“You can’t eat that, it will make your stomach ache.”
My four year old stares at me with tears rolling down her cheeks, mouth open in disbelief that I will not give her the chocolate bar that she wants. “You can’t eat a chocolate bar at 7pm because you’ll wake up during the night with a stomach ache.”
I’m lying, I know it and I don’t care. I ate chocolate cake the night before, sneaking downstairs at 10pm and eating it in silence in the corner of the kitchen. Hidden in the darkness, I ate it with a gusto normally reserved for children. Not only did I not have a stomach ache, I had a delightful dream that involved Ryan Gosling and a never-ending chocolate fountain.
I am blatantly lying to my child because earlier in the day I attempted to use sound logic and cold hard facts to explain why she couldn’t eat a bowl of jello for lunch. I said things like calories and energy levels and hunger pains and her little eyes glazed over. Later I talked about responsibilities and obligations to justify tidy up time and got the same response.
After a long day of trying to reason with both of my children, I give up. “If I let you eat this chocolate bar you will barf in your bed during the nighttime. Do you want to barf on your princess sheets? Do you? DO YOU?!?!” She takes the animal cracker I offer instead.
The next day I drag my two year old into daycare, heedless of her attempts to meander along the sidewalk cracks. “If mommy is late to work, her boss will yell at her.” Another lie. Mommy’s boss typically arrives later than she does, and certainly has more important things to worry about. I’m just sick and done with her lassitude.
Enthused by my early success, my lying picks up steam.
A long overdue date night becomes “Mommy and Papa are going to a meeting tonight. It’s only for grown-ups so that’s why the babysitter is coming.”
The requests to skype their cousins while I’m in the middle of House of Cards are answered with: “Aunt Christy isn’t home right now, so we can’t call her.”
“That shirt is dirty.” “Jill’s mom said they’re out of town this weekend.” “Of course I’ll save this scrap of paper for you!”
Lies upon lies upon lies. And it feels good, so very, very good.
With all this lying, of course I feel guilty sometimes. Like when my husband arches his eyebrow as I claim to have no idea where her favorite dress is. Both he and I can see it in the pile of folded laundry. When I read something on a parenting website about how lying undermines your relationship with your child. I have moments where I wonder if I’ve made a huge mistake.
But then I’m at the playground, listening to a mother trying to drag her kid off home. “Your father will be home soon, don’t you want to see him?” “You’ve been here for hours, you’ve had enough for today.” “You’re making mommy sad, won’t you please come along?” I step around her screaming child, his flying dirt clods hitting the back of my legs, and walk over to my two. “The park’s closing now, we have to go home. I mean, you can stay, but then you have to sleep here all night.” The other mom interrupts her pleading to stare in awe as my two kids put on their shoes and trail behind me without a complaint.
I can safely say that I’m not going to stop lying to my kids anytime soon. Anyone who says that they don’t lie to their kids is a big effing liar. We all lie for any number of reasons. We lie to our spouse because who wants to be told that yes, the dress does make your butt look big. We lie to total strangers because we don’t want to share our life stories with our airplane seatmates. Why should our kids get any different treatment?
So yeah, I lie to my kids.