Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tough Questions: Will You Lie To Your Kids?

This one is tougher than it seems. My initial gut reaction is no! Of course not! My mother lied to me about drugs/sex/her past and it was stupid and it drove a wedge in our relationship and I want to have an open and honest full disclosure relationship with my future kids and and and...... Then I stop and think wait, what age exactly are we talking about when we say "kids"? And about what exactly?

I think everyone's answer to this question will be different and especially swayed by their own personal experiences growing up. While I am personally convinced that lying is not the way to go when it comes to relating to your teenagers, especially when it comes to things you did yourself that you don't want them to do (as if teenagers want to emulate their parents right? That'll work far better than them being well informed about the drugs/sex/whatever in question I'm sure). However, there is another part of a kid's childhood that is actually filled with far more lies than teenagerdom, so much so that many don't even consider them to be real lies. Will you tell your child that Santa exists? Will you tell your child that there is a God, or heaven, even if you don't believe in it yourself?

I have thought about it a lot, but I feel that my answer does need a rationalization because I don't think it should be an automatic "yes", especially for free-thinking, atheist parents. I remember when I found out that Santa was not real the hurt did not come from finding out that the magic I believed in wasn't there. I felt fooled, I felt stupid, I felt like adults had laughingly played this elaborate prank on me and I fell for it and it make me sick to think about it. A friend of mine told me that when her little brother found out there was no Santa, he looked his mother dead in the eye and said "you know, I never really believed in Santa. The only reason I believed is because you told me he was real, and you told me that you would never lie to me". The idea that I would ever fray my child's trust like that terrifies me.

But then I remember how much fun believing in Santa was. I remember the anticipation of going down the stairs on Christmas morning and finding presents that had magically appeared under the tree. I remember being older and fully aware that there was no Santa, but asking my mother to hide the presents and act like I still did, just to recreate a fraction of that thrill. I remember trying to cope with my Grandfather's death when I was six, and peppering my mother with questions about heaven and what happened when you die. I remember the pit of emptiness in my stomach trying to fathom such a loss, and I don't know how I would have coped with it if heaven had not been there to soften the blow.

So this is my decision: Yes, I will tell my child there is a Santa. Yes, I will tell my child that their pet hamster went to hamster heaven. Yes if, Zeus forbid my child has to cope with the loss of a person at such a young age, I will tell them that that person is in heaven with their family just waiting for us to join the party. However the day my child looks me in the eye and asks "Really? Is it real?" I will give them the honest answer, because whatever age my child is when they begin questioning the word of adults is the age at which they are old enough to know the truth. If they get upset, accuse me of being a liar, I will hug them and say that phrase that all kids detest but all parents must pull out at some time or another: "One day, when the hurt is gone and you are older, you will understand".

So what do you think? At what age will you stop lying to your children? Or will you take the bold route, and raise a child that never believes in magic or fairy tales at all?

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