Friday, October 2, 2009

Fatherhood Friday: White lies (Don't Don't Do It!)

A recent poll on a Gay Parenting website asked if it was ever acceptable to lie to your children. Oy. This opened a massive discussion about what was ethical and what was not. Let me draw my line in the sand first. Lies are okay, in fact, I encourage it. Kids are pretty much stupid and gullible.

• Christmas and Santa? LIES!
• Easter and the Easter Bunny? LIES!
• The tooth fairy? More lies!

Parents have been doing this for years and it works. Just when you need a motivator to keep the kids in line behavior-wise, Santa or the Bunny can’t be too far behind and can be that much needed carrot on the stick that you need to keep the peace. This is one of the reasons why I love fall, it’s the season of manipulation for both the parents and the kids. Every commercial that Anna sees on TV is punctuated with a “I WANT THAT!” We fire back that she’ll have to be good, Santa’s watching, etc. She made the connection last year that Santa = gifts so I think we’re good to go this year as well, or at least until someone at daycare or school spills the beans. I’m not worried about daycare, as Cheri will have the child who blows the secret publicly flogged. School however, we don’t have as much control over what she hears.

However, there have been a few lies that I have put out there to Anna that have back-fired and caused more harm than good. She is really good about opening up car doors and windows and demands that her window be down while we are driving. This is both noisy and annoying, and she uses it to dump whatever she has in her hands out on to the street. So I decided to make it more in her interest to keep the windows up. I told her about the dreaded Freeway Monkeys. You can’t always see them, but they’re out there, and they’ll jump in the car if you leave your windows down or doors unlocked. This was accepted without question and her proclivity for unlocking the door and opening the windows stopped. However, she is now afraid of monkeys and needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to see them at the zoo. A local car wash had a person dressed as a gorilla standing out front waving a sign. She saw the person and screamed “IT’S A FREEWAY MONKEY!” and began doing her fake sobbing in the back seat. Nice. Now her love of all mammals is tainted by this lie. However, she is now safe and won’t be rolling out onto the pavement because she’s messing around with the door. By the way, we do have the parental controls on, but she INSISTS that she be able to control the doors and locks.

Lies aren’t limited to parents. Grandparents can get in on it as well. Last weekend had a set of grandparents (who shall remain unnamed) to watch the kids while we went off for a weekend of camping. Anna and Grandma headed out to buy school supplies and Grandpa was at home with Eli. Eli had a full diaper and Grandpa had to call Grandma to come home to change it. When Anna talked to Grandpa about this, he said to her that he didn’t know how to change poopy diapers and that only Grandma knew how to do it right. Good one Grandpa. We’ll remember that. I also remember a phone call that took place between my Uncle Tom and my young cousin Abby. Tom was calling (around Christmas) to talk to my cousin Janet, Abby’s mom. Abby answered the phone, and as instructed, asked who was calling. Tom, with his deep voice, said “It’s Santa” and waited for a response. Abby didn’t say anything so Tom asked if she had been good. Apparently, enhanced interrogation techniques are not needed for toddlers, as young Abby started chirping like a bird and began voluntarily confessing to a variety of sins: she had stole her Mom’s lipstick and put it on, she had hit her brother, etc, etc.

Most recently, it’s been Anna’s new teacher, Mrs. B. She is everywhere, and she is more omniscient than St. Nick. She sees all, and is VERY disappointed when Anna misbehaves. Oh yes, we’re working that angle and it works. “Oh honey, what would Mrs. B say about all this? Mmmm, I think she’d be sad.” It’s all we need to say and it’s back on line. I couldn’t find pants that would fit Anna this morning, so I grabbed a skirt off the rack and handed it to her as we were getting ready for the day. Thank Jesus the school has a uniform policy, so the drama around clothing choices is non-existent. “I don’t want to wear this!” I shook my head and started lying, “honey, remember that note you brought home? Mrs. B said you HAD to wear this dress today.” That’s all it took and peace was once again restored.

I will however draw my line in the sand about what you can’t lie about. Don’t ever lie about how much you love your kids. Never say that you don’t love them, instead talk about how you don’t like their behavior. Separate them from what is bad and let them know that they are still loved. Love is precious, and it’s something that you can’t ever deny or use as a ploy for good behavior. However, from now until December 24th, Santa is your bitch, and you can use and abuse him all you want.