Lying is bad. I know it. You know it. If you’re taking the literal road, the one less taken, there is never a time that lying is OK. More often than not, the Lie vs. Not A Lie debate is pretty obvious. Fake plans to throw off the birthday girl? Not a lie- more like sneakery (Not a word? It is now.) to throw someone off the trail of a great surprise. Telling kids they are not getting shots at their 5 year old appointment? Lie. Total and complete lie. You know they’re getting shots. And when they ask if it’s going to hurt and you say no? BIG lie. They’re not dumb. Even though they know the answer already, they’re just looking to you to set them straight. So be honest, you’re not fooling anyone when you say no and you just make yourself look bad. “Your yes should be your yes, and your no should be your no.”The trouble, however, lies in the assumption that everyone agrees with that statement. And for me, learning the hard way that everyone is not on the same page regarding the truth and often don’t see things the same way make the truth trail a tricky one to navigate. And so I take the black and whiteness of truth and smudge it a bit… blur the lines as they say. Ultimately, making myself a bit shady.
If you were to look at what I call the Sin Spectrum, I would say I’m still on the “Not Really So Bad” end of it. I’m not out there rationalizing why it’s ok to give my phone number to a man I met at Starbucks or explaining away the rightness of going back into the store to pay for the milk they missed on the bottom of my cart. I’m not evading my taxes or committing insurance fraud with a false claim. My walk on the wild side is really not so wild. “I’m going to eat that piece of lemon loaf from Starbucks for breakfast.” This isn’t so much of a lie, per se. But I did make a commitment to eating a healthy breakfast each day. That being said, I can just make sure I have a healthy lunch, right? See? Rationalizing. Again, there are no laws being broken, no federal or state crimes committed. But I have not let my yes be my yes or my no crap for breakfast be my no crap for breakfast. I’m sliding down the shady and slippery slope, one might say. I don’t believe lemon loaf is the gateway lie by any means but a commitment is a commitment. In the end, I’ve lied to myself.
I’d have to say the biggest moral mountain I climb is in regards to my kids- those tiny little lies I tell them. Some would say there are no tiny lies. And I guess that’s true. A lie is a lie is a lie. What makes it worse is that I’m often telling those Little White Lies to make my life easier. You can add “selfish” to my list of “Less Than Desirable Personality Characteristics” It come after liar and before Too Much Coffee.
“No, Matt can’t play today because he has basketball.” Truth is, I’ve had a long week and I don’t have the energy for another 8 year old boy tearing through my house. The funny thing is, I really don’t need an excuse. I’m the mom. If I don’t feel like hosting or arranging an 8 year old spazz fest, that’s my right. 45 hours of labor bought me that right.
But it’s not always that simple when you’re the mom- at least not for me. I know that a play date is good for my kids. I know they’ll have fun. I know it’s better than watching TV or playing on the iTouch. I know it’s certainly going to garner far fewer arguments that any attempt to get him to play with his brother. But at this moment in time, I don’t care. It’s all about me- right or wrong- and I don’t feel like it.
Aaaaannnddd… enter guilt. So when I’m about to tell my kids the truth: Mom doesn’t feel like hosting any other kids today- the guilt begins to slither its way through my veins. It whispers in my ear: You’re so selfish. It’s all about you again? How hard is it to have some kids over? They’re going to remember that you didn’t “feel” like having their friends over. They’re going to remember that you were quite selfish when they were young.
Seriously, I think I should worry less about the lying and more about the voices in my head. Wouldn’t you agree? Funny how it has a Harry Potter-esque Parstletongue quality to it? That should probably be examined a little more closely at a future date…
I should ignore those voices and tell the truth. “Mom doesn’t feel like it today.” Instead, I consider enacting what Hubs and I have appropriately named “Insta-Lie.” What is Insta-Lie? If I could write an infomercial for it, it would sound little something like this:
So now I’m a mom. I’m responsible for the moral development of two little boys and Insta-Lie is definitely not something I want to introduce to them. But the moral dilemmas I face are not so simple as forgetting the dry cleaning or stuffing my face with lemon loaf. Sometimes it’s questions I’m just not sure how to answer or if they’re ready for those answers. Questions that often leave me quaking. “How did I get out of your stomach, Mom?” Um, he’s only 5. I just got to start showering alone in the last year. He probably still has some sort of visual image of all the “lady bits”. I don’t think I’m ready to connect those dots just yet. “Mom, Mike said I could sleep over this weekend. Isn’t that awesome?” Uh, Mike’s mom lets him watch anything he wants on YouTube and play M rated video games. I think Mike is sweet and his mom is nice too, but I’m not comfortable with the rules in that house. If I say that to DS1 I know he’s going to repeat those words because he’s a pretty truthful kid. Then Mike will tell his mom why my kid can’t come over. Then it will be awkward and uncomfortable because it seems like I’m judging Mike’s mom. Which I’m not. I just have a different set of rules in my house. Can’t I just say we have plans with the grandparents and avoid the entire thing? See, Insta-Lie is looking pretty good right now.
It’s not so much that I’ve gotten shady, but that LIFE has shifted to shades of gray. I know, I know. That’s just an excuse- that my yes is my yes and my no is my no and how others react is not my problem. If I am kind in my honest answer, I’ve done my part and if someone else is offended, it ain’t my problem. Well, it is my problem. I’m the one that has to face Mike’s mom in the parking lot at school every day and I’m not a moron. I know that whether I was actually judging her or not, it sure seems like I was and that will make for a situation that DS2 would call, “aaawwkwaaaard.”
I guess the best way to handle that type of scenario is situation by situation. Hopefully I can have a mature conversation with Mike’s mom and let her know our rules and ask that she enforce them at her house as well, acknowledge that it’s just a difference of parenting style, no judgment implied, give her the option to back out of the invitation if she doesn’t feel my rules are reasonable to enforce in her home, agree that she has every right to make that decision and hope that we can all act like mature adults. And I might get lucky. It might work out like that. Truth be told, people often surprise us by acting much better than we assume they will. I know I certainly don’t give people enough credit when I assume it will end badly and dabble with a little Insta-Lie to avoid the potentially uncomfortable conversation.
Because I’m grown who has at least some moral development- most of the time I choose be less shady. I choose to have the potentially awkward conversation and hope for the best. I brace myself for my kids’ disappointment when I don’t feel like giving them what they want while wishing away the guilt. I pray that they will remember all the times I was able to accommodate them. And If they don’t? I pray they are nice to me in their future therapy sessions.
As most of you know from this post, my track record as the Tooth Fairy is spotty at best. Well, that’s being generous. I’m the world’s worst tooth fairy. But I’m working on it. And I was granted a second (or 9th) chance last week.
DS2 had to have one of his molars extracted after it was cracked during his tonsillectomy in September. I’m not even going to get into how happy I am about that little scenario- no, they don’t pay for it; no, no one admits it; yes, it’s apparently “common and a risk you take.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but the only time I’ve ever had any teeth removed was when I was 22 and had my wisdom teeth yanked. It was awful but it was totally my fault. I got a flyer in the mail for a dentist. First visit $20. He said I needed them pulled. I let him do it. I was awake. It was NOT one of my better decisions. The end result- pretty much what I deserved for being a complete nimrod and picking a dentist from a flyer in the mail.
I’ve done right by my kids, though. They have a wonderful dentist who probably drives a kick ass car thanks to DS1’s crappy teeth. Once DS2 found out that this molar was cracked and needed to be removed I was prepared for the inevitable questions that would follow. If there’s one thing I do NOT lie about, it’s medical stuff. If they ask if it’s gonna hurt, I’m honest. “I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s gonna hurt. But it will be over quickly and you’ll be so brave and we’ll get a treat when we’re done.” What’s the point in lying? As soon as they do the procedure and they’re screaming bloody murder, you’re caught in the lie, right? So then they’re feeling pain and betrayal. The whole point of lying is to avoid the pain. If you can’t do that, then don’t lie. So I was ready for the honest question and answer session to begin: Is it going to hurt? Yes. Am I going to get a shot? Yes. Will it bleed? Yes. Will I be asleep? Yes. Will I be asleep before the shot? No. Will it hurt later? Probably. Can I get a treat? You bet your ass you can!
There, questions answered honestly and expeditiously. Go me! And then came the ultimate question: Can I put it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy? And you know what I did? I lied my ass off. I said there was absolutely a tooth fairy and she would most definitely give him some money for that pulled tooth. Was that the truth? Not at all. Obviously there’s no Tooth Fairy, but was I going to choose this moment when he knew he was going to get a shot and be in pain and be without a tooth for like 3 years to break the news to him? No way! Besides, maybe there will be a movie released called the Molar Express and it will teach us that if we just believe the Tooth Fairy will be real, right?
But I knew something was awry over the next 6-8 months. You see, DS1 is a thinker- an over thinker, to be exact. I have no idea where he gets it from. And over the next year he never brought it up again. There were no follow up questions, no probing inquiries, no demands to explain where the cookies go or how the presents get under the tree or who gets the letters we send. But most importantly there were no sly winks, as subtle as a heart attack, sent my way whenever DS2 brought up the Holly Jolly Giant. And there’s nothing DS1 likes more than being “in the know” when his little brother is not. I knew the wheels were turning, but he just wasn’t ready to commit.
And so, when December 1st rolled around and he pulled me aside to “talk about something really really important” I knew what was coming. “Mom, is Santa really not real?” He was just so sad. And in that moment I couldn’t tell the truth. It wasn’t Insta-Lie to avoid. It was “don’t break his heart because he really, really wants this to be true.” And so, in the words of my friend Eminem, the real Slim Shady stood up. “Honey, I know St. Nick was a real guy. I know lots of people believe that Santa’s real too. And I know that in the end, it doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong. Do you want to believe? Then believe.” His smile was blinding and he actually teared up. “I want to believe, Mom. I want to write a letter and send it like we do every year.” And that’s what we did.
And on Christmas morning as Hubs and I lay in bed and listened to the boys come to a screeching halt at the bottom of the stairs these are the words that left DS1’s mouth: “Oh my gosh! Most of the cookies are gone! And he took the apple slices for the reindeer! He IS real. I’m so glad I believed!”
So do I lie to my kids? Yes, at times I do. Sometimes it’s because I’m selfish and I’m avoiding a battle I don’t feel like fighting. Not the best reason, I know. Sometimes I do it because I want to spare feelings. A little more acceptable, I guess. And sometimes I do it because the cost of the truth is more than I’m willing to pay because you can’t buy back wonder or innocence or joy. I guess it’s some moral money well spent.
That’s just my normal.