I pride myself for never lying to my children. I don’t make things up to cover up less appealing things. I don’t say I’ll be right back when I won’t. I don’t promise things I know I cannot fulfill. And our family works on the principle that we trust each other because we don’t lie to each other. I can ask my children “have I ever lied to you” with the full confidence that they will say “no”.
I was saying this to a friend of mine who told me I lie to my kids all the time! That we all do. When she pointed out the kind of lies she was talking about I told her I think, as mothers, we are allowed these lies because without them we would go insane.
Examples of such lies:
-After spending an hour with kids in shopping mall buying shoes one of the asks you “can we go to the malahi (play area)” automatic answer is “It’s closing now habeebi, by the time we get there it will be too late”. Perfectly rational lie in my opinion!
– When they ask “where are you going?” as they are about to go to bed and I say “to your aunty so and so” and they say “will (enter name of said aunties child) be there?” automatic answer “noooo, he’s been asleep for ages”. Again, I’d be an idiot to answer it any other way.
– When I am asked “Did you like school when you were young?” If you wanted me to answer honestly then I would say “I hated it, it was the worse years of my life, I wouldn’t repeat it for anything in the world ever and I cringe every morning when I have to send you to school”. How would that be helpful? My answer is “Yes! it was great!”
-When J picks out an outfit for me which would make me look like an idiot I tell her “I like it! but I can’t wear it tonight because it’s too hot, it’s too light, i have to wear that tonight but next time I’ll wear this etc”.
These lies I think are not that big of a deal. Any mother who decides to be 100% honest with their children about these things is in for a difficult time. Does telling these lies mean we are teaching our children to lie? We make our children tell little lies for the sake of politeness and I think that is important. If they are given a terrible gift they should smile and say thank you. It is rude to do otherwise. When they are visiting friends and they are asked by their mother iif they had a good time and the worlds most boring party I would be disappointed at any reply other than “Yes thank you it was lovely”. I see this as teaching my children to be sensitive and polite and if people see it as lying then yes I teach my kids to lie.
I think of the families that lie about Santa Clause and am happy we don’t do have that in our culture. It’s lie that is perpetuated for a long time and inevitably will end with the child knowing there is no such thing and knowing that their parents went to a great deal of effort to make this whole thing up. We don’t do tooth fairies either but we do have our own tooth tradition where the child throws the tooth to the sun and says “Sun please take the tooth of a donkey and give me the tooth of a gazelle” and they do get money under their pillow which they have always assumed was from me but tied it in with the throwingthetoothtothesun thing.
So if I do lie to them. We all do. We say “you’re fine” when they fall and are clearly hurt. We laugh at their jokes which don’t make any sense. We tell them they they won’t be strong and tall if they don’t eat well. I don’t see the harm in it. I don’t lie about tough things like death, like the pain of injections, like how life sometimes sucks and bad things do happen sometimes. The trick for me is not to give them too many details which will make them anxious or overwhelm them. I find that if I give them an answer, even if it’s not detailed, it is enough to satisfy them. I have also found that the older they get the more sophisticated the questions are.
While I was discussing this idea with one of my sister (who has two teenage children) she said I would find this harder as they grew older and started asking questions about the MANY contradictions in our society. I told her I would be honest! Then she gave me a few examples of situations and questions that I was truly stumped about answering! In my next post I’ll elaborate as these are situations unique to Saudi and need a post all on its own.
Do you tell little lies to your children? How honest do you think you need to be with your children in general? Would you lie about big things like death to them?