The Lies Moms Tell

Parenting magazine just published a survey of 1,800 moms and the lies we tell. Turns out we lie most to our kids (89%), our husbands (87%) and our friends (72%). I'm stunned that "employers and co-workers" didn't make the cut.

What do moms lie about? With husbands, seems we lie most about money (45%). Sex is a close second.

With our kids, women say little white lies are a necessary evil (53%) and that the truth would just upset them.

We lie to our friends about our husbands (36%), their husbands (18%) and their kids (33%).

I'm trying to figure out if I lie, too. I don't to my kids -- even when it comes to my first marriage, the facts of life, and other difficult subjects. My husband? I don't lie to him, but I do omit a few things (price tags come to mind). My friends? What good is a friend if you have to lie to her?

What about you? Is this a dirty little secret we all share?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  May 24, 2006; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News , Research
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What a coincidence. My teenage daughter is studying STDs in health class at school and she asked me just this morning before she left for the bus, "Dad, did you ever have sex with anyone else besides Mom"
I answered her with total confidence, "Your Mother and I were both virgins before we got married." It was easy to say because, of course, it's the truth.

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 24, 2006 11:09 AM

A year ago when I explained the facts of life to my son, the oldest of my three kids, he laughed out loud and said, "Oh Mom, that is so disgusting -- you are so lucky you and Dad only had to do that three times!" Since my policy is not to lie, of course I felt compelled to tell him the truth that we've done it more than three times and that we still do it "just for fun." He hasn't asked a single question about sex since then.

Posted by: Leslie | May 24, 2006 11:16 AM

I feel like I don't necessarily lie when I am back home visiting friends. But I always get the "it really can't pay for you to work and pay for day care" question. I usually just smile and say it's hard to balance everything, but I really want to say, me and my husband make xxx, xxx a year, so yes, it does pay for me to work.

So, I guess that is kind of a lie inadvertently. I don't say anything because I don't want to come off as a "bragger," but the question is more or less a dig from friends who don't work and don't like my choice as a working mother.

I also lied to a family member when they ask me to buy Mary Kay cosmetics. I told them I was going back to school and needed to save my money. (This is not a lie just a fabrication of the truth.) I am going back to school, I just don't want to buy Mary Kay makeup.

Posted by: scarry | May 24, 2006 11:22 AM

I remember a recent lie my husband told my 3 year old. We like to watch Emeril at 8 pm, but one night he wanted to watch something else. Knowing she'd throw a fit if Emeril was an option, he told her Emeril was not on that night. Her reply was, "Well, who's going to cook dinner?"

Man, to be 3!

Posted by: KS | May 24, 2006 11:25 AM

Now I know why so many kids are disruptive, ill mannered, failing in school, and in jail.

When you lie to a kid you are papering over reality. When kids can't deal with reality they scream to get the reality they want. When you set expectations for a kid and hold the child to them they succeed, grow, and mature...

Lies to kids = immature, irrational, brats who fail in life.

Then I have to ask to be moved to another table.

Posted by: amazed | May 24, 2006 11:36 AM

I have two personal codes that I apply to my relationship with my wife (OK, more than 2, but these are the only ones relevant to this topic):

1) If I know I'm going to regret it later, I don't do it.
2) Never lie to your spouse. Ever.

#2 sometimes makes for uncomfortable conversations, but IMHO, it sure beats the alternative. #1 makes sure that those uncomfortable conversations happen less often than they otherwise would.

I don't know whether my wife appreciates the forthrightness (and make no mistake, there are times when she probably doesn't), but it sure makes my life a lot easier.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 11:38 AM

Once, while visiting a science museum with a life-size display of a tyrannosaurus towering over a freshly-killed triceratops that was clearly dinner, I heard a dad respond to his toddler's question with, "Oh, the triceratops is just having a nap."

Posted by: Observer | May 24, 2006 11:38 AM

How sad for your chldren, Amazed, that they never experienced Santa, The Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny. Because surely you never spoke such lies to them, right?

Posted by: Jayne | May 24, 2006 11:38 AM

>>Amazed: When you lie to a kid you are papering over reality. When kids can't deal with reality they scream to get the reality they want. When you set expectations for a kid and hold the child to them they succeed, grow, and mature...>>

Whatever. When dealing with a toddler, it's easier to lie.
Kid: "Mommy, I want to watch (insert show title here)"
Truthful Mommy: I don't want you to watch TV right now. No. Let's read a book instead.
Kid: (Screams.)

Kid: "Mommy, I want to watch (insert show title here)"
Liar Mommy: It's not on right now. Let's read a book instead.
Kid: OK.

I vote for the lie and the peaceful house. Is it really so important for a 3-year-old to grasp "because Mommy says so" over an issue like TV? Much easier for him to just think it is not an option, rather than he is being denied something. (This also works with "we don't have any ice cream" and "the zoo is closed today") You have to pick your battles...


Posted by: Arlmom | May 24, 2006 11:46 AM

Our children enjoy the stories of Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. But it's totally clear that it's all pretend. It's just as much fun that way. Children love pretending! There's no need to lie.

Posted by: Teresa | May 24, 2006 11:49 AM

Okay Jayne, very good points. My kids do believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. I try not to "lie" about those three characters but I admit I have misled them a few (dozen) times on those subjects. For some reason it doesn't feel like lying. And the one time someone (another child) tried to tell them the truth I got really pissed. Guess this falls into my category of "One of the points of parenting is to never be perfect...or perfectly consistent."

Posted by: Leslie | May 24, 2006 11:50 AM

What's a lie?

I don't see withholding details about my income or sex life from people who aren't directly concerned as a lie.

I don't see telling a child the fantasy of Santa Claus as lying.

I don't see not telling a friend that I'm unimpressed with their new SO to be lying, assuming that they don't ask.

I try to tell the truth because it's simply easier, but before I say that I lie or I don't I'd like to know where the line is drawn.

Posted by: lies, damn lies, and statistics | May 24, 2006 11:53 AM

The truth is "everyone" lies at one point - innocently or deliberately. And to say that you don't - you are lying to yourself and to everyone!

Posted by: Vicky | May 24, 2006 11:54 AM

I'm guessing Amazed does not have children.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 12:02 PM

I don't have children (yet), but NEVER lie to my wife. Who hasn't learned by now that the (1) the truth always comes out (2) the coverup is ALWAYS worse than the crime. When I do have children and deal with the inevitable sex questions, Father of 4 has a brilliant answer, and Leslie, your answer just makes me go "eew."

Posted by: Michael | May 24, 2006 12:02 PM

Doesn't it really depend on a child's age and maturity whether or not a parent can be honest about certain topics? When kids are young, everything is black and white - shades of grey take much longer to understand. I discuss things much more openly with my 14 year old than I do with my 10 year old....she's just much more ready to accept and process any "truths" that require analysis and understanding.

Posted by: VA mom o' 2 | May 24, 2006 12:06 PM

Arlmom- I don't have kids so I clearly don't know, but I wonder about your statement that "When dealing with a toddler, it's easier to lie."

Instead of lying and saying the show "isn't on right now" why not say something like "you can be upset but throwing a tantrum isn't going to get you your way" or "you've already watched enough tv for the day" or something that isn't a lie? After all, what if your child learns to turn on the tv and discovers that you've deceived him/her? Wouldn't that undermine the trust they have in you?

Your method may be easier in the short run, but I wonder about the long term.... What do other parents of toddlers think about this?

Posted by: Ingrid | May 24, 2006 12:11 PM

One of my children's friends took it upon herself to tell them the intimate details of sex. They were five and seven. I was annoyed, but used the opportunity to try to answer questions and straighten out any wrong info. My youngest patted me on the arm and said she was sorry that had happened to me. I told her that you'll do anything when you want a baby! They are now ten and twelve. Incidentally, I used to lie to them all the time when they were little. "Sorry, were are all out of ice cream, the candy store is closed, etc." Amazingly, 'Amazed', they are polite and easy kids. I don't lie to them now, as they are able to be reasoned with. You don't have kids, do you?

I do talk to my kids about sex. Everybody else is, why should I be left out?

Posted by: endoftheworld? | May 24, 2006 12:11 PM

Preteen: Mom, did you or Dad do X,Y, or Z in the '60s?????

Mom: Lie, lie, lie!!! (which means admit a few missteps and a little experimentation only).

I'm surprised my husband and I survived the '60s and were able to get professional licenses (background checks were less stringent).

Right on!

Posted by: June | May 24, 2006 12:19 PM

The tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter bunny, Jesus Christ, and god.

What's the difference?

They're all lies, things people made up.

Posted by: Jane Auburn | May 24, 2006 12:20 PM

Ijust found out that in my kid's school they've been holding something called "Code Yellow drills." The children get to practice what they would do if "a person without proper identification" comes into the building. It apparently includes identifying appropriate hiding places and practicing leaving the building following your teacher EXTREMELY QUIETLY.

Should I go in to the principal and demand that they stop lying to the children? We asked my son for further clarification of the 'people without proper identification' part of the drill, and he stated that it's if, you know, someone comes into the library and takes a book without signing into the office correctly.

Should I demand that instead my six-year old child be shown film footage of the carnage in Beslan, Russia and be given a truthful explanation as to exactly who the 'people without proper identification' are? ("Actually, they're crazy people with guns who like to go on killing sprees, dear.")

Truth is so very, very important. Much more important than tender young children's fragile, emotional psyches.

Posted by: Another Mom | May 24, 2006 12:20 PM

This kind of reminds me of when I took a survey geology course in college. My uncle, with a BS in Geology, told me that the class gets so much wrong. I asked why. He said that you have to know so much more to really understand everything, so they just gloss over stuff or explain things wrong to make it easier to understand in a survey class.

When your kids are little, telling every detail, telling every truth just doesn't work. In my experience with kids, they just seem to gloss over on the truth sometimes, or it just upsets them when they can't grasp everything. Also, I agree that there are times you have to pick your battles. A lengthy explanation about why you can't eat fries, pizza, and ice cream everyday will never fly when they don't understand about energy, calories, and how the body processes certain kinds of food. Hell, many adults still don't understand that. :)

All that said, I try when I'm with kids to make sure I don't sound like I know everything. A good "I don't know, let's go look" can save you from an unnecessary lie that may confuse your child for a long time.

So, there's no need for complete rigidity about "no lying" with kids. With spouses, that's another discussion...

Posted by: kate | May 24, 2006 12:24 PM

"Your method may be easier in the short run, but I wonder about the long term.... What do other parents of toddlers think about this?"

Have you ever tried to reason with a stubborn 3 or 4 year old? Sometimes its better to just shut off the TV if that is the problem and plainly say and not so untruthfully "It's not on right now". Of course when they figure out how to turn it back on and be defiant you have another problem. When my daughter started this I would change the channel to something benign and boring before turning off the TV so when she turned it back on she thought it was over.

Posted by: Midwesterner | May 24, 2006 12:24 PM

Ingrid - your question goes to my comment about age and reasoning - toddlers can't reason in the way you suggest. If a mom says "you've already watched enough TV today" because they don't understand concepts like "enough." You'd have to have a strict rule to limit TV watching like "one Barney show." They can understand "we have to turn off the TV because you already watched one Barney show and that's the rule." If you don't have a rule for something (and it's impossible to have rules for EVERYTHING) then it is a lot easier to lie.

Posted by: VA mom o' 2 | May 24, 2006 12:25 PM

ok, I probably lied to a toddler to keep the peace. but once the four of the got a bit older, I tried to never lie to them. If you don't want your kids to lie to you, be truthful with them! Sometimes I might leave out some details, of course. Now that my oldest two are 18 and 16, they tell me much about what is going on in their lives. Too much information, at times. They also trust me to keep their confidences. I teach my children that most lies are revealed, and then the person may never trust anything you say, ever again. That is my reaction when I catch someone lying to me!!
And as an aside, your little ones do need to learn to deal with no as an answer. That would be after age two, those toddlers just are rational sometimes!!!

Posted by: experienced mom | May 24, 2006 12:25 PM

The only lies I have told my children (that I can think of) were out of kindness, and related to pets and animals. When our beloved cat disappeared, I told the kids he probably got lost and was living with another family, when I was pretty sure he had been hit by a car. That wasn't a definite lie (I didn't ever see him again) but was most likely untrue. Another similar one before the cat left was when I found it torturing a baby bunny, I put the cat inside and carried the poor little thing out in the woods, mortally wounded... I told my daughter that I thought the bunny got away. I feel perfectly OK lying like that to a four year old.

Other than that my main lies have been to call in sick when it was really the kid who was sick, not me (and my company did NOT allow sick days for that purpose). I don't feel bad at all about those lies either (I virtually never used a sick day for myself anyway).

I agree that almost always it is not a good thing to lie to anyone, children included. But for the lies about the pets, I feel it was the compassionate thing.

Posted by: Catherine | May 24, 2006 12:29 PM

Ingrid, with toddlers you need to pick your battles. The TV debate is probably only one of about 30 conflicts you can have with your toddler in a given day. Many of those you make learning opportunities ("because I know what's best for you", "because if you touch it it will burn you and that will HURT," "no you cannot take the toy into the bath with you because it will ruin it.") With most of these a tantrum can possibly ensue. To keep the peace and make these lessons more valuable, parents need to focus on some debates and let others go. So they lie or withold the truth or whatever, or even sometimes (gasp!) give in. You don't realize this until you become a parent, but you can't sweat the small stuff because then you won't have the energy and focus to deal with the really important lessons, like how to behave at the dinner table so that you don't piss off people like Amazed.

That being said, I can't specifically remember any lies I've told my toddler. But I'm sure a couple of "no we don't have any cookies left, honey" comments have popped out...

Posted by: FS Mom | May 24, 2006 12:35 PM

Ok, I appreciate the responses. And as I said, I don't have kids (yet, but trying) so I don't know when kids can be reasoned with on what level, etc.

But still, I wonder, instead of saying you can't watch x because it's not on, (and I realize this is just one example), why not use the age old reason my mom used to employ: "Because I said so!"

This doesn't require a lie or excuse...

Posted by: Ingrid | May 24, 2006 12:38 PM

Regarding the "Santa" lie: Last Christmas my child was only 2 so too young to really get what was going on-- he had plenty of fun just opening presents and being in the pagent at church, etc. So we didn't tell him anything about santa. But this year I am thinking of saying something along the lines of "For hundreds of years a story has been told of an old man who lives on the North Pole . . . " What do the rest of you think? Am I cheating my child of the wonders of Christmas by not presenting it as fact? That's what my parents did and I felt pretty foolish what I found out they had been lying to me. Will our family be ostracized by Leslie and the rest of american society because my kid may "spill the beans" to other kids?

Posted by: Santa's little helper | May 24, 2006 12:38 PM

I told my son that Santa has a big magic telescope that he uses to look down on kids throughout the year to make sure they are behaving. Every house has a hidden camera, and Santa's elves can look into your house whenever they want just to see if you are behaving. They report this info to Santa who takes it into account when deciding what to get you for Christmas. I also told my son that Santa goes on vacation from January thru March at the beach. I also told my son when he was two that the bottle monster took away his bottles and he had to use a sippy cup instead.

I still have not figured out how to deal with death or illness yet. I told my son everyone dies, and we go to heaven afterwards, but frankly, to me anyway, it feels like as much a lie as the Santa lie.

Posted by: daria | May 24, 2006 12:42 PM

Hey Ingrid - trust me, "because I said so" are the four most frequent words I seem to use these days. Again, with the number of conflicts you have with toddlers in a day, that phrase can get old. You will on occasion take short cuts.

There is a reason God made toddlers so cute ;-)

Posted by: FS Mom | May 24, 2006 12:42 PM

Hey amazed,

I am so glad when people like you ask to be moved away from people like me and my daughter.

Posted by: scarry | May 24, 2006 12:52 PM

For the most part, I don't lie about stuff -- not to my husband, not to my employers (who are very understanding about family stuff, so they don't put me in a position of feeling like I have to), not to my kids. Especially if it's something important -- yes, things have to be very age-important (the explanation of where her baby brother came from was very, very interesting), but my daughter has an absolutely unreal memory, and I'm not going to come up with a story that she will absolutely remember and call me on when she's old enough to figure out the truth.

That said, like a lot of the other posters, I will lie about little things here and there to smooth out the day. Like, say, there's a particularly violent cartoon my husband lets our daughter watch, and she LOVES, but that sometimes gives her nightmares. So I will tell her that it's not on -- and ask HIM to stop letting her watch it!

My favorite was when we were in Germany visiting relatives. We were on our way back to the apartment after a long outing, all very tired, and passed a small carousel (like the kiddie rides in front of the supermarket). We let my daughter, then 3, ride on it twice, but I foresaw a HUGE exhaustion tantrum when I told her we were done. So instead, when she asked to go a third time, I just said, "I'm sorry, honey, it takes German money, and we don't have any." She looked at me, said, "oh, ok," and happily toddled off home.

Posted by: Laura | May 24, 2006 12:52 PM

Ingrid-we have a 4 year old and we try to always tell him directly when and why he can or can't do something in an age appropriate way. But we try to tell him in advance so he knows the expectations- 15 minutes of TV and when the timer goes off, that's it-we may tell him that's all the TV he can watch because he needs to run around or 1 small cookie because too much sugar is not good for him or it will cause him not to go to sleep on time. Yes, sometimes he protests a little or tries to convince us to do something different and yes that can be completely annoying when we want to say "because we said so!" but he understands we mean what we say and that we will follow through, so it is no big surprise to him (and thus no tantrums, etc) if we say no or set limits. I don't think the other approach is "lying" in a negative way though-it's more just doing what is easier. Each person knows what will work for their kid, how much energy and time they have at any moment to deal with the fall out of "no" and what behavior results they ultimately want from their child, etc. Our approach hasa always worked for us-If I told my son the TV does not work he would turn it on himself and prove me wrong-what's the point? I prefer in the long run for my kids to know that although they might have the ability to do something (watch TV) there will be times when I simply will not let them do it, and they will have to accept that.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 12:53 PM

I was a recipient of lies that resulted in life changing decisions that eventually affected ten people. One lie was told to me by my mother when I was 16 and graduating from high school, which prevented me from attending my chosen college. The second most life altering lie was when the mother of the person I loved and who loved me lied to both of us. We both married people we didn't love, each of us had three children, none of the adults were happy and the children were raised in unhappy homes.


I have forgiven my mother for her lie to me, but I certainly haven't forgotten it. It took me until I was 40 before I could forgive her. I have not lied to my children, who are now adults, and I don't recommend it. Children do remember your lies.

Posted by: A recipient of lies | May 24, 2006 12:54 PM

"There is a reason God made toddlers so cute ;-)"

AMEN!

Posted by: Midwesterner | May 24, 2006 12:55 PM

Leslie states...'I felt compelled to tell him the truth that we've done it more than three times and that we still do it "just for fun." '

So, when do you tell him about artifical methods of birth control and your willful violation of God's law regarding procreation? Sex relations between a married couple, one man and one woman, are intended to create new life and not as some sort of recreational activity.

Posted by: Rupert Pupkin | May 24, 2006 12:55 PM

I'm OK with benign lies, like Santa and the tooth fairy. When my 4-year-old has asked me about them point-blank recently, I have just deflected it and asked, "I don't know- what do you think?" At least then she will decide when she can stop believing.

It strikes me sometimes that we have SO much power to shape their world, for good or for ill. This usually strikes me when something evil occurs to me (which of course I never say).

For instance, this weekend my 2-year-old was afraid because she said she saw a monster in a tree. My cousin bent down and gently told her that "monsters don't exist anywhere but... (dramatic pause) Sesame Street!" During this dramatic pause I thought of finishing the sentence by saying something like "under your bed!" or "in the closet!" but of course I didn't.

Posted by: Ms L | May 24, 2006 12:56 PM

My mom once lied to my sister, telling her it was illegal to have more than 5 children at a birthday party. How many of you wish you'd come up with that one?

Posted by: Arlington, VA | May 24, 2006 12:56 PM

I'm not surprised Ms. WaPoWriter lies to her husband. She seems to really not like him much, considering how she puts him down all the time here.

Posted by: Things | May 24, 2006 1:00 PM

Rupert Pumpkin,
I think that you stumbled into the wrong blog patch. Take that #$%^ somewhere else.

Posted by: LC | May 24, 2006 1:02 PM

My alternative to "because I say so" is
"because I'm the Mother and you're the child". Works every time!

Posted by: June | May 24, 2006 1:08 PM

There are on rare occasions the very small white lies that will show up in my household; they mainly concern the location of noisy toys. He will play with the newly acquired noisy thing for a little while, then when he abandons it, I swoop it up and place it where he can't see or reach it. When he asks me about it, I tell him I'm not sure, but he'll likely find it later on. This gives me a little time to disassmble the bits that make noise (or at least muffle them), then I return said neutered toy. The rest of the time, I try very hard to be as truthful as I can with him, especially as the main part of rules enforcement is the statement "Mama doesn't bluff".

(I know -- there are those out there reading this saying, "Why do you get him noisy things?" I don't. They usually come from the extended family, even after multiple requests of "Please! For the sake of my ears and sanity, nothing that makes a lot of noise!")

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | May 24, 2006 1:08 PM

"So, when do you tell him about artifical methods of birth control and your willful violation of God's law regarding procreation? Sex relations between a married couple, one man and one woman, are intended to create new life and not as some sort of recreational activity."

It's right up there with wearing nylon, and planting crops of two different plants right next to each other.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 1:10 PM

You're right about that "Things".

I try to live life with as few lies as possible. Sometimes it's better not to say anything than be forced to lie. I totally agree with not lying to a spouse, at all, and I'm amazed at all the lying that couples do. Well, no I'm not, because I see that most of them are unhappy and have poor communication in general.

Lying to kids. I don't have any and so I can't speak from experience, but I understand about irrational kids under 3. Still, once children are older, I believe in honest truth. When I was 15 and my father was dying I asked my mom, "Is there any hope?" She anwered honestly, "No." Thus, when he died a few days later, the shock was not so severe as it might have been if she had lied and tried to make me "feel better" in the moment. Sometimes truth is hard, but a lie can be so damaging.

Posted by: Anne | May 24, 2006 1:12 PM

This is my first time posting though I've been reading this blog for a few weeks.

I highly recommend for everyone sane on this blog to just ignore comments from people like 'Rupert Pupkin' and 'Things'...keep the thread going. They're just trolls.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 1:16 PM

It is a good thing that every person, every child and every situation are exactly alike, or else the cut and dried, black and white, paint-by-numbers approach to life that so many people espouse would be nothing more than self-rightous attempts to outscream "them".

Then where would we be? Left to assess ourselves and our situation, know our children and what they can handle, decide what our personal values are and how to apply them?

Right! Like THAT would work!

Posted by: Tom A. | May 24, 2006 1:16 PM

OK, so I (I believe) have never lied to my son nor did I lie to
my ex-wife. (And I very carefully don't lie to my son now, even
when he may carry information back to my ex -- he's free
to tell her anything that happens with me -- which occasionally
makes it feel as if I have no privacy, but one does what seems
right. Even tougher is when he asks me why his mother is doing something).

That said, I've come to feel that every kid is different and
different techniques work with different kids. And provided the
parent does it for the good of the kid, I try not to judge.

For instance, I will never say "because I'm the parent" because
I believe that kids should understand why the rules exist. And
I hope that this practice will do for my son what it did for me
in my teen years -- provide a way for kid and parent to talk
(or argue) about boundaries and rules in a constructive way.
But I also know kids who take great comfort that their parents
don't explain everything -- that part of the world is their
parent's concern and the kid can ignore it. For them "because
I'm the parent" is a great answer.

Posted by: Different strokes | May 24, 2006 1:16 PM

Favorite lie, "The police will give me a ticket if you have that light on in the car at night." The kids just didnt get why having a light on made it harder for the driver to see. If parents said "that (Insert fast food joint here) is closed," or "has run out of toys" more often maybe the child obesity problem wouldnt be so bad. Is that a Lie? Depends on what your definition of "is" is.
I like to try and reason once, then I try to change the subject. I find that the worst thing to do is repeat a command or answer as each repetition is weaker. In response to, "Why are you and mommy fighting? Mommy and daddy arent fighting we are discussing an important issue loudly. Dont worry there is no one in the world with whom I would rather argue, than your mother. No lies there.

Posted by: Father of 3 | May 24, 2006 1:23 PM

Teaches the use of "whom" in a sentence. Two birds one stone dont cha know.

Posted by: Father of 3 | May 24, 2006 1:25 PM

I'm sorry Rupert Pumpkin's comment make me chuckle.

I agree with all of those who have said you have to speak to children in language they can grasp. I can tell my 14 year old things I would never have discussed with her a few years ago, ditto my 11 year old. Crazy, but my kids still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy...although, they know in other cultures kids do different things. It is nice to have some fantasy in your life, why should everything be cut and dry?

Posted by: virginiamon | May 24, 2006 1:26 PM

I have always been a very adept and comfortable liar. It's rare that I lie about anything that I consider important, but "white lies" used to slip through my lips just as easily as anything else, and would even take me by surprise sometimes.

Since I got married and have had kids, that has had to change. I remember the one time I lied to my husband. It was one of those weird situations where there was no real reason to lie, but I did. Rather than telling him I was simply skipping something, I told him it was canceled. I have no idea why. Of course he found out. He was so upset, and I said, "But I would never lie about anything important" and immediately realized how absurd that must sound. How would he know? How could he trust me if he knew I lied about anything? I vowed that day never to lie to him again, and I haven't.

Babies, however, are slightly different. I'm a fan of the "all gone" lie when it comes to cookies, chocolate, or other things that an almost 2 year old shouldn't have more than a taste of. However, I have been frequently surprised as how often a simple, "No, that's all for now, let's go play with your trucks" works, and as my child gets older and develops more reasoning ability I try to do more explaining and less lying or redirecting.

The one thing I would point out about Ingrid's suggestion of "because I said so" is that in my experience it can turn things into a control issue, which is just trouble. With my older child (now 4), using that phrase too often can make it a battle of wills, and it becomes a repeated source of conflict instead of a one-time deal. So I try to reserve that for times when safety or some other priority make it important that she does what I say right now, and other times use other reasons.

Also, thank GOD I am not married to Rupert Pupkin....what a sad life for his or her spouse...

Posted by: a very good liar | May 24, 2006 1:27 PM

when my stepson came to live with us he was amazed when my own son (aged 2) asked me a question and i answered him honestly. i don't remember what the question was but it certainly would have been easier to lie to my son. my stepson asked me why i didn't lie to my son. i thought it was sad that he knew that his own mother lied to him and he thought that lying was acceptable behavior.

that being said, yes, i have definitely picked my battles when it come to what i say to my son. when we move back to our house most of my son's baby toys will not make the move back. if he ever asks me what happened to the toys (provided he notices that they're missing) i will not tell him "mommy sold them at a yard sale". i will tell him that i don't know.

Posted by: quark | May 24, 2006 1:35 PM

Interesting comments...I have 2 kids, 9 and 5.5. I have made it a rule not to lie to make my life easier because the later you wait to set limits, the higher the price you pay in disobedience. So I have turned off the TV because it was enough, said no to ice cream or candy without lying about not having it, said no to buying things in the store without pretending that I did not have the money etc. Initially, I got tantrums and plenty of whining. Now the children are much more accepting of the Nos and life is easier.
On the other hand, I have seen a friend tell her 5 yr old daughter: "oh we don't have ice cream honey so you can't have any" only to be told by her daughter: you are lying, I know it is there and you hid it in the back (which of course was true). Now which response would you rather get: a tantrum or your daughter seeing through your lies? Children are very smart and observant. If you want honesty and truthfullness, you need to model that behavior from an early age.
Re: Santa Claus, I let the kids carry on with it but never overplayed it and always emphasized that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. I always promised myself that once our children asked point blank whether Santa was real, we would not lie. So when our daughter at 7.5, asked if Santa was real, we told her the truth and that it was mom and Dad that stayed up late christmas eve to wrap the gifts and put them under the tree. I asked her if she was disappointed and her response stays with me to this day. She said: no, I am not disappointed, I just can't believe how much you love us to go through all this trouble to make us happy.

Posted by: My 2 cents | May 24, 2006 1:40 PM

I try not to use "because I said so" very often. I feel that my children deserve a concrete reason when I tell them they cannot do something, cannot have something. In fact the only times I use the "because I said so" is when I am pulling my hair out in frustration. I think that phrase diminishes the child and makes him/her feel that their desire is not valid in the eyes of their parent. When I say no more t.v. or no more computer, my youngest always has a fit (aimed at wearing my "no" resistance down) but I find that as long as I keep my cool and repeat "I have already said such and such", he usually gets tired of fussing and moves onto some other activity that is more fun that fussing.

Posted by: virginiamom | May 24, 2006 1:49 PM

My parents tried to tell the truth as much as reasonably possible, but it all broke down over the Santa/Toot Fairy/Easter Bunny myths. When I was about 4 years old, my mother was giving me a bath. I started the conversation with, "If I asked you a question, would you tell me the truth, even if you didn't want to?" It was not near holiday time, so she had no idea what was coming.

She replied, "Of course I would."
Me: "Do you promise?"
Her: "I promise."
Me: "Is Santa Claus a real person, or is he made up?"

After much careful phrasing, she did eventually have to admit that he, and his friends the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, were made up. I was fine with it; I believe she cried herself to sleep that night.

Posted by: Spoiler | May 24, 2006 1:49 PM

I've been peeking at the comments in this blog for several weeks just for laughs...and will probably continue to do so.

It's hillarious to read what Caucassian suburban, middle/upper-class guilt-ridden living in a bubble have never interacted with diverse people nothing-better-to-do parents like you think.

Keep it up!

Posted by: You Guys Make Me Laugh! | May 24, 2006 1:50 PM

Re: Ingrid: "Instead of lying and saying the show "isn't on right now" why not say something like "you can be upset but throwing a tantrum isn't going to get you your way" or "you've already watched enough tv for the day" or something that isn't a lie?"

Because it depends on their mood, a lot. If he is just idly asking, I might just redirect him. But if he is already cranky, yeah, I avoid making him madder. And again, if it was something important I would just tell him what to do, even if he does throw a fit. As I said, it's picking your battles. I don't want every thing out of my mouth to be "no" or "stop." It helps him to know that when I say "no" I really mean it. I'm also more interested in the result (not watching too much TV, going to bed at a reasonable time) than how I get there--that will be done more and more as he gets older and understands action-->consequences.

Posted by: Arlmom | May 24, 2006 1:54 PM

>>It's hillarious to read what Caucassian suburban, middle/upper-class guilt-ridden living in a bubble have never interacted with diverse people nothing-better-to-do parents like you think.>>

Crap! I didn't know they were photographing us all this time!

Posted by: Arlmom | May 24, 2006 2:02 PM

Instead of rationalizing with your kids and having to stoop to the old line "Because I said so", try using these words: "Because it makes you whine." If your child protests, you've just made your case. The line "Because I said so and I'm the boss" is the line I use to end an argument with my wife.

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 24, 2006 2:11 PM

A question for the moms and dads: When I was growing up, we truly didn't have a lot of money to buy things I wanted at the store. When my husband and I eventually have kids, we likely will have the cash flow to buy things, so it's not like the money isn't there, but buying everything in sight won't be a good use of our resources, plus I don't want them to grow up spoiled. How do you handle that? Do you say "we don't have the money" even though you do? Do you just say "no, because I said so?"

Posted by: Future mom | May 24, 2006 2:12 PM

"Because it makes you whine" -- that is fantastic!! ThankS for that!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 2:13 PM

My daughter, who is 11 now, came to me about 4 years ago and asked me where do babies come from? I went thru the ols stand by, stork, found in cabbage patch, etc. My daughter tole me that I did not know what I was talking about. she proceeded to tell where babies come from, the true version. You never know if your children already have the answer to the questions they ask. I now answer all of her questions truthfully. By the way the same goes for my wife. I don't know if she already knows the answer to the question that she is asking, so I am truthful when I answer her. Truth=less nights on the sofa.

Posted by: honestdad | May 24, 2006 2:13 PM

I agree 100% with A recipient of lies. Growing up, I was often asked by my mother to answer the phone and, if it was this or that gossip, tell the caller my mom wasn't home. I would later learn that I was also was lied to about illnesses and serious injuries of relatives, including a sibling.

I made myself a promise that I would never lie to my children, and I have kept it. In fact, I enjoin them, "If you think that I or anyone else has just lied to you, ask, 'If it turns out you've just lied to me, will you give me a thousand dollars?'"

For years, I've been saying that reporters at press conferences should pose a similar question to politicians: "If it turns out you've just lied, will you agree to resign within 30 days?" Or to defendants in court: "If it turns out you've just lied, will you agree to a life sentence?" Such questions would go far to make people accountable. (How about asking the president of Iran: "If it turns out that you are developing nuclear weapons, may we nuke you?")

Even nations needn't lie to protect State secrets. They can do as Israel does when asked, "Were you behind this assassination?" Their stock response: "As a policy, we neither confirm nor deny such allegations." Likewise, if a parent is asked a question whose truthful answer s/he prefers not to give, let the parent reply, "I don't want to answer that" or "I will neither confirm nor deny that it's true."

In her book Lying, Cicela Bok argued that, the ethical case for lying is exceeding rare. She points out that every time someone is found to have lied, it makes the word of honest people that much more difficult to accept.

Recently I was giving my just-turned-15-year-old a driving lesson in the school parking lot...without having asked her mom whether it would be OK. Her mom called my daughter's cell and asked, "Where are you?" My daughter covered the mouthpiece and whispered, "What should I say?" "Tell her the truth," I replied.

As a parent, the payoff has been enormous. I now have four children or stepchildren who know that they can trust that whatever I tell them is true.

Posted by: Paul | May 24, 2006 2:25 PM

As I read these comments I found myself thinking of the "lies" my mom and dad told me when I was a kid. Thankfully, nothing major or life altering or downright abusive--more of the "Santa Claus" variety. But they did lie from time to time. Once my mom told me, after I had inadvertently dropped a frog into hot water and boiled it alive (by accident!), that she had set it outside to cool off, and then it had hopped away. Patently untrue, of course, but very consoling. She could obviously have taken that opportunity to teach me a lesson about how everyone dies one day--I think I was about six years old--but instead she took what some might view here as the "easy way out."

What do I remember about this incident now that I'm an adult with two kids of my own? Her total compassion and concern for me, and her desire to protect me. Maybe THAT'S a bigger lesson than the "truth."

Posted by: another angle | May 24, 2006 2:26 PM

Future mom: how about telling them "you don't need it" or "you have plenty of toys at home" or "we're not buying any toys today" or "we can't buy every toy you see"... If a kid can understand "we don't have the money" they certainly can understand any of these. If you teach your kids that 'no' means 'no' and that you won't tolerate tantrums (e.g. you won't get them the toy even if they keep screaming/crying/whatever) it shouldn't require more than a quick reason. Parents have to be consistent... kids are always testing you, trying to see what they can get away with. If you give into tantrums, they learn that tantrums work and will only continue you to throw them in the future. You make get them to quiet down for the time being by giving in, but it will only make your life harder in the future because you will never be able to say 'no' and they will become your boss, instead of the other way around. It shouldn't require lying to simply get out of giving your kid an ice cream, toy, tv show or whatever.

Yes... this is a lot harder than it sounds, but it is worth the effort.

Posted by: the boss | May 24, 2006 2:27 PM

Here's an interesting one to think about--lying about something that isn't even real. There are two times I remember lying to my wife, both about dreams that I woke up in the middle of the night in such a way that my wife asked what I was dreaming about. One I didn't tell her was a dream about her dying that I couldn't see any point in sharing. And another was about being with an ex-girlfriend that I REALLY couldn't justify sharing. Those aren't lies if they are just dreams...are they? Oh, and I just lied about my name here ;-)

Posted by: smith | May 24, 2006 2:28 PM

"Mommy and daddy arent fighting we are discussing an important issue loudly."

"Because it makes you whine"

"Your Mother and I were both virgins before we got married."

"I don't know- what do you think?"

Damn I'm learning some great ones on this blog! Keep it up!!

Posted by: FS Mom | May 24, 2006 2:28 PM

I will start by saying that parents know how to parent their kids and what one parent calls a pretend play another will call a lie but both of them are right in their own way. I try to be truthful with my kids but I also tell them that (1) they must eat fruit and vegetable to grow up; (2) a policeman will take away his bike if my son rides it without a helmet; (3) eating dirt will make my son tummy hurt (the latter unfortunately came true -- he came down with a really bad fever and told the doctor in the hospital that he was sick because he ate dirt); (4)if they don't wash their hands with soap and water they will get sick; (5) we can't afford a $300 fire truck or a $200 motocycle in toys r us; and (6) I don't have money to buy coca cola and sugary snacks. The other day I told my son the truth about giving birth. He did not believe me -- he still thinks he came out through the belly button.

Posted by: less than truthful parent | May 24, 2006 2:34 PM

Ingrid:'But still, I wonder, instead of saying you can't watch x because it's not on, (and I realize this is just one example), why not use the age old reason my mom used to employ: "Because I said so!" '

Sometimes "Because I said so" would not deter #4 from having the tantrum that I don't have time for. That would be the short answer. The longer even more truthful answer is "you can't watch tv now because you have to get your clothes on so we can drop #1 & #2 off at school before we go to the supermarket and pick up a new soccer ball for #3 before we drop him off at school. And I can't put you in the car again in your pull-up because I actually have to take you out when we get to the store and it's 35 degrees outside. And I can't skip going to the stores because Dad can't do it while he's out of town on business." Both answers mean the same to her and she doesn't care about either. Neither of these answers gets the job done as well as "Dora isn't on right now so let's get dressed and go."

Posted by: motherof4 | May 24, 2006 2:34 PM

Hey, Father of 4, are you the same guy who made such sweet sentimental comments in previous posts? It seems your posts today have a mean-spirited edge, not like before. Maybe I'm crazy, but I really respected the previous posts and something doesnt' ring true today.

Posted by: babby | May 24, 2006 2:43 PM

R we reaaly comparing Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the/Easter Bunny to why our chihdren can't watch a TV show or access a certain WEB site, or go out after family curfew??? I'm sure we R trying our hardest to be parents.

Posted by: JJ | May 24, 2006 2:44 PM

Future Mom-I say no, I don't want to spend our money on xyz because I want to be able to spend it on gymnastics/music lessons, school, etc. for you and for other things for our family. It teaches several lessons all at once--he's not always thrilled but he knows that is the answer. Even though he won't completely "get it" we are trying to start teaching him the concept of priorities, etc. (4 year old)

Good luck!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 2:47 PM

"It's hillarious to read what Caucassian suburban, middle/upper-class guilt-ridden living in a bubble have never interacted with diverse people nothing-better-to-do parents like you think"

Apparently, you have nothing better to do either. And you are not as diverse as you think if you classify all Caucasian people as the same. We have ethnicities too.

Posted by: scarry | May 24, 2006 2:47 PM

Right on, Scarry!

Posted by: babby | May 24, 2006 2:50 PM

Future mom,

"Do you say "we don't have the money" even though you do?"

I say "We don't have the money budgeted for that."

Posted by: Father of 2 | May 24, 2006 2:54 PM

Future Mom:

We are dealing with exactly this same issue. I also grew up with NO money, so saying "we can't afford it" is practically a reflex. But the fact is, we're much better off now, and I realized about a year ago that that's not true. I also didn't want my 5-yr-old to think that the only reason not to buy something is because you don't have money for it (I can see that blowing up in our faces 10-20 yrs).

So my stock answer is "that's not how we choose to spend our money," along with the old standby, "we don't buy everything we see/want" route. Even pulled out my dad's old line, "when you have a job and pay all the bills, then you can make the decision" (ok, that's the frustration response, not the preferred one!).

Our biggest issue is commercials, which she has just recently started to notice -- luckily, those also give a better opportunity for discussion (with less threat of tantrum). My daughter will say something like "I never had that, can we get that?" I typically say maybe, and that we can buy some things, but not everything. So, for ex., kids' cereals: I hate them, but she loves them, so we let her pick one at a time and mix a little into her Cheerios in the morning (weird, yes). So when she sees a new one and asks if she can get that, I say, "sure, if that's what you choose after you finish the X."

Of course, for this to work, she has to believe that "maybe" isn't just Mommy Speak for "no." So when we do or buy something that she previously asked for, we make a point of noting that she asked for it, and we did it/got it. And she really seems to understand this -- even as she has become more and more aware of all of the cool things to buy, the number of tantrums over not getting stuff has decreased substantially.

Posted by: Laura | May 24, 2006 2:56 PM

My mom told me a couple of lies that I'll never forget:

1. Ironing helps you lose weight; and
2. Leaving the closet door open is bad luck.

That woman had a great sense of humor -- when I discovered that ironing and weight loss have absolutely no correlation (after months of ironing all my Dad's shirts with no complaint) I laughed so hard my sides hurt.

Posted by: VA mom o' 2 | May 24, 2006 2:57 PM

www.iusedtobelieve.com is one of my favorite web sites. So much of it is explanations kids came up with on their own; however, there are also some entries about crazy and incorrect things people used to believe because of adults who couldn't be bothered to tell them the truth.

What bugs me the most are lies adults tell kids to get them not to behave a certain way. I remember my grandpa telling me "if you go past this line on the sidewalk [in front of my grandparents' house], there's a mean man who'll come and take you home." Thing is, I knew he was full of it at the time and thought, "Why don't you just tell me I have to stay in front of the house?"

When my best friend was 5, she dropped some raisins behind her uncle's couch and didn't pick them up. The next time she was over there, there were some bugs behind the couch and he told her that the bugs had come from the raisins. Even now, she has a major aversion to raisins. Way to go, jackass.

Posted by: Amy | May 24, 2006 2:58 PM

thanks babby,

I get so tried of the "your all a bunch of rich, white girls," crap. I'm an Irish coal miner's daughter, I probably grew up with less than whoever posted that dumb post.

Posted by: scarry | May 24, 2006 2:58 PM

Here are some good ones I have heard:

"Pinching causes cancer."

"When the ice cream truck is playing music, that means that it is out of ice cream."

Posted by: scr | May 24, 2006 3:00 PM

Some of the things I say:
"No." (yes, usually this is enough-- I never give into whining for toys, so they don't bother)
"You already have a lot at home."
"You don't need it."
and finally,
"If you really want it, you can ask for it for your birthday/Christmas."

Posted by: stores | May 24, 2006 3:00 PM

Laura wrote: So, for ex., kids' cereals: I hate them, but she loves them, so we let her pick one at a time and mix a little into her Cheerios in the morning (weird, yes). So when she sees a new one and asks if she can get that, I say, "sure, if that's what you choose after you finish the X."

When my brother and I were kids, we were not allowed sugary cereals. However, we were able to convince my mom to buy us whatever cereal we wanted for our birthdays. I remember really looking forward to my "birthday cereal"!

Posted by: Amy | May 24, 2006 3:03 PM

Amazing how holier than thou we all can be. Some people say it's fine to tell a white lie to avoid a confrontation, like your show is not on right now, let's read a book. Others want the confrontation and say because too much TV is not good for you, that's why. Others say I'm the boss, that's why. Others say it's illegal to watch tv at 11:00 AM, that's why. Others say that because Santa is watching and we don't want him to catch us watching TV, that's why. Seriously, folks, who the heck really cares? If you think these are life altering decisions, and that your way is better than anyone elses, you obviously don't have much to think about. People are different. Children are different. Children at different ages should be handled differently. Some people need to hear the truth. Some people can't handle it. It is not appropriate to tell the truth sometimes. It is often better to tell a white lie to avoid a pointless confrontation or hurting another person. The truth, frankly, is overrated, and IMHO, if we all told the truth always, we would be in a mess of trouble.

Posted by: egads | May 24, 2006 3:03 PM

Rupert Pupkin doesn't believe what he wrote. The name "Rupert Pupkin" is a reference to a certain comedy show on WJFK 106.7 right now....

On another topic, I think the reason the "You Guys Make Me Laugh!" troller is giggling is because no one has dealt with anything outside the higher-end of the socio-economic scale.

Here's one. I grew up in about the lousiest area of Brooklyn you could imagine. My law-and-order father would not allow me outside after 10pm until the day I left for college. He used the "because you're under my roof and will follow my rules"-type excuse. The real answer is closer to "because I don't want to have to bury you or bail you out." In this case, if the teen (me) is not smart enough to figure out the answer, the teen isn't smart enough to no longer be subject to the rule.

Not a sermon, just a thought.

Posted by: BTW... | May 24, 2006 3:06 PM

egads,
You've gone on record that you believe that sometimes it's preferable to lie. Why, then, should we believe that you believe this? If you lie some of the time, how should we know when to believe you?

Posted by: Paul | May 24, 2006 3:09 PM

"When the ice cream truck is playing music, that means that it is out of ice cream."

scr - that is so funny. I haven't heard this one before.

Posted by: kansas city | May 24, 2006 3:09 PM

Paul,
I don't care if you believe ME or not. That was not really the point. What you have to figure out is what you believe, not what anyone else does.

Posted by: egads | May 24, 2006 3:12 PM

When I was a kid, I made pancakes for my dad. He ate them one at a time, as they came off the grill. I would ask him how they tasted, and he would say that he needed to eat another one before he could give me an opinion. So he would finish a stack, as I made more and more, before he would finally say they were good. At the time, I was busily making more so that he could decide if he thought they were good. Now, I realize he was only doing that to make me make more, and that he really liked them a lot, or he would not ask for more. I always remember those pancake mornings with my dad, and it always warms my heart.

Posted by: lies, lies, and more lies | May 24, 2006 3:16 PM

"egads,
You've gone on record that you believe that sometimes it's preferable to lie. Why, then, should we believe that you believe this? If you lie some of the time, how should we know when to believe you?"

Oh, please, you're kidding, right? let's not pretend that everyone's reaction to these small lies are so black and white. Everyone has caught someone else in a small lie, and Did you stop believing the person entirely? Probably not. To those who grew up thinking there was an Easter Bunny, did you stop believing what your parents' told you when you found out. Probably not.

The idea that somehow we should always tell the truth is ridiculous and actually makes one forget other values that are just as important: compassion, tact, and discretion (and to a lesser degree, the wonder and make-believe of childhood).

And as for lies told in the family, you better believe there is only one answer to my question, "Does this outfit make me look fat?" -- regardless of what the truth may be.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:18 PM

This is interesting; my problem is that I have been far too honest with my daughter. I didn't hide the fact that her father left us for someone he met on the Internet, even though my daughter was only five years old at the time. I talk to her about important decisions to understand how she feels (like my decision to leave Virginia and move to Arizona). I sometimes feel like I am robbing her of her childhood and that I should keep some things from her, but I know that she'll find out the truth someday and possibly resent and mistrust me. She is so very good about being honest with me, and I feel I need to answer her questions honestly as well. I simply try to soften the blow and minimize the impact of difficult news. Of course, I work as a public information officer, so that's what I do for a living. I tell my employer what I tell my daughter: ALWAYS go with the truth; most people will forgive mistakes much easier than they will forgive a lie.

Posted by: single western mom | May 24, 2006 3:28 PM

"I get so tried of the "your all a bunch of rich, white girls," crap. I'm an Irish coal miner's daughter, I probably grew up with less than whoever posted that dumb post."

I love it how Caucassians think they are "ethnic" because their great-great-great-great-great grandfather was from "Ireland." And that they know hardship because their great-great-great-great-great grandmother worked in a factory.

You still live in your scary bubble Gap and J.Crew golly gosh world.

Posted by: Still Laughing at Your Comments | May 24, 2006 3:31 PM

"And as for lies told in the family, you better believe there is only one answer to my question, "Does this outfit make me look fat?" -- regardless of what the truth may be."

Then why ask the question if you don't want to know the answer??????

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:32 PM

To You guys make me laugh/Scarry and others...Not everyone who posts (or reads) is Caucasian...balancing a busy professional and important familial life is universal, even if it is easier for some and more difficult for others. I am not Caucasian, and neither are most of my close girlfriends (several of whom also read this blog sometimes), but we talk about these issues (the balancing issues) ALL of the time. Admittedly, we don't feel guilty about using our advanced degrees for paid employment, nor do we struggle with telling our children 'no,' and our children don't struggle with hearing 'no,' so I get what you're saying about the angst issue. You are also right that this seems to skew to the middle/upper middle class--which many people of different races are. But again, some of the issues are universal, and it can help every parent to toss around different ways of looking at things, even if you choose not to apply them. Check out Lonnae O'Neal Parker's excellent book on the balancing issues from an AfAm woman's perspective...it's called I'm Every Woman and it certainly resonated with me! (she's a writer at the Post).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:33 PM

To single western mom,
It is not appropriate to tell a 5 year old that her dad left her for a someone else. You have a responsibility to make the truth a little more palatable for a child that young, and frankly, when parents split up, or one parent leaves, they are divorcing each other, and not the kids. It is wrong to say your father left "us." You can say, your father left me, but he will always be your father. Your need to express your bitterness over your ex's wrongdoings does not trump your responsibility to provide your child with AGE APPROPRIATE information, and to shield her from whatever fray you and your ex might be in. If you always tell her the truth, you are robbing her of her childhood. Maybe she will forgive you for that, but do you really want to make her as bitter as you seem to be?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:34 PM

To BTW:

"On another topic, I think the reason the "You Guys Make Me Laugh!" troller is giggling is because no one has dealt with anything outside the higher-end of the socio-economic scale."


Although it's pretty clear that most of us NOW are at the higher end of the ducational scale, please don't assume that we all came from the same place.

It's a waste of time to get into a pissing contest about who came from the worst childhood (some kids had to be home by 3pm after school to do chores/be sexually abused,etc.)...

There are plenty of places on the Internet for self-pity. I doubt that Leslie intended this blog for that purpose.

Posted by: June | May 24, 2006 3:34 PM

"You still live in your scary bubble Gap and J.Crew golly gosh world"

I don't shop at either and I grew up in rural hillbilly land but got myself out of dodge and still am trying to make it. Everyone here is different from different backgrounds. Why don't you share a little about yourself and how it relates to the topic, Laughing?

Posted by: Curious | May 24, 2006 3:35 PM

My parents told me to lie. As latch key kids, my sisters and I had to answer the phone so that if the callers were burglars, they wouldn't think that no one was home, break in, find us, and then have to kill us to protect their identities. For the same reasons, we had to say that our parents were indeed home, just unavailable like in the shower or working on a tricky electrical or plumbing project.

We also had to pretend that we liked any gift we were given.

To get metaphysical, I don't subscribe to the theory that once a liar you lose credibility, because I don't believe that honesty, credibility, truth or their counterparts actually exist. I believe that there are as many truths to one Thing as there are quarks that generate synapses to interpret that Thing. So truth is falsehood, falsehood truth, and it's all just a matter of gradation. Every single moment requires a new specific ethos.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:41 PM

You people are ridiculous. No one lies, oh, except little white light lies that we tell to PROTECT our children and their imaginations.

My five year knows that Santa isn't real. Mom and Dad get up every morning and put up with crap from a lot of different people to be able to buy her those things. She knows the Tooth Fairy isn't real. She knows it's Mommy and Daddy and she's just fine with that. We do our best not to lie to our daughter. It's easiest just to tell her the truth and explain why other people believe it...it's a myth perpetuated in the spirit of the event (be it Christmas, losing a tooth, etc.) I've never understood the Easter Bunny so we don't even bother with that one.

I also noticed that none of you talked about the lies you tell your spouses. And, not one of you can type here and claim that you don't lie to your spouses. If not, you've got a pretty volatile household or live in such a state of denial that it should have its own electoral votes! I lie to my wife about liking her friends, what I'm ok to have for dinner, her shoes, her outfits, what time I got in from the bar and who I was with. Not to protect her, but to protect me.

And she lies to me (AND I KNOW IT)! She tells me she likes my friends and that she'd rather go someplace with me when I know she'd rather take a friend, the number of men she slept with prior to me and when she explains the seemingly inexplicable looks on her face sometimes. All lies! And, I don't care. I figure she doesn't want to be honest with me and, in the battle, that's ok.

People don't like to hear the truth. If we all insisted on absolute truth 100% of the time, none of us could ever have a lasting relationship.

Posted by: Laughing | May 24, 2006 3:45 PM

I'm learning a lot from today's comments. I actually remember HATING when my mom said "because I said so" when I was a kid. I was just wondering what you do with a stubborn toddler short of lying- so I love hearing the tips and lines...

I do see what ArlMom and VirginaMom and others are saying--picking your battles seems wise, and using "because I said so" sparingly, if at all, seems wise also.

When it comes to preteens and teenagers though...isn't telling the truth about sex, drugs (one's own experiences, even), and driving (and mixing these things) important? So they can come to you and talk about anything?

Posted by: Ingrid | May 24, 2006 3:48 PM

SingleWesternMom, was it necessary to tell a 5-year-old the detail that her dad met another woman "on the Internet"? Maybe you're just giving her too much information. Later, when she asks, you could tell her the whole story and perhaps have more perspective on it. I would have told the truth but in its simplest form. For example: "Your dad and I decided to break up and not live together anymore. He met another woman and he lives with her now. He still loves you very much."

FYI: Rupert Pupkin is the main character (played by Robert DeNiro) in a film called "The King of Comedy". So what if this person uses the name as an alias? Do we now have a Rupert Pupkin and a Rupert PuMpkin?

Posted by: Anne | May 24, 2006 3:49 PM

Hey Laughing, "And she lies to me (AND I KNOW IT)! ... the number of men she slept with prior to me"

How about the number of men she slept with AFTER you?? Probably a few in there.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:49 PM

quote:
And as for lies told in the family, you better believe there is only one answer to my question, "Does this outfit make me look fat?" -- regardless of what the truth may be.

LOL. Shoebox actually has a greeting card about that. The front shows a VERY broad woman in a dress. Above her, in large letters: "Why men lie". When you open the card, you read, "Because women insist on asking stupid questions like, 'Do you think this dress makes me look fat?'"

Actually, the Talmud enjoins husbands to lie in exactly this way to spare the wife's feelings. It's part of a general rule that it's OK to lie to spare someone anguish. The trick is, the man must learn to lie convincingly or the ruse is seen for what it is. The Talmud never met my wife:

Wife: "Does this dress make me look fat?"
Me: (where's that candy bar to stuff in my mouth?) "No, Hon."
Wife: "Do you really believe that, or are you just saying that?"
Me: "I'm just saying that--OUCH!"

Posted by: Paul | May 24, 2006 3:49 PM

To "laughing":
I'm not from the Caucus, I'm from Greenland.

Posted by: FurgusMcDurgus | May 24, 2006 3:51 PM

quote:
"our need to express your bitterness over your ex's wrongdoings does not trump your responsibility to provide your child with AGE APPROPRIATE information, and to shield her from whatever fray you and your ex might be in."

For a superb movie on this subject, watch the 2004 Scottish film, "Dear Frankie":
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377752/

Posted by: Paul | May 24, 2006 3:53 PM

Laughing, I'm Hispanic, born in Peru.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:53 PM

Wife: "Does this dress make me look fat?"
Me: (where's that candy bar to stuff in my mouth?) "No, Hon."
Wife: "Do you really believe that, or are you just saying that?"
Me: "I'm just saying that--OUCH!"

LOOOVE IT! Thanks for making me laugh. I don't ask that question anymore, though, because I am fat (so is hubby) but instead I ask "Do I look okay?" I can usually get a positive answer.

Posted by: Curious | May 24, 2006 3:54 PM

Ok, Still Laughing...

So what's your story then?

Posted by: Becky | May 24, 2006 3:58 PM

this is for the mom who can afford to buy her child (almost) everything... try age appropriate answers -
1. you have to earn it. no child is too young not to have some chores. my son is almost 6 yrs old and he has a list of chores. children become much more discriminating when they have to buy it out of their own money that they've had to work for.
2. we're saving our money for your college education. we've used this one once or twice usually after we've talked about school.
3. you can buy that toy when you get rid of some of the toys you already have. teaches him to weigh the value or what he wants vs what he has.
4. we don't believe in buying . this becomes an excellent opportunity to talk about your values. make the talk short & sweet & age appropriate.

actually the best answer for our son is #1. he understands that he has to work for what he wants. he is also starting to figure out prices - he can buy a really big item or several small ones depending on the price. more expensive items require more work.

oh, good golly, would you look at the time! and there's a sale at the gap i must get to!

Posted by: quark | May 24, 2006 3:58 PM

"Caucassians" -- learn how to spell first, insult later

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:58 PM

I also don't want my husband to lie, so I ask, "Does this look ok?" and he gives an honest answer because I don't get upset with his response. This morning I tried on three different sweaters (I do not do this every day!) and he gave me an honest critique of each. I do the same for him. It's all in the way you word it. And if you think the dress makes you look fat, have something else to wear or don't ask.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 3:59 PM

"I don't ask that question anymore, though, because I am fat (so is hubby) but instead I ask "Do I look okay?" I can usually get a positive answer."

Same here, and that's how I approach it. I ask because I respect my husband's opinion rather than to fish for compliments, and he's honest with me, so I know that when I get a positive answer it's an honest one as well.

I read Laughing's post with bafflement -- I have been trying to remember the last time I lied to my husband, and all I could think of was his surprise party several years ago.

Posted by: Amy | May 24, 2006 4:02 PM

I know a mother who believes exaggeration is a way of life. She's a friend of mine, actually--at least, she pretends to be. But I also know her kids, as I'm a teacher at their school, and the lies this woman thinks she can get away with... I have to say, I thought people in general knew better than that!

This mother, we'll call her M, to keep confusion to a minium, has a tendency to lie about what she's doing with her kids and how they are doing. She's written me lengthy e-mails, usually around the time of grading, presumably to suck up. But when I speak with the kids without mentioning the emails, they always have different things--but both have the same stories. (Besides, I generally know what they do when at school and how they are doing, grades-wise, and M tries to tell me bunches of facts that are not true.)

I find it incredibly appalling that someone who turns her life into fiction just to 'look good' and to give herself options that she obviously cannot have in reality because these situations are not true, seems no wrong in it. I've told her that I find some of what she says to be questionable, but she just keeps doing it. Makes me wonder what sorts of things she tells her kids...

Posted by: Horrified | May 24, 2006 4:03 PM

I don't have kids and never lie to my husband, but I do have strong feelings about the way parents present religious beliefs to their children.

Things about my parents' Catholic faith were told to me as fact. I'm sure that's not uncommon in any religion. The truth is, NO religion has been proven to be the right one.

As an adult, I have some bitterness toward my parents about the things they told me. If they were "true", then everyone in the world would be the same religion.

I intend to tell my kids, "This is what we believe, but some people believe otherwise. I think God exists, but you need to decide for yourself if that's true."


Posted by: stella | May 24, 2006 4:04 PM

Just coming up on celebrating my wedding anniversary, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree that lying to a spouse is the worst thing you can do. Coupled with that, though, is also the sin of omission- not speaking up or saying something- which I have done from time to time. Both are bad, and I learned the latter the hard way. Not long after we were married (four months) my wife found out she was sick but wouldn't confront the issues surrounding it. I stuck with her and supported her in her strong and weak moments, but the frustration I felt at times when she'd fall into despair but still not take care of herself was enormous. This went on for over three years. I always respected it was her choice to do what she felt was best, but it impacted both our lives.

She's fine now, but it took me well over a year to get back on track and to lose that sense of frustration after she finally got treatment. It impacted everything- our social life, our physical life, our sex life, her emotional state, my emotional state, her work, my work- absolutely everything.

I cannot say enough that it took me a long struggle to break the habit of holding back because I thought I was protecting her. In truth, as much as it hurts now, I am absolutely, brutally honest. She's actually said a few times that she wishes that I didn't have to have it all out there- I sometimes have to force her to sit down and talk about things and hear things out- but I do it because I believe it is so important.

I never, never thought of leaving, but I did start to get resentful- and I think that is ultimately where lies to wives, husbands or children get you. You start to be annoyed or get bothered with the ramifications of the truth. If I knew my wife were lying to me about money or sex, frankly it would make her less attractive to me- and she's a wonderful, beautiful woman. I think if my children knew I was lying to them, they'd sense it or know it or just start to assume that I am just too busy to tell them the truth- that they aren't worth the effort. Not true at all.

If your children or your spouse always know you are straight up, and you install it in them, they may not always like what you have to say but they know you are unwavering in it. And that to me is my most important role as a husband and father- partner, protector, parent- someone that helps provide the foundation for our life and our home.

Posted by: cd in dc | May 24, 2006 4:08 PM

A question to parents who occasionally lie to their kids:

Suppose you told a lie and your child replied, "If it turns out that you've just lied to me, will you give me $50 in cash?"

How would you reply?

By the way, in my family it's a two-way street. When my chidren were young, I'd ask, "If it turns out you're lying, may I tickle you without mercy for 30 seconds?" If the response was a laughing "No!" I knew they had lied...and they knew I knew.

Posted by: Paul | May 24, 2006 4:10 PM

My mother went to Catholic school as a kid. She says the nun who was her teacher told tham that when Stalin died, you could hear the thud as he was thrown into hell. My mother believed that for the longest time, and now just thinks it's funny. I went to Catholic school too. During biology class in 5th grade, I asked about the theory of evolution. My teacher asked me if I would rather believe that an ape was my great great great great great etc. grandmother, or that God created me in his likeness. I think that both nuns thought they were giving us good answers at the time.

Posted by: religion | May 24, 2006 4:12 PM

I lie to my husband. I pretend to like his mother. She is really manipulative and nice only to her own children, but what would be the point of saying your mother is a wretched, mean woman and I only tolerate her because of you? Does he really need to know that?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 4:18 PM

If you've ever been so angry at your kid for doing something wrong and get right into their face and demand, "Did you do that?" They may answer "No!" which to you is a downright lie. To your child, it is the truth. The discrepancy here is that your child is answering a different question than what you asked. Your child is really trying to say, "No, Mommy! I don't want you to be angry!", but your child was so upset by the emotion, that all that could come out was "No". If you really want to know the truth from your child, you'll ask them nicely.
Now for something endearing that happens all the time at my house:
Favorite Daughter: Dad, do you want a cookie?
Me: Sure! [daughter hands me cookie. Munch, munch, munch]
All 4 kids: Can we have one too?
Me: Well, I suppose so, just give me one more.
All 4 kids: [Munch, munch, munch...]
Several hours pass...
Wife, after discoverying missing cookies: Someones in big trouble! Who ate the cookies???
All 4 kids, in unison: Daddy!
What a bunch of stinkers I'm raising.

Posted by: Father of 4 | May 24, 2006 4:18 PM

June wrote:

It's a waste of time to get into a pissing contest about who came from the worst childhood (some kids had to be home by 3pm after school to do chores/be sexually abused,etc.)...

There are plenty of places on the Internet for self-pity. I doubt that Leslie intended this blog for that purpose"

I don't need your pity and don't want it. I'm a handsome, successful, well-rounded (humble?) person. I give respect and get it back.

Another individual seemed to be making race-related comments. My point, which I will not allow you to trivialize, is that in a lower socio-economic situation, there are far more "serious" issues that kids of all ages are exposed to. The question becomes, are we just as OK about lying to kids about those, because those would clearly not be little white lies.

What would you tell your 10-year-old about the mentally-defective homeless man lying on the sidewalk? Ignore it? Trivialize it? Use it as a teaching opportunity?

Posted by: BTW... | May 24, 2006 4:22 PM

Yeah, I could have told my daughter a lie...but when I opened a mysterious jpeg file (name was only numerical) on my computer (with my daughter on my lap), it turned out to be a half-nude photo of this other woman. Perhaps my ex-husband could have been a little more discreet than to download (then forget to erase) such images onto MY computer?

Also, I disagree with the person who said my ex-husband left only me. When a married person cheats, he or she cheats on his/her family, not just the spouse. A family is torn apart in divorce; it's not just a simple parting of lovers.

I had a friend whose parents divorced in the '60s, when divorce was still very taboo. The children blamed their mother, who held silent for the rest of her life on the subject. Unfortunately, the rest of her life was not that long: the mother committed suicide while my friend was in college. Afterwards, the children (all grown) learned that their mother left their father because he had an affair with her best friend and fathered a child with this woman while he was married to his wife.

And as for my bitterness with my ex-husband, please consider: the man never paid a dime in child support, yet I still gave him unfettered access to his child while we were both living in the same area. He apologized to me and our daughter, and I forgave him. When we did get a divorce, my lawyer said to both of us: "I wish all my clients were as friendly as you two are." After the divorce, I allowed my ex-husband to move in with me for three months to save the money to go to Australia to meet yet another Internet woman that he eventually married. He and I now speak twice a month. Given all that he did, I have a very healthy relationship with him. I am close to his family and I work to make sure our daughter maintains a relationship with them, particularly her grandparents.

Posted by: single western mom | May 24, 2006 4:23 PM

I have a friend who speaks the straight truth and I deeply admire her. She doesn't do this tactlessly or inconsiderately, she just speaks out and says the truth. It sorefreshing that she confronts reality in such a straightforward way. I am sick of people (see the folks on Dr. Phil, Oprah, and all those shows) who are full of lies and deceit.

Lie to my spouse? No. When we met we discussed communication and truthtelling and we said we would be honest, even if it hurt. Has he lied to me? I haven't detected a lie so far (3 years) and I don't think I've lied to him. I was tempted many times, but I decided that, if it was the first time, it probably wouldn't be the last.

I had a boyfriend of many years who had 4 kids. I never lied to any of them, although I did not go into details that weren't necessary and weren't appropriate.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 4:35 PM

Whatever. If your husband was indiscreet and downloaded picutures he shouldn't have, and your child saw them by accident, there is still no need for the child to know the details. Really, all you need to say is whoops, shut off the computer. A five year old does not need details, so don't blame your husband for your decision to give your child inappropriate info. Yes, he did you wrong and the family was destroyed because of it, but your need to make sure your child knows her dad is to blame is wrong also. What happens between father and mother is not the child's business. Who did what to whom is entirely a grown up matter. My parents were divorced in the 60's also, and I unfortunately got a lot of information that I should never have gotten from my dad's side of the family. Maybe it was true, but it was one sided, and in every divorce, there are two sides, no matter who did the cheating. My mother took the high road and did not talk about these things with me. She never blamed my father or in any way tried to make me take a side. As an adult, I see what strenghth she had in doing that, and appreciate her maturity and that she protected me when everyone else just wanted me to join the fray.

In any case, my point is that as parents, we should protect our kids from "hard truths" that only serve to damage them. This is especially true in cases of divorce, where one person's truth is shaded by strong emotion, heartbreak, resentment. This truth is never objective, and to expect a child to understand all this is just unrealistic. It put a burden on the child that children should not have. If shielding our children from these "truths" means we must bear them alone or in silence, that is one of the prices of parenthood. When we have kids, it is not just about us anymore. When we bring children into the struggle between divorcing parents, we are hurting them.

Posted by: to single western mom | May 24, 2006 4:38 PM

To Laughing:

Laughing is quiet. I grew up as one of many kids in an Italian family that lived in a poor mill city. My father worked long, hard hours in a crappy mill job to put food on the table, and my mother worried about us every day when we walked to school in our not-so-safe world. She drilled into us that we could do whatever we wanted but we had to stay in school and work hard so we could get into college.

Ethnic and cultural backgrounds are not purely based on the color of skin, and not every Italian, Irish, German, Hungarian, Polish whatever background person has become homogenized. At the same time, it is not only white people who have worked their way into the middle and upper middle class. This is the D.C. area, look around you, this is a very diverse area. Where are you from?

As for lies, here is my favorite from my mother, because in a way, now, I see why she said it, but at the time, since I already knew the truth, I couldnt figure it out:

Wearing a bikini gets you pregnant.

Ummm.... I have to admit spending a summer at 12 trying to figure that one out. Her idea of sex education was handing us these crazy red-lined books on 'the body of girls and boys' or some such thing. She didn't feel comfortable out and out saying it, so she got us books. To her horror, we located and destroyed the books when she went searching for them for my little brother.

Posted by: Observer | May 24, 2006 4:40 PM

An anonymous poster wrote:

"I lie to my husband. I pretend to like his mother. She is really manipulative and nice only to her own children, but what would be the point of saying your mother is a wretched, mean woman and I only tolerate her because of you?"

Ummm, maybe because it would be nice to have his support in dealing with her? My husband is the first person I go to when things in his family drive me nuts. He usually can't fix them, but having his support makes it much more manageable.

"Does he really need to know that?"

If she's that bad, isn't it likely to come out anyway one day when you just can't take it any more? Wouldn't it be better to bring it up sometime when you're not in the heat of the moment, so you can phrase things more gently, and in a way that opens a conversation?

BTW, Laughing, I'm also with the "I never lie to my husband" crowd (except maybe his upcoming birthday surprise). I am what I am, and if he doesn't love me with all those imperfections, then he's not the guy for me. If I've done something that makes me want to lie, then that's a signal that I shouldn't have done it in the first place.

And seriously, do you really think your wife doesn't already know what time you got home from the bar, and suspect who you were with?

Posted by: Laura | May 24, 2006 4:42 PM

While at a stop sign, a "mentally defective homeless man" scared my age 10 cousin by leaning toward (not into) her seat when she was a passenger in my car and her window was rolled down. He mumbled something about money but I said "Sorry, we can't help you," and drove on.

Then I said to my cousin, "That was scary, wasn't it? I'm sorry that happened. It bothers me, too. He was a homeless person and wanted money. Sometimes that happens, and that's why we have to lock our car doors. It's too bad we couldn't help him but I couldn't be sure that he wasn't a person who might hurt us. Sometimes people like that behave in ways you don't expect because they have mental problems."

What else could I have said? I wanted to tell her the truth. We DO have to be careful of people like that. I don't want her to think that all homeless people are "bad" but then, not all strangers are bad and we teach children to avoid them.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 4:45 PM

I don't tell my husband that I don't like his mother because the situation is not bad enough to warrant him knowing. Yes, I don't like her, but I am fortunate to only see her once a year. If she lived around the corner, maybe it would be different. As it is, I just keep away. She visits once a year, I smile and am nice knowing that it will all be over in a week. It's worked for 17 years, and I am nowhere near the breaking point.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 4:49 PM

"A question to parents who occasionally lie to their kids:

Suppose you told a lie and your child replied, "If it turns out that you've just lied to me, will you give me $50 in cash?"

How would you reply?"

I would reply that you can't--and shouldn't--assign an ethical issue a quantifiable monetary value. Maybe your kids were laughing because they understood that.

Posted by: fs | May 24, 2006 4:49 PM

I tell my girlfriends a lot about my life. Some stuff I wouldn't tell my husband or parents. My husband knows that we tell each other almost everything, and sometimes tells me that something is off limits for telling my girlfriends. I have noticed my husband does not tell his friends a lot. They mostly bond over activities.

Posted by: Truth and girlfriends | May 24, 2006 4:54 PM

My daughter sometimes prefers a little lie, a convenient fiction, to the truth.

We've done the family bed thing forever, but she's in an individuation phase, so I've been putting her to bed by herself for a few weeks. The *idea* of going to bed alone still scares her, but she sleeps much better.

One night, as I was kissing her cheek and getting ready to go out of her room, she said, "You're not going out, you're going to check on the fish, right?" "Yes, dear, I'm going to check on the fish. I'll be back later."

So that's our story. A lie, to be sure, but one she created.

They're all different, aren't they?

Posted by: terri | May 24, 2006 4:55 PM

have a friend who speaks the straight truth and I deeply admire her. She doesn't do this tactlessly or inconsiderately, she just speaks out and says the truth. It ****sorefreshing**** that she confronts reality in such a straightforward way.

Sorefreshing - that was a freudian slip if I ever saw one. Hearing the truth can make you sore.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 4:56 PM

Ummm, maybe because it would be nice to have his support in dealing with her? My husband is the first person I go to when things in his family drive me nuts. He usually can't fix them, but having his support makes it much more manageable.

I have my husband's support every day. I don't need him to butt heads with his family to feel that I have his support. And I don't want him to feel bad that his family stinks, because he can't control them. So I don't tell him I don't like them. He likes them, and I love him, and I can put up with them without making him feel bad about them.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 5:01 PM

Ummm, maybe because it would be nice to have his support in dealing with her? My husband is the first person I go to when things in his family drive me nuts. He usually can't fix them, but having his support makes it much more manageable.

I have my husband's support every day. I don't need him to butt heads with his family to feel that I have his support. And I don't want him to feel bad that his family stinks, because he can't control them. So I don't tell him I don't like them. He likes them, and I love him, and I can put up with them without making him feel bad about them.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 5:02 PM

Hey Laughing, "And she lies to me (AND I KNOW IT)! ... the number of men she slept with prior to me"

Can I say that I wish my wife lied to me about that one? If only we could selectively insert lies retroactively...

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 5:02 PM

I grew up in the Midwest, at a time when tornado watches occurrred every couple years. My family woud retreat to the basement and listen on our radio. One time, my younger sister asked, "Could we die?"

"No!" reassured my mom.

"Dad? Could we die?"

"It's conceivable," replied my father, a scientist.

"Stop scaring her!" yelled my mom.

"What are the chances?" asked my sister.

"I'd say there's about a 20% chance that a tornado will be sighted within a 5 mile radius, and if there is, about a 20 percent chance that it will touch down, and if it does, about a 10 percent chance that it will hit our neighborhood, and if it does, maybe a 10% chance it will hit our street, and if it does, then a 10 percent chance one of us will die. So that works out to 4 chances in 100,000, or 1 in 25,000."

Guess which parent we believed?

As you can guess, I'm not a big fan of the movie, "Life is Beautiful," where the father used comedy and make-believe to shielded his young son from the horrors of the gas chamber until the bitter end.

Posted by: Paul | May 24, 2006 5:03 PM

"So, when do you tell him about artifical methods of birth control and your willful violation of God's law regarding procreation? Sex relations between a married couple, one man and one woman, are intended to create new life and not as some sort of recreational activity.

Posted by: Rupert Pupkin"

Rupert, You are so outrageously funny! Since when does God not want married couples to enjoy sex? And, since when do you become God's representative on this blog?

Ciao.

P.S. I hope you know that contraception is contraception. Nothing artificial about it. God gave us brains AND a uterus. We can use both of them quite nicely. And, by the way, Leslie never mentioned that she's using so-called artificial contraception. How rude of you to raise such a personal issue with her! |

Posted by: Kate | May 24, 2006 5:07 PM

So what should the father have told his 8 year old child. We are in jail even though we did nothing wrong. There's a good chance we are going to die. Your mother might already be dead. You might become an orphan if your mom and I die. The situation is hopeless so you should just resign yourself to death and despair. That would have been helpful.

Posted by: Life is beautiful | May 24, 2006 5:08 PM

Can I say that I wish my wife lied to me about that one? If only we could selectively insert lies retroactively...

I have a friend who does that. Problem is, she can't keep track, so the lies just keep changing. Very entertaining once you get used to it.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 5:16 PM

Hey,

I didn't say everyone was caucasian.Someone else did, please read the posts. And to the laughing idiot on the board. I worked in a factory and my father is a coal miner. I had a lovely childhood but we struggled.

As far as being Irish goes, i'm irish all around and like I tell everyone else who acts stupid you can kiss my Irish a--!

Thanks, now I will ignore you because I ignore ignorance.

Posted by: scarry | May 24, 2006 5:16 PM

Leslie never mentioned that she's using so-called artificial contraception. How rude of you to raise such a personal issue with her! |

Hey folks, Rupert was joking. Plus, Leslie is the one who brought up sex. Since she did, I figure the topic and all its iterations are fair game.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 5:17 PM

BTW, I am not sure if you are the same person who was laughing-I responded to the laughing post about the universality of balancing issues. I was not the person who mentioned pity, however-- your post did not suggest to me that you were seeking or need that at all. Anyway, OF COURSE there are children who are exposed to more serious issues than whether Santa Claus exists--including my own because we choose to raise them that way. The children I know do not have the luxury of being protected from the world for too long at all, and they are better for it.

Just to add to your comment-not only are many children exposed to the harsher realities of life, many parents cannot afford to sit around with their friends (as I can and do) debating how to be a good wife, mother and employee all at the same time because they have to address more basic needs. But we still cannot ignore that some people struggle with balance issues, although in a very different way than someone who is trying to meet more basic human needs. Being able to think about and achieve the right balance for each person makes for stronger marriages, children, families and individuals.

What would I tell my children who see a homeless person on the street? That it is very sad that some people do not have a place to live, that maybe we can think of a small way to help or be nice to someone else, and that we have to be grateful for and careful with what we have.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 5:26 PM

"My point, which I will not allow you to trivialize, is that in a lower socio-economic situation, there are far more "serious" issues that kids of all ages are exposed to. The question becomes, are we just as OK about lying to kids about those, because those would clearly not be little white lies."

I think that the serious issues need to be handled truthfully using, and I love this phrase "age appropriate" language. I wouldn't ignore it, or trivialize it. I'd use it as a teaching experience, and honestly, it's hard because you want children to have a safe, magic childhood, but that doesn't usually happen. Being too sheltering is harmful to children. I suppose it's a balance between trying to preserve some happy childish fantasies with cold hard reality. I say let them believe in Santa, or the idea of Santa, and make a big deal of it, but don't hide what they can see for themselves, that life is sometimes hard and that not everyone is fortunate.

Posted by: Observer | May 24, 2006 5:38 PM

Western Single mom,

I would ignore the anonymous poster. You're a good mom (from what you say in your posts) and your child has a right to know the truth when it is a serious matter.

My sister was married to a drunk, womanizing, nasty man. She started to have a miscarriage at work (oh yes, on the factory floor while building a car no less) her supervisor called an ambulance; the doctor told her to get off her feet and called her husband.

He made my sister walk up over a hill to get her other kid. She lost that baby and he contributed to it. He also did countless other things that I won't go into. She finally divorced him when he started dating a young girl my age.

My nephew has and always does deserve to know the truth about his father and so does your daughter.

Posted by: scar | May 24, 2006 6:01 PM

I posted the post to western single mom. Sorry, my two year old was on my lap! Good night!

Posted by: scarry | May 24, 2006 6:02 PM

To scarry and all the other people who insist on burdening their children with the ugly details of their parents conflicts.

Please - that is so self-serving and SELFISH. What good does it do a child to know that their father or mother was mean/selfish/cheater/insert adjective. It only makes the child feel bad. It only makes the child feel resentment and bitterness and anger. It makes the child think it is their job to take care of the adults in their life. It burdens the child. Sorry, that is not good parenting. It is selfish and short-sighted. Your child will grow up and one day know the truth, because the truth speaks for itself. If one parent is rotten, they will figure it out, sooner or later. And the later it is, the better, because you do not want to ruin a child's self esteem by pounding into them that their father or mother is scum. If you have burdens you cannot carry by yourself, talk to a friend or see a shrink, but don't lay it on your poor child. The child has no control over the mess you and his other parent created, and you should not expect him to fix it by siding with you. Shame on you for thinking that a child should be burdened with that BS!!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 6:26 PM

Lying is much more complicated than I thought. Amazed by how many posts there were on this subject. Made me reconsider my original statement that I don't lie to my kids. Thank you.

Single Western Mom - thanks for hanging in there despite the negativity. It seems to happen sometime. Can't take it personally. I really enjoy your perspective and I think your ex-husband is lucky he married you and had a child with you. Keep coming back!

Posted by: Leslie | May 24, 2006 6:43 PM

My daughter had night fears from age 10-12 and couldn't sleep which meant that we couldn't sleep. We never found out what the problem was but there was 9/11 in 2001, sniper in 2002, and her sister's schoolmate was murdered by a friend in 2003. No wonder she had fears. I didn't hesitate to tell lies when she needed reassurance - "the sniper would never come to our county", "our neighborhood would never have a break-in because we live too close to the police station". She needed to feel safe and secure. If she ever finds out that I lied to her I'm sure she'll forgive me.

Re: Santa Claus - When I was about 5, I was playing hide-and-seek and found all my presents. My mother said that they were toys she was holding for the neighbor kids. On X-mas morning, I said, hey, Santa brought me the same toys as Sally. I enjoyed the excitement of Santa for a few more years. I'm glad that Mom didn't ruin it by telling me the truth when I found the toys.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 7:32 PM

6:26 poster - I agree with you completely. My father was a scumbag but my mother never said one negative word about him. We grew up learning what he was based on what we saw ourselves. My mother conducted herself with class even though she probably has permanent scars from biting her tongue. I know people who ended up resenting their mothers for making them feel bad about their fathers.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 7:39 PM

"Because I said so". I swore I would never say that. Wait until your kids are teenagers. They will debate every reason you give them and wear you down to the point that you just pull rank and say "Because I said so". As far as questions regarding your sex life, past or present, drug/alcohol use, etc., just don't give them an answer. They are your children and it is really none of their business. Possible responses are "That's personal between parents".

Families are not democracies with equality for all. Parents are the leaders who make the decisions. Children are family members whose thoughts and opinions should be heard and considered, but they are not equals to the parents. Although it is important to teach and explain, sometimes "Because I said so" IS the reason - you are the parent and don't have to justify yourself to the little ones.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 7:51 PM

Oh sorry, I forgot a few words

"As far as questions regarding your sex life, past or present, drug/alcohol use, etc., IF YOU THINK THAT YOU CAN'T LIE OR BEND THE TRUTH AND REALLY DON'T WANT THEM TO KNOW THE TRUTH, just don't give them an answer. They are your children and it is really none of their business. Possible responses are "That's personal between parents", "This is something we can discuss when you are older", etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 24, 2006 8:03 PM

"Your Mother and I were both virgins before we got married."

Uh, isn't that true of everybody? Provided you don't get into how long before....

Oh, all right, I suppose in the old days when royalty was sometimes betrothed before birth, you could say they were married before they were virgins.

Posted by: Father of ... wait, give me a miinute... | May 24, 2006 9:24 PM

This has been so fun! I wish my mom hadn't been a single mom on welfare when I was growing up, and I am not kidding you on that score. She didn't lie to me, although it would have been nice if she had at times. I grew up, tried college, joined the army, got married and had two kids in two years. Luckily, my SO is a constant reader and a good parent. I was the one pushing for Santa, I confess. But there are things I do to my kids when they keep pushing. If they are trying to persuade me to change my mind, (whining), I tell them I have already answered this question. I guess because we spent the early years of our marriage perfecting the art of living on nothing we are relaxed about a lot of things now. That doesn't mean we buy our kids a lot of stuff--in fact, we don't. But as general rule of thumb, we try to keep things age-appropriate and not a lot of detail if it is not necessary. Sometimes it is none of their business! And that is o.k to tell them. Our kids are 10 and 12, fyi. So when they ask what we were doing upstairs, we say' why do you want to know' or 'none of your business.' But for the guy laughing at us, I have to tell you that we are caucasion, suburban and upper-middle class. FINALLY and Thank God! And we finished college under extreme duress.

One more note. My oldest sibling got a lot more of the emotional garbage from my mom from age 5 and up. She is still pissed off that she was so 'truthful'. I, on the other hand, was more sheltered on a few things. This gave me more room to treat my mom as a person instead of a fragile creature to be pitied. This used to annoy my sister to no end because she thought I was being a turd.

Posted by: hahahaha | May 24, 2006 9:50 PM

"Your Mother and I were both virgins before we got married."

Uh, isn't that true of everybody? Provided you don't get into how long before....'

thanks, that is perfect! HAA!!

Posted by: experienced mom | May 24, 2006 10:55 PM

I'm sorry I disagree with all the people who are ganging up on Western Single Mom. If you don't want your children to know the nasty thigns you do, don't do them.

Posted by: scarry | May 25, 2006 8:21 AM

I don't understand, probably never will, the willingness with which people lie. Or lie by ommission. I was brought up in a house where lying was considered such bad behavior that even accusing someone of lying was serious business. Then I hit public school, university, work...and discovered that apparently, everyone lies. Well, I lose respect for those who lie. I think less of them. Family, friends, coworkers...your lying is a reflection of your poor character.

Posted by: Anne | May 25, 2006 9:57 AM

How about this? Tell the truth about lying. All people should learn that others fib, fabricate and mislead all the time. Some are to be trusted, some not. The sooner kids learn this the better.

And get rid of the TV!

Posted by: Moe is me | May 25, 2006 12:06 PM

I forgot to mention another fine movie about a grand lie perpetrated, ostensibly, to protect the one being lied to: "The Truman Show."

Posted by: paul | May 30, 2006 9:43 AM

Truth is best, except when it isn't, and that's when it will hurt (someone besides the person lying) more than the truth will. For instance, telling someone they really do look fat in those pants, or yes, they look their age. As for those other truths, (i.e. Mommy, how many times did you have sex before marriage?) the answer is that it's none of my child's business. That's a chance for my child to learn about Privacy and Boundaries, which are just important to growing up as the truth.

Posted by: Teresa2 | May 30, 2006 1:47 PM

Here's a timely, amusing pass-along that I just received:

THE GOOD NAPKINS...ahhhhh...the joys of having....or being a girl...

My mother taught me to read when I was four years old (her first mistake)...
One day I was in the bathroom and noticed one of the cabinet doors was ajar I read the box in the cabinet. I then asked my mother why she was keeping napkins in the bathroom. Didn't they belong in the kitchen?

Not wanting to burden me with unnecessary facts, she told me that those were for "special occasions" (her second mistake)...
Now fast forward a few months....It's Thanksgiving Day, and my folks are leaving to pick up my uncle and his wife for dinner.

Mom had assignments for all of us while they were gone. Mine was to set the table.

When they returned, my uncle came in first and immediately burst into laughter.

Next came his wife who gasped, then began giggling. Next came my father, who roared with laughter. Then came Mom, who almost died of embarrassment when she saw each place setting on the table with a "special occasion" napkin at each plate, with the fork carefully arranged on top. I had even tucked the little tail in so they didn't hang off the edge!!
My mother asked me why I used these>> and of course my response sent the other adults into further fits of laughter. "But Mom, you SAID they were for special occasions!!!"

Posted by: paul | May 31, 2006 9:51 AM

hi

Posted by: hi | June 2, 2006 4:21 PM

CNN has posted an interesting article on our attitudes toward telling lies. The title is " You look great! Poll finds we frown on lying, but white lies are frequent":

http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/07/11/lies.we.tell.ap/index.html

Posted by: paul | July 12, 2006 9:11 AM

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