Parents tell more lies than kids. I started this blog post with the intention of sharing my daughter’s journey into deceit (which will come tomorrow), but I did a quick self-awareness scan and realized I’m not quite the noble and trustworthy father I thought I was (can you believe it?). I then decided to assess my wife’s honesty (as only a husband can do) and discovered my own wife was a veritable fountain of lies! Where did all this dishonesty come from? Are our daughters destined to a life of deception based on their parents’ poor example? Is my family’s moral compass dysfunctional? Can my tongue be any further buried within my cheek?
It all started innocently enough. Eliza started talking and her intelligence and her perception were quickly developing alongside her little body. We were the annoying first-time parents—desperately idealistic and overachieving. Homemade baby food? Check. Rigid nap and sleep routine? You got it. Screen time limitations? Naturally. We did our best to temper every word spoken in front of Eliza (not that we were anywhere close to perfect…) and couldn’t imagine anything compelling us to lie to our first daughter. But then it happened. And again. And again. And before we knew it, the habit was formed and my wife and I were spitting tall tales with the ease of an aging fisherman recounting past glories.
As my little girl started to get more attached to family and friends, we’d often get asked: “Can we go see Nana (or dozens of other people and pets)?” While we tried conventional methods of explanation, like “We have to stay home and do laundry honey”, we eventually settled on the little white lie of “Nana is sleeping”, “Auntie is sleeping”, “The neighbor’s dog is sleeping”; this somehow made perfect sense to the budding toddler, who had no problem believing that her grandma would be asleep at 11:15 am, still asleep at 2:00 pm, out cold at 4:00 pm, and snoring wildly at 6:00 pm.
“Can I have some peanut butter in the car?” or “Can I have more sugar?” are frequent questions usually met with “It’s all gone sweetie, I’m sorry!” It’s just far easier to avoid the rabbit hole of “Why? Why? Why?” or risk a tantrum by offering something definitive: “I’m sorry Eliza, all the peanut butter on Earth is gone.” “Your birthday won’t come tomorrow unless you go to sleep right now.” “Mommy is the only one who can change a poopy diaper.” “All of the Daniel Tigers videos were stripped from the internet so we have to watch basketball.” “Daddy has to lay down and close his eyes in order to hear your ABC’s.” I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Sometimes it just makes sense to spin a little yarn of clarity rather than dive into a mucky toddler debate.
When kids first hit those toddler years, parents land in that awkward transition stage where the little ones are starting to understand but still not at the point that you feel comfortable being strict, if that makes sense. When Eliza gets older, I will have no problem being a little more blunt and authoritative with the decisions, but now I resist being too straightforward knowing she may not comprehend exactly what is going on. For example, we tell her every night as she whimpers while we put her to bed that “Mommy is going to sleep, daddy is going to sleep, and sister Everly is going to sleep.” I don’t think we’d gain much of anything if we said “Tough luck kiddo, it’s only you going to bed.” Down the road, of course we’d be comfortable explaining the difference between kid and adult bedtimes; if you missed it, I wrote something similar here about how challenging it is to raise a young toddler when you’re not quite confident in where they’re at learning wise.
So for now we bask in a web of lies and move forward knowing that the next level of my daughter’s intelligence will be actually recognizing the mistruths from her parents. I’m already nervous for the first day Eliza looks up and says “Daddy, I don’t think a candy bar will make me sick like you’ve been telling me for all these years…”. My wife and I, for the time being, will be content with our tiny little bits of misinformation here and there and hope they don’t come back to nip us in a few years. Besides, as you’ll read tomorrow, the toddler has finally begun to return the favor. Stay tuned…