A Few Good Lies


My wife just found wrappers from her favorite imported Australian candy hidden deep in Thing 1’s underwear drawer.  A frightful tribunal (more of a uni-bunal) ensues with all the courtroom drama of “A Few Good Men”.

“Did you take candy out of the fridge? asks the prosecution.

“No”,  answers the defiant defendant.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not. I don’t know where those wrappers came from.”

“In this house we always tell the truth.”

This is a paradoxical moment where the disconnect between parental propaganda and reality becomes so distorted that a 7 year old’s brain will simply not absorb it.  Probably because the statement, “In this house we tell the truth”, is in fact, an untruth.  In case you got confused, in this scenario my wife is Jack Nicholson, who “knows the truth” and Thing 1 is Tom Cruise, who can’t “handle the truth” but in reality probably CAN handle the truth.

So what it really boils down to is which lies are perfectly harmless or even constructive and which lies are soul distorting to the fragile psyche of a child.  In golf, for instance, the rules are very clear and the integrity for the golfer is measured in very absolute terms.  If you accidentally move your ball one nano-meter or knife the achilles of your match play opponent, it’s all treated the same and you are labeled a cheater…if not a psychopath.

In the parenting game no such absolutes exist. This is a murky world where the ends justify the means.  For example, if one of my kids asked me if I ever pulled off a Moroccan hookah full of white hash in college with four aerospace engineering majors, while listening to the Cure, I would of course say, “no!”  Why should I set a precedent that would make it easy for them to make a “C” in calculus?  See, that’s a constructive lie and I can live with the depths of my hypocrisy on this particular example.

Here are just some of the lies I’ve recently told to our children :

  •  I am not Santa
  •  I will make pancakes tomorrow if you go to bed nicely
  •  That was mommy who farted… I mean broke wind.
  •  You’re old enough to wipe yourself
  •  Boys are evil
  •  Daddy was never a boy.
  • That hat looks good on you
  • Your were a very pretty baby
  •  I can fix that hair
  •  Crying makes you nauseous
  •  I completely understand why you’re upset

The truth may set you free but a well placed lie can save a lot of negotiating time.

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