I tell my children white lies here and there. It’s not like I sit around and think about whether to do so or not, they just come. Some are bigger than others, but then who am I to judge the gravity of the fib, maybe that should be left in my children’s court when they find these lies out one day.
There are the big things, the ones that I am repeatedly untruthful about. The whole Santa Claus thing springs to mind, as that’s a lie that I keep on repeating year after year and everyone around me supports me in perpetuating the myth. I think this one’s OK, it’s about ‘creating the magic’ and I managed to get over finding out the truth without any long-lasting effects, so I’m hoping the same will be said for my two. We then have the smaller ones, the ‘no, there aren’t any more biscuits in the bag’, ‘no, I’ve not got any money for the ice cream man’, ‘sorry, that ride-on’s broken’ (in fact, don’t even get me started on that one, as you may know it strikes a nerve!). They are the white lies that protect them….and their dental care.
But then there’s the biggie, the huge deal. The one that leaves me feeling in equal parts uneasy and guilty about lying, yet also doggedly determined that I will do so. The one about Death.
My 5 year old understands about death now. She knows that things and people die, and when they die, they do not come back. We are not religious here, so there are no discussions about angels, heaven or an afterlife. We’re open with her about it, as I don’t want to confuse her and I think it’s important for her to learn about the circle of life. You can’t hide from it, and sheltering her from it is only likely to cause more confusion and grief at a later stage, I believe. She grasps this concept, I think, and when my mum’s dog died recently, she did know that she was dead and she would never see her again. She was upset, she told me that she was sad and asked if that was OK. I assured her that it’s always OK to be sad, and that she could always talk to me about it. Trouble is, she’s a smart cookie, my girl, so once she’s worked out that people die, she’s asked about my grandparents as she’s noticed they’re not around, so I told her straight there, too. But then the thoughts begin to pile up in her head. Until the inevitable question, ‘will you die and leave me, Mummy?’.
I lied. Well, more precisely, I evaded. I assured her that I wouldn’t leave her while she needed me. As her fear-filled face looked at me questioningly, lip quivering ever-so-slightly, I felt that it was my only choice. She’s just 5, she’s unable to really get a handle on periods of time yet. She cannot put herself in the mind of a thirty-something losing her mother, she can only ask the question, and handle the answer as she is now; a little girl, her life revolving around and entirely dependent on her mum. She gives me her whole heart, and whilst she’s fortunate enough to be surrounded by a loving family, it’s always to me that she turns. A life without me in it is totally incomprehensible to her and beyond scary.
But I’ll leave you with a flip-side, a truth. She has also asked me, with a worried little face, if she has to leave home when she gets married. Yes, she has already decided that she will be marrying one of her classmates, and I have duly informed his unsuspecting mother. ‘Of course not’, I replied, ‘you can live here for as long as you want to’, to which she was suitably reassured. That one’s not a lie, it’s the absolute truth, but the real truth of it is the reality that I see coming, the one that hurts me. I will always welcome her here, want her here, but I know that her desperation to stay at home with me will wane with time and she will grow up and yearn to be free of me. That’s the cycle and I want her to be that happy, confident young woman one day. But I sometimes wish someone would lie to me, tell me that she’ll always be my little girl and that she won’t leave me.
Truth and lies. Do you ever lie to your children?