I believe in having an honest dialog with my daughter about almost everything. Dog erections? I think I handled that Q&A candidly and quite nicely. Jesus? God? What is everything all about? Well, that’s an ongoing conversation. But we address Hailey’s questions with honesty as they arise. There are some things, though, that I don’t mind flat out lying to my child about. I call it lying with love. Below are the biggest and most frequent lies I tell Hailey. I hope someday when the truth is revealed, she’ll look back at this post and know that these fallacies were my attempt to keep her childhood as innocent as possible for as long as possible.
Everything will be okay. This is a common refrain among mothers. A favorite toy is lost, her best friend chose to play with someone else during playtime, she’s going to have new teachers and classmates next year — everything will be okay. At some point in her life, there will come a time when something will not be okay, but my 4-year-old does not need to know this. For now, she needs to know that the small obstacles in her life are just that, small, and she has the strength, resourcefulness, intellect and humor to navigate these challenges.
Death is just a visit to the van down by the river. After reading a few Disney books to Hailey, we realized that they use death as a plot device A LOT. Within the first few pages, parents die and children are orphaned. This seems overly tragic for children’s bedtime reading material. I don’t know when the time is right to have the death talk with Hailey, but I know that she is not emotionally ready to learn that her parents will die someday. She knows that some relatives are no longer here and live in Heaven, and in her mind, she has interpreted this to mean they live in outer space. Sometimes she will say to random people, “My grandpa Bruce lives in outer space.” I’m okay with this for now. It’s part of her strange charm. But when we read Disney books or any other morbid children’s literature to her (Secret Garden, I’m looking at you), we replace any mention of death with the old Chris Farley bit about the van down by the river. It goes something like this, “Cinderella’s mother
died went to the van down by the river, so her father married a wicked woman who became her stepmother.” Similarly, having two dogs, and one that’s getting up there in age, we have told Hailey that when dogs get very old they go to a lovely place called Puppy Lake. Sometimes she threatens to send them there early when they misbehave. This makes me feel bad for them because I know that she’s unknowingly wishing death upon them.
Trolls live under bridges. I don’t know, people. I lived in Seattle briefly and there’s a statue of a troll under a bridge in Fremont and I loved it…so I always associate trolls with bridges. So one time Hailey and I were crossing a bridge and I told her trolls live under bridges and she was fascinated. Now she looks for trolls every time we cross a bridge. She gets a kick out of it; sometimes she thinks she spots one and sometimes she asks why we don’t see more. “Because they’re shy and they mostly sleep during the day,” I explain. She’s satisfied with this answer, but still hopes to find one awake and about during the day. I think childhood should be whimsical and full of make believe. Some kids can read at 4. My kid hunts for trolls under bridges.
Everything will be fine in the morning. This is a lie my mom used to tell me. And although I’m old enough now to know it’s not true — 8 hours of sleep doesn’t solve your problems — I still find it to be good advice and partly true. In my experience everything always seems worse in the middle of the night. A good night’s sleep and looking at your problem with a fresh perspective in the morning does often help and does indeed make your problem seem less dire. So, sleep on it, my dear. Always sleep on it.
Fruits and veggies make you big and strong. I’m not disputing that fruits and veggies are good for your overall nutrition and health, but Hailey is obsessed with growing taller and stronger. I imagine her height will have more to do with genetics than anything and her strength is likely impacted more by her protein intake and exercise. Nonetheless, every time I put a new or less than favorite fruit or veggie on her plate, I ask her to try it because it will make her big and strong.
Mommy will always be here. Hailey is attached to mommy and this can cause her a bit of anxiety when she is separated from mommy for a long period of time. These situations usually require a pep talk, and the pep talk always ends the same way: “At the end of the day, mommy will always be here. Mommy is never going anywhere. You will always come home to mommy.” With these words, Hailey holds her chin high and marches into the great unknown. Each time I say it I wonder, what if I have an emergency someday? What if I get called away? Go out of town? Surely, I can’t be here all the time. What happens when I go to the van down by the river and break my promise of always being here? I hope by then she will be much, much older and wiser and telling loving lies to her own children.
Santa is real. The Easter Bunny is for suckers. When I was 5 I had a friend whose parents’ parenting philosophy was to never to lie to their children. Thus, their kids were never allowed to believe in Santa. The problem with this is that kids have big mouths, and this friend broke the news to me about Santa when I was 5. I barely got to lucidly believe in Santa for more than a couple of years. My kid believes in Santa. Santa is magical, and as I said, I think childhood should be full of whimsy. From Thanksgiving through New Years, Santa, reindeer with red noses, snowmen who talk, elves — they’re all real in our house. Now, the Easter Bunny…I’ve done a shit job of explaining that guy, mostly because I don’t understand him myself. “Why is he giant?” Hailey asks. “I don’t know.” “Why does a bunny have eggs?” she asks. “That’s a good question. It makes no sense,” I say.
Mommy’s iPad only works for 20 minutes at a time. Praise the Lord for YouTube parental settings and its glorious timer or my child would be lost in a trance of Hobby Kids TV, Disney Collector BR and Peppa Pig for hours at a time. And mommy can’t stand those little Hobby Kids. So when the timer shuts the iPad off and Hailey snaps out of her trance and yelps in protest as the fog lifts, I say, “Sorry honey, mommy’s iPad only works for 20 minutes and then I have to charge it. You can earn more iPad time for tomorrow.”
I’d love to hear the lies of love other mommies tell their children.