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The Lies We Tell

Dec15

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Lying is a necessary part of parenting.

Not lying about big things.  It’s the small things, the so-called white lies.  Any parent that tells me they never lie to their kids, well, I think they are lying.

Last year during the holidays I bought this huge decorative jar filled with candy.  I set it out on the kitchen bar as a decoration.  When the kids asked me about it I told them that the candy inside was fake.  They believed me.  Some may condemn me for lying, but I was saved from finding cellophane wrappers stuffed between the couch cushions for the next two months.  Not to mention saving their teeth from bathing in sugar on a daily basis.

If you crack your knuckles you are going to get arthritis!
Swallow that gum and it will be in your stomach for SEVEN years!
Go outside with wet hair in the winter and you will get sick!
Your face is going to freeze like that!
You know what will make you feel better when you are sick?  Not talking.
 
 
Just this morning I pulled out a perennial favorite, The vitamins are all in the crust.

This time of year, the great Santa debate rages on.  To lie or not to lie.

I have already pulled out the Santa card.

Don’t make me call Santa, I tell my five year old.

_____ says that there is no Santa, he responds.

I say nothing. In my head I am wondering why this one family has to ruin everything? The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and now Santa. It is one thing if you don’t want to do Santa with your kids, but can’t you tell them to keep it to themselves?

Before I could respond about Santa and whether or not he is real, my 11 yr old piped up, “They’re Mormon that’s why. Santa doesn’t like Mormons.”

Okay, maybe not how I was going to handle it, but it made me laugh. In fact, it continues to make me laugh every time I think about it. Admittedly, it also warms my heart a little bit that my 11 yr old, who obviously has long given up the Santa phase, still wants his baby brother to believe. So much so that he accuses Santa of hating an entire segment of the population.

I did correct him.  I told  him that Santa also hates the Jewish kids.

Oh, I kid.  I didn’t say that.

I corrected my son.  I definitely don’t want my kindergartner running off to school proclaiming that Santa hates people, nor do I want him believing that.  But I didn’t go as far as to tell my son that Santa isn’t real.  I want him to believe.  I want him to experience the magic that is waking up Christmas morning.  There is nothing else in life that compares to that.  Christmas, while always fun, does lose some of the magic once you know it is your parents supplying the presents.  That magic doesn’t come back until you have children of your own and are able to live vicariously through them. 

To me the Santa question isn’t whether or not we are lying to our kids, but whether we are allowing them to bask in the magical thinking of childhood and encouraging them to imagine the impossible.

And on that note I must run and finish cooking dinner.  We’re have having carrots.  My children are very excited to see how many they need to eat before they can see in the dark.

About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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21 Responses to “The Lies We Tell”

  1. Bonnie Dec 15 at 12:00 pm Reply Reply

    Lol! I love the carrot lie. I also love what the 11-year-old came up with. My mom always just used the “he only comes to kids who believe in him” line.

  2. Jaymee Dec 15 at 1:02 pm Reply Reply

    Is it wrong that I laughed really hard at the Mormon comment and then I laughed even harder at the Jewish comment? This was a great article!!!

  3. Fabs Dec 15 at 6:18 pm Reply Reply

    Yes, my kids didn’t ask about whether Santa was real or not until they went to school and came home saying someone told them it is really your parents. Even now (my kids are 11 and eight) I still tell them if they don’t believe, he won’t come and they accept that, I think, because they DO want to believe.

  4. Liz Dec 15 at 9:53 pm Reply Reply

    I’m 30 and my mom still labels some of my Christmas presents as “From Santa.” After leaving the surly teenage “MOOOOOOM” phase behind years ago, I now think it’s adorable.

    (And Jaymee, I’m right there with you with the laughing.)

  5. Aks Dec 15 at 11:32 pm Reply Reply

    As far as I know, St. Nicholas/Sinterklaas/Santa Claus was a real person. So what if at Christmas time we (adults) honor his very real actions (ok…not the fat guy going down the chimney thing) and bestow gifts because the guy did something selfless.

    My kids from an early age knew he various stories about the icon. When they found out that “He” wasn’t ‘real’, they lost nothing because they knew that he had been a real person. All of a sudden, all the people that dressed as the ‘Night Before Christmas’ Santa made all sorts of sense to them.

    Lest anyone thinks that my kids are rational beings, they aren’t. I won’t bore you with the stupid amazing things my 11/16/18 year olds believe. Yet talking about the ‘man behind the myth’ continues to give them a reason to believe in the Santa thing. They can defend it with references.

  6. ally Dec 16 at 1:16 am Reply Reply

    Ha!  This mormon mom knows santa still loves mormon kids! But, I kid you not, they just did a study and found out that indeed, something about the baking process means there are actually, yes, more vitamins in the crust.

  7. Brigitte Dec 16 at 5:48 am Reply Reply

    Aks, I was raised that way as well. My DD still believes in Santa, but knows about Saint Nicholas as well, and knows all the store santas are just helpers, so I’m not sure what’s going on in that little head.
    I did tell her she couldn’t have Kinectimals because we needed a different kind of TV for it (which is actually probably true, but the real reason was the cost)!

  8. Nicki Dec 16 at 7:38 am Reply Reply

    We also choose the “if you don’t believe, he won’t come”.  Seems to work so far…

  9. Kristi Dec 16 at 9:48 am Reply Reply

    This year, the mom of a child that I USED to let my 10 year old twin daughters spend the night with informed my girls for me that there wasn’t a Santa. While I was livid that she took it upon herself to tell MY children, my husband was deeply, deeply hurt. See, he’s in the Army, and has missed 6 magical Christmas mornings already. He deploys again three days after Christmas, and will miss next years also. We had already figured that this would be the last Christmas where they both “believed” (they were already in the stage of having to convince themselves), and he felt robbed of a very precious memory, when he has already missed out on so many Christmas mornings, first steps, first smiles and birthdays. So, sometimes, the lie isn’t just for the children, but for a dad that has sacrificed so many memories already and just wants to have a few to hold and savor when he’s 8000 miles from those he loves.

  10. Issa Dec 16 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    I’m laughing…I wrote about this myslef, just a few days ago: http://issascrazyworld.com/2010/12/i-lie-to-my-kids/

  11. Caitlyn Dec 16 at 12:59 pm Reply Reply

    Good article.  And while I don’t have a problem with white lies, I don’t really see why the lies you cited are necessary….admittedly I’m not a knickknack person, but I don’t see much point in keeping large amounts of candy on display…nothing bad will happen if they swallow their gum, it’ll just pass straight through (and they won’t get another piece)….wet hair will make them cold faster, but again not the end of the world…most of the others are just things that irritate others, and I’m not sure I’m okay with lying to my child (even a white lie) just because I’m irritated.

    Yeah, I know, in a couple of years my child will be talking nonstop and making faces at her grandmother and I’ll be eating my words.  Such is life :)

  12. AmandaG Dec 16 at 2:58 pm Reply Reply

    Just with Santa alone we have a few lies. Santa only brings one gift for each kid – because that way I can choose the one I want Santa to get credit for, and we get credit for the rest. Our Santa is lactose intolerant like you and Mommy. That’s why we leave Santa beer and cookies. Then when that didn’t work anymore, it’s because we’re Irish. …

    My favorite is when I want the kids to do something. Ex. “My brother’s annoying me.” “Doing your homework would make that stop.” “I can’t find my (insert toy here)” “Doing your homework would help you find it.” etc. until the kid gets so tired of you telling him his homework will fix everything he goes and just does it.

  13. Julie Dec 16 at 4:28 pm Reply Reply

    Speaking as the parent of children who weren’t raised to believe in Santa, we DO tell them not to spoil it for other children. How many young children do you know that can keep a big secret like that all the time? I have to remind mine constantly.

  14. I was one of those who was not raised to believe in Santa. I didn’t really think I was missing anything or that my children were.

    Last year I started to keep St. Nicholas day. I wanted my kids to understand where the idea of Santa came from and we use that day to wrap up our gifts for the poor, etc.

    “Just for fun,” I said, “Let’s put your shoes outside and see if someone puts something in them just like St. NIcholas used to do.”

    Of course their shoes were full. But I never really thought about keeping it a secret so I put in some candied orange peels that they saw me make. My daughter went from all out delight, to suspicion. “Why are these in here mommy, did you put them in?”

    Eventually I fessed up and told her I did all of it. She cried. “Mommy, why didn’t you wait to see if someone else would put something in.”

    Not even Santa, just the wonder of believing that some generous stranger would leave her treats. To this day I wish I had thought ahead and kept that wonder alive a few years at least. This year they emptied their shoes, enjoyed their gifts, and thanked me. But that thrill and excitement they had last year was missing.

    All that to say, I finally understand why it bothers parents when someone tells their kids there is no Santa.

    I kind of wish now that there was more mystery in their little lives, and more wonder. But it’s too late for that now.

  15. Jennifer Dec 17 at 5:08 am Reply Reply

    You’re saying it’s not true about the gum staying in your stomach/intestines for seven years? And the vitamins being in the skin?

  16. VG Dec 17 at 9:20 am Reply Reply

    Kids need a little magic in their life. I was raised with the Santa concept and once I figured out he wasn’t real, I was fine. My world didn’t crash down, I didn’t go into a deep depression, I accepted it and moved on. You’ll be surprised how resilient kids are. I also read the “To Santa or Not to Santa” post and Amy you’re right on when the “magic” comes back once you have children. I’m a 1st time Mommy who will be helping her 8 month old celebrate her 1st Christmas. It makes me feel like I’m 6 yrs old again :)

  17. Kristina Dec 17 at 11:59 am Reply Reply

    Lucky your children are not that inquisitive and persistent otherwise they’d find the candies real! 

    Yes, it is this time of year where parents debate on revealing the truth about Santa or let them believe in magic. I wouldn’t want the magic to end unless they’re around 10.

  18. Cloud Dec 20 at 11:59 am Reply Reply

    My sister told me that there was no Santa before I went to school. She had figured it out because my mom was having us pick out toys to give to kids whose families didn’t have much money. She realized that if there was really a Santa Claus, the poor kids would get toys without our help. She told me because she thought I’d want to know. Santa kept coming to our house, anyway, until we moved out of the house, but I can’t remember the time during which I believed in him.

    So in my house, Santa brings each kid one gift, so that my little girls don’t figure it out the same way!

    I think that once some kids in a group know that there is no Santa, it is hard to keep the magic. Kids suck at keeping secrets, particularly when they are little. So I guess that this new trend to tell your kids that there is no Santa is going to give all of us who want to keep the magic some practice inventing explanations on the fly.

    I’m up for it, though- not because I want to use the Santa story to extract good behavior from my kids, but because of the joy the magic gives my 3 year old, and the way it makes Christmas more fun for me.

    I am, however, wishing that we hadn’t wrapped the Santa gifts last year. This year, the 3 yo asked for a bike. She has a very specific bike in mind- one she saw at the bike shop with Daddy in September. She has no doubt that Santa can procure this exact bike for her (and he did….) But she’s talking excitedly about ripping the paper off the thing on Christmas morning. We have no idea how we’re going to make THAT happen. And to make matters worse, her baby sister is getting a wagon…. I’ve bought yards and yards of paper and am hoping for some inspiration on Christmas Eve!

  19. Marcie Dec 20 at 11:35 pm Reply Reply

    This article made me laugh. Thanks.

    Today I made up the term “rectangle bagel” to get my 2.5 year old son to eat a scone, so I guess I’m okay with the white lies.

    Also, you’ll have to break it to your 11 y.o. that Santa will most certainly be visiting this Mormon home. :)

  20. Deann Reese Dec 23 at 4:24 pm Reply Reply

    Good article.  And while I don’t have a problem with white lies, I don’t really see why the lies you cited are necessary….admittedly I’m not a knickknack person, but I don’t see much point in keeping large amounts of candy on display…nothing bad will happen if they swallow their gum, it’ll just pass straight through (and they won’t get another piece)….wet hair will make them cold faster, but again not the end of the world…most of the others are just things that irritate others, and I’m not sure I’m okay with lying to my child (even a white lie) just because I’m irritated. Yeah, I know, in a couple of years my child will be talking nonstop and making faces at her grandmother and I’ll be eating my words.  Such is life :)

  21. Kari Shaffer Dec 25 at 7:11 pm Reply Reply

    Kids need a little magic in their life. I was raised with the Santa concept and once I figured out he wasn’t real, I was fine. My world didn’t crash down, I didn’t go into a deep depression, I accepted it and moved on. You’ll be surprised how resilient kids are. I also read the “To Santa or Not to Santa” post and Amy you’re right on when the “magic” comes back once you have children. I’m a 1st time Mommy who will be helping her 8 month old celebrate her 1st Christmas. It makes me feel like I’m 6 yrs old again :)

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