Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tyke Fibbing

I will be the first to admit that before I got married and had children, I was not the most responsible person. An incorrigible libertine, my first priority was always the pursuit of a good time and I have done things in my past that I am now a bit reluctant to admit to, especially if I am not completely certain about whether or not the statute of limitations regarding such acts have run out yet.

Now that I am older, wiser and forced to serve as a role model to four little people who take their behavior cues from me, I know I have to set a better example and try to live my life as I would like them to live theirs. In order to teach them the value of hard work, they will never see me call in sick just to take advantage of a beautiful spring day. To teach them that stealing is not acceptable behavior, they will never see me pocket money that is not mine when a cashier gives me too much change back. To teach my kids the value of honesty they will never…well…they…well… OK, what can I say? I struggle with this one and I would guess any parent who does not wish to raise a con-artist struggles with it too.

On the surface, telling the truth should be a black-and-white issue but all too often that just is not the case. For example, there are millions of men out there who have had a woman confront them with the question, “Honey, do these pants make my butt look big?” This question only has one correct answer and it is not, “No, the pants don’t have anything to do with it.” When a woman asks a man a question like that, she is not looking for the truth and since I also intend to instill a strong sense of self-preservation into my two boys, you can rest assured that I will be teaching them to respond to such an inquiry with an immediate and unrepentant bold-faced distortion of the facts.

Do not misunderstand me. I would like to be just as honest around my children as I am around my boss, my friends or my wife but truth be told, I just can not bring myself to do it. Sometimes I lie to my kids for nothing more than fun. For instance, one time my son came home from his church-based day care a little unclear on the “Our Father” portion of the Lord’s Prayer. Over dinner, he looked up at me and asked me if I was God.

Obviously, my own parents must have woefully neglected my own religious upbringing because without even hesitating to consider the blasphemous implications of my answer I said, “Yup.”

My son’s eyes then grew to the size of dinner-plates as he asked, “Really? Did you create man?”

“Sure did.”

“How?”

“Well, first you need some molasses, some mustard, a car battery, some kitty litter, a couple of matches….” After giving him the recipe for Creation I then spent the week ordering him to clean his room unless he wanted to me to “smite thee like the wicked realms of Saddam and Tora Bora”. He finally called me on it when I proved incapable of turning water into orange flavored Kool Aid.

Another scenario when the truth becomes rather inappropriate is when children ask their parents about their own past, especially when the parents in question did not always make the best of choices while growing up. This is particularly true when the parents are actually a bit unrepentant about some of the worst choices that they might have made and can not convincingly portray any sense of regret about having made them.

For instance after watching a television show about cops and robbers, a child may ask their father if he had ever been in jail. The correct answer to this question is not, “No because Daddy was stationed in a lot of Third World countries when he was young and every time he got into enough fun for the police to get involved, he always had enough bribe money in his sock to keep him out of handcuffs. There was the one time in Thailand though where I wrecked the elephant but that was not Daddy’s fault. The police made a mistake and accused Daddy of driving the elephant while he was drunk. Daddy was not driving the elephant though, that #$%!@ thing was going wherever it wanted to no matter what your father tried to get it to do.”

However accurate that statement may be, it is too much for a young child’s ears to comprehend. Still, a parent will likely not want to just come out and tell an outright lie to his kids either. Fortunately, unlike in Thai traffic courts, children can not compel a parent to tell the whole truth so selective portions of the story can be left out. Tell the tykes that their father was too busy performing services for the community to go to jail. Just leave out the fact that this community service was court mandated and you are pretty much golden.

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