Do You Lie To Your Kids?

I just finished reading Up by Patricia Ellis Herr right before Easter weekend. Toward the end of the book she writes: "To sugarcoat reality is to lie, and I don't lie to my children."

I stopped and thought to myself... I don't believe in lying either. I believe in always being honest, sometimes to a fault. I believe in being straight-forward. But, you better believe I'll tell a lie to my kids. I mean, after all, I was about to pretend that a magical bunny hopped into our living room to hide plastic eggs that he had filled with stickers and jelly beans, as well as a basket full of all the wonderful things that W wanted. And less than four months ago a fat man in a red suit slid down our chimney to leave piles of gifts. That was also a lie. A lie I will happily tell my children until they stop believing me. It's fun and kids deserve fun.

There are lies that I feel obligated to tell my children, too. The lies that protect their little innocence for a little while longer, that keep them from worrying about something. After all, isn't it our job to protect our children? Yes, we can't shield them from the reality of the world. But, I'm going to make sure this world is a happy place for my kids as long as I can. I don't think that a three year old is necessarily ready to understand the complexity of people and the fine line between happiness and sorrow in this world. I'll have to explain all of this soon enough. He doesn't have to understand all of that now.

When we've been asked to go out for lunch with his friends after preschool, I've had to tell him we have to get home because our nanny has a special lunch planned. LIE. I'd rather not tell him that we can't join his friends because mommy is too busy with work and has to get back home. When we're listening to a popular song that he likes and I notice questionable lyrics, I get creative or follow his lead. So, I sang right along when he started singing Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" with the lyrics "I've gotta move my dragon."

Don't get me wrong... I try not to lie unnecessarily. I tell him exactly why he can't watch more tv or why he doesn't get candy. When he's had run-ins with his little friends at preschool, I've been as honest as I can about why friends can sometimes be mean and why it's important for him to not get too hurt by them. And over time I'm sure there are plenty of other conversations like this that I'll have when trying to help him understand why I try make the best decisions as his parent and give him the best advice I possibly can. Trust me, I don't have expectations of sending a wide-eyed, sheltered boy to first grade.

So, I guess you can call me a liar if you want. I'm not sugarcoating life, I'm making it a little sweeter for as long as I can. Kids have enough reality waiting for them around the corner.

Trish Herr's then five year old daughter Alex wanted to hike all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000+ foot mountains. Would you let your five year old do the same? Join From Left to Write on April 12 as we discuss Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.


Some Suburban Mom said...

I really loved this post. I've often considered both sides of this question, lying to my kids. I too happily tell the lie about the fat man in a red suit, and I'm mourning the end of that particular joy of childhood as my kids get too old to buy the story anymore. I come down on the side of letting them keep their innocence as long as possible, whether it's Santa or the sometimes cold realities of the world we live in.

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

Thanks for keeping it in perspective, especially about the Easter Bunny! I wonder about lying when it comes to questions about racism and stereotypes. My kids are only 6 and 2. I struggle with how much to tell them and when.

Ariane said...

I never thought of it as lying when it came to Santa. Santa is a beautiful story, a sweet dream of childhood, a set of beliefs and rituals I wanted to share with my child for as long as he wanted. He held on to Santa til he was 12, then was ready to let him go, the last of his friends. That always told me something about my boy, about his capacity for dream, for art, really, something essential about him that I treasure. Thanks for your thought-provoking post! You're no liar. XO

Janin Wise said...

I try very hard not to lie to my kids. Your part about Santa reminded me that my kids have point blank asked if he's real--and my answer is now what's I've always said to them, that I believe the spirit of Saint Nicholas is very real, and can be seen and felt in the spirit of giving.

Robin noteverstill said...

I lie to my kids. The worst are the ones that might have truth or might not. This weekend my six year old's classmate's father died unexpectedly. Of course I had to reassure my daughter that that won't happen to me. I'll be around until I'm ancient. Who knows, though, right?