Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lying To Children

First they tell us not to spank the kids. Then, we couldn't yell at them for fear of damaging their precious self-esteem-now they want us to stop lying to them.

Apparently, at least according to some researchers in Canada, I'm damaging the parent-child bond with the kiddo by telling him Swedes eat cat sandwiches, etc. What's more, I can't take a think-tank seriously if it is the Journal of Moral Education. That's Onion territory right there.

There's a long-standing tradition of lying to children in my family, and I'm sure my mother would somersault in the grave if I neglected my story-telling duties simply because some psychologist-types think it is a bad idea.

When I was a child, my mother told me that the little old man with the unidentifiable Eastern European accent who owned the five and dime-was a Nazi. She could have left it there, but mummy wasn't given to half-assed storytelling, so she made sure I knew he was a guard at a death camp and he particularly delighted in tossing kids in the ovens. That was Mr. Nazi's favourite sort of day. I always wondered why he sold toys if he hated children so much, but be assured I never so much as looked at the toys. I never asked my mother to buy anything, and I pretty much stood there frozen, half hidden behind her skirt trying to escape the notice of the old Nazi.

I was in my forties by the time it dawned on me one evening that he wasn't a Nazi, and given the neighbourhood it was in, was probably Jewish. Far from being upset that my mother would have lied to me, I roared with laughter, four decades after the fact. Well done, mother. Well done!

Every child should have the opportunity to laugh at their parent's lies years later. I mean, my sister could have waited until our mother was actually buried before spilling the beans that the dog I had when I was ten didn't really run away. I swear, it was like she was holding it in for fifteen years and just had. to. get. it. out. So she did-while we were selecting a casket. Which actually, was kind of awesome.

If you don't lie to your children, how do you get them to stop climbing on furniture and being reckless? I don't know how you do, but I tell him if he hurts his noggin, he has to move to Kansas. So my kid believes that Kansas was set up as a colony for simpletons and dullards with traumatic brain injuries-what's the harm in that? A stern look and quick inquiry of , "Do you want to move to Kansas?" is all it takes to keep him playing safely.

So my child believes the grocery store manager used to be a circus geek, and instead of doing his show on the road, he now sits in back of the meat department biting the heads off live chickens. You never do see chickens for sale with their heads on-do you? You know, circus life is hard work once you hit middle age, and the grocery gig has health benefits.

How was I to keep my kid from pulling boxes out of order at the video store without telling him the owner was a space alien who keeps his giant robot Gort in back to deal with unruly kids? Danny doesn't completely believe this anymore, but I offered him a dollar and a new Matchbox car to run in there yelling "Klatu, Klatu Gort!" but he refuses to do it, so I have to think he still buys it-a little.

If the boy grows up to be middle aged, and still believes drinking water from the bathroom tap will cause him to grow a tail, and that his papa eats the mice he finds in the traps, well then I promise to tell him the truth. If he's forty and still believes that when he lived in my belly he had a rocking chair, a meerschaum pipe, and a book that we could see on the ultrasound-I will finally fess-up. I will, I swear.

Anyone have some fantastic whoppers they were told, or have told that they care to share?


Raymond said...

There's also the related category: lies parents told that THEY believed. Such as, "Eat your rice; it'll get rid of the wrinkles in your belly button." That was mom, who used to also wash her face with lard (moisturizer!).

Goody said...

I love the belly button lie. Fantastic.

So, did the lard thing help your mother's skin? My mother used to tape her face up at night with this papery, cloth-like pink tape. I mean, literally, taped-up her cheeks and eyelids to mimic a face-lift.

Raymond said...

My mother looks like she absorbed all that lard thru her face. And I remember my sisters having that pink tape.

Andrew said...

My daughter overheard me talking to the neighbors when she was small and I said, "turkeys are so stupid that when it rains you have to make sure they get inside because they will just stare at the sky until they drown" and she was in college when someone finally set her straight on the complete turkey affair. She called me and thanked me for making her seem like a fool in front of her friends. Did I get a good laugh out of that, tho she was not impressed.

Goody said... mean they won't? I thought that was true. Do I know your daughter?