nearly letting him slip out of my hands on numerous occasions, then restrain him from trying to climb back in. We simply couldn’t keep on like this, so I had to take drastic measures.

It started with telling him that if he stayed in the water too long, he would turn into a fish. At first he laughed. But after the first time that he saw that expression on my face — the sudden wide-eyed, jaw-dropped look of panic, as I screamed that I could see his legs turning into fins — he took notice.

It didn’t take long for him to catch on, look down at his chubby little legs, and realize that they were still just chubby little legs.

I’m pretty sure it was his dad who came up with this one, so I’ll give him kudos. If morphing into a fish didn’t frighten him, being told that an alligator lived in the bath drain sure as hell did. From that moment on, any tantrum to stay in the tub was quickly replaced by sheer terror as soon as I’d pull the plug to let the water out.

Thank you, hubby.

We teach our kids that lying is wrong. One day when they are older and wiser, they’ll look back and realize there was never an alligator. They’ll reread one of their beloved, childhood books and discover that there’s half of the story they’ve never even heard before. They’ll know that good ol’ Mom and Dad had totally been full of shit.

But if one day they become parents themselves, they’ll also understand that a few tiny fibs are necessary now and then.

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