As a little girl I remember my Uncle Russell coming over from Queensland one Christmas. Because we didn't get to see him often I hung around and just wanted to be near him, this exotic person from the other side of the country. I noticed that his fingernail on his right pinky finger was long and asked him why. Without a moment of hesitation he explained to me (with helpful gestures) that it helped him clean his ears. Excellent. Question answered. Move along, nothing to see here. I did wonder why he only had it on his right hand – surely it would be easier to clean his left ear with his left hand? But nevertheless I believed him, why wouldn't I? It was only in my adult life that I learnt that it is much more likely his lone long fingernail was actually a 'cocaine scoop', but who tells a primary school student that? “Well honey, that's so I can get high on crack.”
As kids we live in a fantasy land of lovely illusions - we're protected from all the nasty stuff (and sometimes the important stuff) by our parents. Whether or not we follow in their footsteps and tell the same little fibs to our own children is very much dependant on our own experiences of those lies. Some families will have the same stories passed down for generations about how the police can actually tell if you have brushed your teeth or just ran the toothbrush under the tap, because the lie doesn't hurt anyone and helps life run a little bit smoother.
I cried when I found out that Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny weren't real. I remember the day so vividly (though I'm not sure how old I was); it was Easter and along with a chocolate egg I got a little card saying “Enjoy your chocolate. I like carrots. Love the Easter Bunny”... in my mother's handwriting. I was devastated and looked up at my mum as big fat tears started to well in my eyes and asked despairingly, “Does this mean Father Christmas isn't real too?” I'm sure I got over it quick enough (there was chocolate there to distract me, after all) and enjoyed the rest of the day, but its got me thinking about the lies we tell our kids, and more importantly which ones I'll be able to get away with when the time comes for me to explain the unexplainable to Tricky.
Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny are more than likely going to be fixtures in my home, I would rather lie to Tricky about their existence than rob him of the joys of those few years. Although when he is five and screaming to sit on yet another Santa's lap at a shopping centre I may regret this decision. But what about the other things we lie to our kids about? Big things that they're not ready to understand yet. Is it OK to lie about the death of a beloved pet to one of your children but tell the truth to the other, based on their ages and level of understanding? And what about the awful things in life that they just don't need to know about yet? I'm not advocating hushing up everything and letting the poor suckers learn about sex from television and YouTube, but the harsher realities of life where there is no explanation for what happened other than sometimes bad things happen to good people. Where do I draw the line? I don't want Tricky to grow up full of fear but at the same time I don't want him to be naïve.
Luckily I won't have to worry about this for quite a few years yet, and other than trying to make sure Tricky doesn't learn the truth about Christmas or Easter on the actual day, I'm not sure which fibs I'll tell. But to help me when the time comes, what lies have you told your kids?