Lying is wrong. At least, that’s what we tell our children, but let’s be honest, all parents lie to their children. If you are a parent and claim to never have lied to your children, you in fact, are a big, fat, liar. Our grandparents lied to our parents, our parents lied to us, and now we lie to our own children. It’s a vicious, but necessary cycle. Lying to our kids has become a tradition.
When I was very young and had questions, my father told me he knew the answer to every question, because he wrote Webster’s Dictionary. I never questioned why he named his dictionary after some random dude named Webster; I just believed what he said. That is, until I went to school and told the kids in my first grade class that my dad wrote the dictionary. I will spare you the ugly details, but let me just say, kids can be cruel sometimes and it’s hard finding out that your dad doesn’t even know Mr. Webster, much less contribute to the writing of his dictionary.
As a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. One time, my great grandmother told me that if I looked directly into the eyes of someone with pink eye, I would also get pink eye. Even though common sense tells me that can’t be true, still today when I see someone with red eyes, I look away. Why? Because even though I am now an adult and know better, I still kind of believe the lies my parents and grandparents told me – and so do you.
We’ve all told our kids that sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyes, even though research tells us that children focus better on close-up objects than adults. Coffee does not stunt your growth, no matter what your grandma says. Swallowed chewing gum does not take 7 years to digest, it moves through your gut like every other food you swallow. You will not, in fact, sink to the bottom of the ocean or pool if you go swimming 10 minutes after you eat. Nobody has ever gotten warts from handling a frog. Popping your knuckles will not give you arthritis. You can cross your eyes for as long as you want, but they will not stay that way. Eating a seed will not cause a watermelon to grow in your stomach.
Why do we continue to tell our kids the lies our parents told us? Because even though we know better, we are afraid that there could possibly be an ounce of truth to them. What if little Johnny drinks coffee and ends up being a 5-foot tall adult? Or what if Suzy sits 2 feet from the screen and ends up needing glasses? That would be totally our fault as parents, so we propagate the lies, just in case.
Besides, these lies are both convenient and necessary. If the kids are right in front of the TV, we can’t see it. If people see our 5 year old drinking Starbucks, they will think we’re terrible parents. Bubble gum just seems like something a person shouldn’t ingest. No mom feels like watching her kids in the pool all day, so the 30 minutes after they eat is “mom-time”. We hate to hear our kids constantly cracking their knuckles, they look goofy with their eyes crossed, and it’s just plain bad manners to chew watermelon seeds.
Let’s face it, ‘parent lies’ are a tradition that none of us are wiling to break. Even though we have no intention of actually stopping the car, we will still threaten to do so until the kids shut up. We will continue to allow our kids to believe chocolate milk comes from chocolate brown cows. We will always tell our kids that every type of meat is chicken and eating your vegetables will make you grow tall. We will never stop using “I don’t know” and “We’ll see” to get our kids off our backs. We’ll tell them that needles don’t hurt, that we are leaving without them, and that we never did such things when we were their age.
And they will tell the same lies to their own children someday.
Because it’s tradition.