When is a lie acceptable? Are there degrees of lying? It is less of a lie if it’s a “white lie”? Or is lying just plain old lying?
What about telling your children that Santa exists? Or the Easter Bunny? Or the Tooth Fairy?
And if you choose to do so, when do you tell them the truth? That you have indeed, lied to them.
My parents didn’t give me fairy tales or half-truths. We were poor. If I got a present, they made damn sure I knew that they had scraped and saved every dollar to get me that ONE present. That one item would be a necessity – no frivolous toy, no gift wrapping, no card. There was no illusion of some old jovial fat dude climbing down a chimney in the middle of the night to place a beautifully wrapped gift under a Christmas tree. No Easter Bunny was pooping chocolate eggs on our lawns. And the Tooth Fairy? I was lucky to see the dentist.
Maybe that’s why I overcompensate as a parent. I want to give them the magic and fun that I didn’t get as a child. I want them to look back fondly at their childhood memories.
I’ll admit that a small part of me wants to conform to society norms. I don’t want my child to blurt out, “It’s a lie! Your parents are lying to you! There’s no such thing as Santa.”
I can ponder away the day trying to find reason and rhyme for my parenting choices. Inevitably, I will have to come clean about my lies.
We placed the baby tooth into a plastic bag and put it under Mandy’s pillow.
“So the Tooth Fairy will come, take my tooth and give me a coin?” Mandy queried.
I couldn’t look her in the eyes. “Yes, so I’m told.”
“What does she look like? How does she get my tooth if I’m lying on the pillow? How much money will I get? What happens with the teeth?”
My brain scrambled for answers. I hadn’t recalled seeing a “How to lie effectively to your child” section in the parenting manual I received from the maternal health nurse.
“Uh, no-one has seen the Tooth Fairy, so we don’t know the mechanics or logistics,” I replied. “Also, you get ONE gold coin per tooth. That’s all I know.”
Mandy contemplated my answers for a moment.
“Mummy, do you give me presents as well as Santa or are you pretending to be Santa?”
I paused. She was at an age where her friends were probably discussing the rumours. This was the perfect opportunity to come clean, but then she’d likely to ruin it for her little brother.
“No, Mummy and Daddy give you presents as well as Santa,” I reluctantly replied.
“What about the Easter Bunny? Are you putting the eggs in the lawn for us to find?”
I felt the weight of her accusing stare. I shifted uncomfortably. Mandy would become an excellent cross-examiner one day.
“Me?” I exclaimed in feigned shock, “I don’t have time for that!”
“Hmm.” Mandy responded. She was onto me. The jig was probably up.
“If you have any further questions, ask your dad. He’s the expert,” I deflected. “Hey, let’s read a book.”
I was the Master of Deflection and Timely Distractions.
“I think I’ll ask Ally tomorrow if she thinks the Tooth Fairy is real,” Mandy casually stated. “She knows everything.”
I shuddered at the thought of things to come.
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