Last Laugh (Nov 2011)

Why I Lie To My Children

Several years ago, while visiting my parents, my then 18-month-old son started complaining of a sore throat. After doing the old hand to palm test to see if he had a fever, I handed my mom a flashlight and asked her to take a look and offer her mother-knows-best opinion. She handed the flashlight back to me and said, “Why are you giving this to me? I don’t know what I am looking for.” I pointed out the fact that for years when I was growing up she would point a flashlight down my or my sibling’s throats. With a professional sounding “Hmmm” or “Uh huh” she would diagnosis us, dose us up with drugs or send us off to school, sometimes both. Surely she had to know what she was looking for. So I called her on this. Her reply is forever burned into my brain.

“I lied!”

That day I swore, in a way that only a naïve new mother can, that I would never lie to my kids. But shortly after that vow I found out I was pregnant with number two. I am not blaming my mendaciousness on my second child, although she does seem to have a gift for saying anything just to get her cute little self out of trouble. Rather, with the addition of another kid and the fact that I was now out numbered when hubby left for work, somehow my occasional untruths didn’t seem so bad. Hey, if the kid wants to believe that I really do have eyes in the back of my head and that keeps him from stealing another Oreo from the cookie jar, well I sure as heck am not going to pull the green curtain back on the wizard!


Deceitful, dishonest, double-dealing, two faced, insincere … whatever you want to call it, like it or not we all do it. And it is expected of us. After all what would childhood be like for our kids if we really told them that every day on Sesame Street was not so sunny, that the giant Yellow Bird is really an underpaid actor and that his furry red little friend has a hand stuck up his back … get the picture here? I would much rather have them live in a world where purple dinosaurs sing and little girls with talking maps go on exciting adventures with their monkey pals.

And don’t even get me started with the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, leprechauns and the Easter bunny.

Childhood goes by so quickly. Why not let them have the fantasy? I don’t think there is anything wrong with my kids thinking that I am the smartest person on earth or that daddy is as strong as Superman. Teen years will be here before we know it and they will quickly learn how wrong they were. I am already having a hard time helping my son with his 4th grade math, need I say more?

Yet, I still can’t help but feel guilty about deceiving my children. After all we tell them all the time that lying is wrong. Perhaps that is why I felt compelled the other day to actually try and tell my daughter the truth.

I am not sure how we got on the subject, but my 7-year-old asked me if I had ever tried a cigarette. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to open up an honest dialog with her. So I said, “Yes I tried it once but it made me feel sick and I hated the way my clothes smelled afterwards. So I never did it again.” I was so proud of myself. I had managed to tell the truth and was able to teach my daughter a valuable lesson. My smugness quickly faded though when I noticed the disgusted look on my daughter’s face. She displeasingly shook her head at me and said, “You disappoint me mommy. No wonder I have asthma!” And then she walked away.

And that my friends, is why I think it is OK to lie to my children!

Sharon Fuentes is a mom and writer. Read her blog