If you read enough parenting books on how to raise fine upstanding children[1. Believe me, I have.], one of the things that comes up over and over is being honest with your kids. Sometimes the frame of reference dealt with kids who were older than Brooklynn, but the gist of a lot of the advice was not to underestimate what your kids can handle and understand. I’ve always assumed that I would be honest with any of my kids about everything and not intentionally lie to them. Now I find as Brooklynn gets older, that gets harder and harder to do. We use the term “broken” a lot in our house. Sometimes it refers to the iPod Touch that Brooklynn calls her phone. We tell her, “Your phone is broken,” and we mean that the battery is dead and it needs to be plugged in to charge. It’s probably not the right term to use and I’m probably underestimating her ability to understand charging, but she now knows that when the iPod is broken, plugging it in will fix it so we can use it later.
Lying? In the strictest definition, I suppose so. But it fits with her understanding of the world. Now, what about the fact that we sometimes tell her the iPod is broken when it is still half charged? Because she doesn’t need to watch a movie on it during the middle of the day when we should be playing with blocks or running outside. Lying? You bet. But it gets the results we want and it doesn’t seem to cause her any harm.
When we go out shopping, Brooklynn sometimes want to get in my car. It’s kind of pain, because in our garage, I park close enough to the wall that the passenger side of the car is inaccessible. Brooklynn gets in the back seat on the driver’s side, climbs across, and then I reach back from the front seat and buckle her in. Meanwhile, Rhiannon waits outside until we’re done and I back the car out so she can also get in. And when we come home, the process works in reverse. For a 10 minute trip to the grocery store, it’s easier just to take Rhiannon’s car with all the doors available.
So we tell Brooklynn that Daddy’s car is broken and we’ll fix it later but right now we need to take Mom’s car. She’s fine with this reasoning and usually gets in the other car without question. Lying? Yes. Absolutely. But is it doing any harm?
Lately, we’ve been going through a phase where Brooklynn wakes up once in a while during the night, and since we’ve taken the side of her crib off again, she can get out and come find us. Sometimes, a quick hug is all it takes to get her back in bed, but other times, the tears and wailing starts as soon as we head for her bedroom door.
She wants someone to sit on the ottoman next to her bed. This is not a habit we want to get in to, but she will follow us out if we don’t sit with her. So, if we tell her that we have to use the potty[2. She’s going through potty training right now, so this is a really effective statement that she hears a lot.] she will agree to stay in her bed and wait for us to come back.
I know that Brooklynn remembers things, often for a few days. We are past the point of out-of-sight out-of-mind distraction tricks, so sometimes I wonder if she remembers that we never came back even though we said we would. Sure, I think she settles down and falls asleep quickly, but does she ever lie there, quietly waiting for Mom or Dad to hold up their end of the deal and return?
Yes, we are lying to her, but it helps everyone get some sleep during the night. It makes our lives easier. Pretty much all the lies we tell Brooklynn are to make our lives easier. It doesn’t seem like getting her away from watching a movie to play outside or take a different car to the store has a negative impact on her. But are we teaching her any sort of lesson about not always getting her way?
When she wants a certain type of snack, sometimes we tell her it’s all gone, even though there is more in the cupboard. She will often let it go and we don’t have to deal with her crying when we tell her that she can’t have anymore. So she learns that she can’t have it because it’s not an option, not just because we said so.
We lie to make our lives easier. We lie to make things go smoothly. We lie.
It’s something I thought I would avoid as much as possible, and yet, I find myself doing it more and more. And I lie to myself in thinking that I’m always ok with it.
The truth? We’re kind of learning on the fly here. I don’t know the long term outcome of what we’re doing. Does it mean I’m going to stop the little lies? Probably not. Maybe I’ll try to tell myself that just the fact I recognize what we’re doing makes it ok and that we can change later when Brooklynn needs to learn some of life’s tougher lessons.
Maybe if I tell myself that enough, I’ll even start to believe it.