“He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, until at length it becomes habitual.”
Alexa, my four-year-old, is beside herself. Giant tears are welling in her eyes, and she is wailing over and over again:
“I’m sorry, mommy, I’m so sorry! Please don’t be mad at me forever, mommy! Please, I am so sorry I broke the new toy!”
I promise you, I don’t beat my children with wire coat hangers.
She had given me her toy because she said it wasn’t working. I could see by looking at it that she did what Alexa does: she had fiddled with all of the parts until it had simply come apart. It’s a miracle that the little part had actually remained intact, given her sometimes incredible strength of destruction that breaks even those toys that claim “durable.” I could tell though that this was a simple fix, a simple snap back together.
Yeah, but here’s the thing: it had been in her possession all of ten minutes.
And here’s the other thing: my children are spoiled. My husband Ray and I are trying to unmake what we* made (*mostly daddy, who can’t resist puppy dog eyes). We are attempting to instill a sense of value to the things that they have, trying to make them understand that, no, not everything can be replaced just because you are careless with it.
So here comes an opportunity for a lesson.
“Honey, I don’t know if I can fix it. It might just be busted.”
I let some time go by before fixing it and handing it back (“Oh! Look at that!”). I got a sniffly, “Thank you, Mommy.” It’s almost enough to make me feel bad, but I’m trying to teach her something here. Though I am sure that this won’t be the last episode, my hope is that at least she will remember this when she gets the next toy. That SOMETHING will stick.
And that’s why I lie to my kids. Sometimes.
To be honest, I also got just a tiny little thrill when I got to “get my revenge” on her for mistreating the thing I had just gotten her. I mean, busting up the gift that I got her only ten minutes in? Like, who does this four-year-old think she is?!
There you have it. She’s four.
And I’m forty. And exhausted. And need to get back in control.
Here are some other lies I tell the kids. The one that have asterisks are the ones I use to preserve my sanity:
“(Indicating statues) Those are naughty children that didn’t listen to their parents. The Iron Fairy froze them.”*
“It’s closed today.”*
“They don’t make those anymore.”*
“The batteries are dead.”*
“If you don’t wash it with soap, the boo-boo will get infected, and your arm will fall off.”*
When I was about nine, my parents told me that my evil pet duck (he used to peck and chase me around the yard), had flown to the park to be with the other ducks. They even took me down to that park and showed me he was there (like I could tell one stupid mallard duck from another).
Ten years later, I’m telling my boyfriend that story, and my parents start snickering. Turns out, they drove Mr. Peepers down there themselves. And lied to me for ten years. For my own good, of course. I have no doubt that the damn duck would have eaten me one day. But my parents also admitted that they were driven crazy by my constant teasing of the duck, daring him on a daily basis to “come get me.” There you go.
If my kids are able to figure out my lies later on down the road, besties to them. But as long as these will continue to stick and if the kids will learn and grow from them, so be it. If I can keep my sanity a little more, and drink a little less, so be it.
Plus, I can always blame my folks. They started it.