The Lies Parents Tell

Growing up I rarely lied to my parents. Sure, every once in a while I would say I was going to the movies and instead I would be drinking beer at a bonfire on The Causeway and sometimes I skipped class and failed to mention it, but I usually just told them things they didn’t want to hear.

I still do.

Part of it is that I am an honest person and I try not to do things that I wouldn’t tell people about.

More of it is that I am too lazy to remember my lies and cover up is taxing.

So – if I didn’t lie to my parents why do I constantly find myself lying to my children?

I always told myself that I wouldn’t lie to my kids, and as an oversharer I have already told them how babies are made and about caesarian sections and miscarriage and suicide and all sorts of inappropriate things. I have told them why I don’t believe in creationism. I have told them about my D in pre-algebra. I told them that I got a bus referral for yelling out the window (I was totally framed). We’ve discussed exorcism and how ghosts and aliens are probably real but house elves are fictional. I told them the literal meaning of the word “shit” and why calling somebody a douchebag isn’t nice. I told them who would be taking care of them if their father and I both die.  I even told them what N.W.A stood for.

I don’t mean to say that we don’t have any secrets. They don’t know my pin number or where I stash the good candy. They don’t know I used to smoke cigarettes.

But one time Claudia asked me how far a man had to put his penis in a woman’s vagina to make a baby and I answered it as honestly as I could.

(You are welcome other kids on the bus.)

So why am I repeatedly forced to lie to them and cover up about stupid shit like the Easter Bunny?

The Tooth Fairy. Santa Claus. Fucking Leprechauns.

Why must I sneak around and hide plastic eggs? Why do I have to go to four stores to search for Easter baskets?

I don’t even believe in the resurrection. Why do I have to be liar about it?

Oh right. Because of the other kids in the neighborhood.

Or, because, like the lady in the craft store told me “Because it so wonderful when they find out the truth and they don’t know you know they know and they think they have something on you.”

Yes, deception is so charming, lady.

I hate craft stores.

And I hate lying to my children.

So what is the age of enlightenment? Six? Eight? Ten? Give it up. They are almost seven. Can I tell them now?

Because honestly, if I have to make up another story about Santa and time travel or have another long drawn discussion about how big the tooth fairy is (she was just stalling so she didn’t have to go to sleep), if I have to explain how the leprechaun isn’t going to trash him bedroom if he doesn’t QUICK! use the box that all of the operas are in while we paint behind the shelf to make a trap and console him while he cries because he knows leprechauns are real because the toilet water was green in kindergarten, I might snap.


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  1. This is great and I can relate, this Christmas my son actually understood Santa. The whole time I kept thinking wow, it’s so cute and magical but then I thought about the day when he asked me why I lied to him for years. What do I tell him then? It’s hard to know the right thing to do and I guess I am just doing what my parents did, wrong or not.

    I am curious though, how far in did you tell her the penis had to go?

  2. We do the santa lie for my kids, the oldest of which is five…but other than that, the know mom is the easter bunny, tooth fairy, etc. mainly because of honesty, but also because I want credit. Santa is gonna be tough, cause I make such a big deal of never lying to my kids…how do I explain that one?

  3. I agree with you. I’m kinda over the whole thing. I think it’s cute that my kids love Santa, I really do, but I lso don’t much care for the lies. Sam just figured this all out yesterday, thank God. One down, two to go.

  4. You keep lying as long as your kids believe. You do this to give them the childhood they deserve. They have the rest of their adult life to “know better”. Once undone, it can never be undone, and it is annoying (especially in my house wits multiple ages of children). Still, give them these few years of illusion, as the bubble will be forever burst for the other 70+ years, and that childhood innocence is precious.

  5. It was fun for me as a kid, and I guess that is why I will be doing this crap with my kid.

    These holidays are easy to keep secular these days, anyway. Hell, they have pagan roots. We won’t lie about god (we’re athiest), but probably will about Santa and I am not sure about the Easter Bunny. If I don’t draw the line there, my husband probably will for me.

  6. My 8 yr old has Aspergers and an excellent bullshit radar that’s 98% accurate. He knows Santa, et al, are not real. He has no problem telling his 6y old sister or other kids (sorry moms and dads). I don’t lie to his (because he *knows!* and calls me out) and in turn, I don’t lie to the 6y old. BUT. I do tell them it’s ok to believe, it’s ok to pretend. We tell then if you don’t believe, you don’t receive. That’s the rule. It just makes things fun for them. So my son believed in the big bunny for one day. He got his basket and the next morning he was a non believer again. They have fun and that’s what counts.

    I have no idea if that made sense. I’m pretty sure I confused myself there.

  7. Boy, I could have written the same thing. Morgan keeps asking me “is he real” (both for Santa & the Easter Bunny). I just keeping saying – “what do you think?” and “I am way too busy to pull of these charades – I can’t even keep the house clean”. I am guessing this was our last year for the Easter Bunny – and I’ll be doubtful if we make it through Christmas this year.

    I’ve kept it alive, because i honestly believe taht innocence, excitement, and joy are history once the truth is revealed.

  8. My 9-year-old feigns her Easter Bunny belief solely because she wants all that damn candy. She knows it, and I know it. Once I cut her off, we can stop with the charade.

  9. What are you going to tell me next, there’s no great pumpkin? I enjoy the game with my kids. They are old; of course they know it’s bullshit, but I refuse to admit it. I’m 42 and my mother still won’t admit it. It’s good, clean fun. I won’t go to 4 stores, I won’t get caught up in stress and worry about what to get them. If it doesn’t meet their expectations, I blame the fat guy/bunny/tooth fairy. But it always does meet their expectations, because the only expectation is that it will be fun.

  10. Just my opinion — the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy are less lies than celebrations of the joys of childhood where all things are possible. My mother hid eggs every Easter i went home (well after law school) until she died. The hunts remain great memories. My belief is that you don’t tell a child that you are the Easter Bunny, but you do confirm it when he/she asks in a way that makes it clear that the child is ready for you to confirm his/her knowledge. I’ve suspected for a while that my daughter (5th grade) knew, but until last night she never asked in a way that indicated that her heart was ready to accept what her brain knew.

    When a sixth grader told the entire bus that there was no Santa, my second grader came home and asked but not in a way that showed he wanted to know. He asked what i believe and I told him that I believe in the spirit of Christmas and Santa is part of that spirit and he didn’t ask anything else. But this is probably the last year.

  11. Holy crap I’m so the opposite of you. My oldest (8) asked a few days ago how we tell the difference between a boy puppy and a girl puppy and I stammered something about different parts and I’d explain more later. I want to lie forever! I almost screwed up the Easter bunny when I mentioned that ‘i forgot i hid it there’ when we found an egg a few hours after the hunt…but I covered it with ‘oh, i just hid that one’…they were hopped up on candy and didn’t make any assumptions. I believe in the resurrection and I’d like to end the Easter bunny as being completely unrelated…but..the other kids..and the cuteness…and ugh ok. I am secretly hoping that one of her more jaded friends will clear up Santa/Easter for her in the next couple years and I can cuddle and comfort her if she’s upset and then we can have fun lying to her little sister for a few more years. Don’t get me started on the tooth fairy – I suck at that so much…I can’t wait for that lie to end.

  12. smart aleck says:

    Don’t think of it as lying, think of it as magic.
    Sorry, I’m a law student–they teach us to spin and bullshit.

    But looking back, I’m happy that my parents spun the world where I believed in all of that. And I guess it’s why when I watch my favorite underdog sports teams today, I believe they can win. Sometimes I’m right.

    Seeing the picture with your post reminded me of the old joke where the perfect man, the perfect woman, Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are in a car, the car gets a flat tire and you have to figure out who is going to change it.
    (the perfect woman because the other three don’t exist)

  13. Lumpyhead's Mom's friend Sarah says:

    I love that my sophisticated,urbane 10-year-old is still innocent enough to believe — or want to believe — in the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa. I know he still believes in the tooth fairy (his personal tooth fairy, Bruce, leaves notes in surfer slang after every tooth, and my son writes notes to Bruce, too — what’s not to love about that?), but I believe we’re playing a game about Santa and the bunny. But I’m in no hurry to push him into a world without magic, and I can usually avoid lying by providing answers such as “well, did he look like a real person to you?” as we walk by Santa in the mall.

  14. My age of enlightment for Santa was 5 when my older brother came home from hunting, had the deer hanging in the garage, wiped blood on its nose and brought me in and told me he killed Rudolph. My mom flipped and made sure I didn’t tell anyone in my kindergarten class. That pretty much ruined it for any holiday figure. I hated him for it as a kid, but now it is this hilarious story I tell as an adult. Funny how opinions change like that.

  15. Its a tough balance. The other night my oldest asked to read his creation book he made in preschool about the first 7 days “creation”. We read it, but we talked about allegory, the big bang, how stars and planets form, then evolution. I couched it within my own theistic, but not dogmatic beliefs. We talked about how science and religion will tell you different things, but that is really OK since they are really answering/asking different questions.

    I want my kids to think critically and know there are more things in heaven and earth…

    I also want them to retain as much innocence as they can for as long as they can.

    I also don’t mind lying to them about certain things. I’m a story teller at heart so I love making up outrageous stories. *Most* of the time my oldest will call me on it, but there is a magical moment you can see in his eyes when he is deciding whether or not I am kidding.

  16. I’m with you. I don’t lie to my kids. I’ve had more real conversations with my girls at 6 & 9 than some of my friends parents ever had with them.

    Bu then I lie about effing Santa and the tooth fairy. Sorry, I drew the line at the Easter Bunny. Ha.

    I guess…it ends the first time they ask honestly? My six year old still believes. My nine year old stopped believing around say five.

    Why do we do it? Maybe because childhood is short and we want them to believe in a bit of magic? Just a guess. Or we’re suckers. Might be both.

  17. My mom didn’t have to lie– she’s 69 and she still believes in Santa Claus.

    Don’t ask me to explain that one. She’s delusional, but she’s sweet.

  18. smart aleck says:

    Oh, and my mom and I joke about how my brother has never fessed up about whether he does or does not believe in Santa anymore; our theory is that he figured once he did, the swag would be cut in half since he is the youngest.

    He’s 30 now.

  19. Amen sister. I just started the lie about the tooth fairy last night. Lying takes too much work. That’s why I never understand how people have affairs.

  20. I was with you on this until this year, when 3B has started to say things like, “I’m going to be a good listener/put my dishes in the sink/pick up my toys, so that when Santa comes, I get a good gift.”

    Dude, if that’s the case, anybody who tells you the truth about the fat man before you’re 18 will pay dearly for their transgression.

  21. We are going on 9 – and Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are going strong. I don’t know why. I am telling you that I treasure it. Because the loss of that innocence is going to be permanent. I realize it’s coming, too. He’s going to look at me one day – and I will confess.
    But until then, I will lie my ass off and treasure his joy.

  22. I so love you and the kids together while you try to negotiate this stuff. It’s like some kind of twisted version of the Super Friends in the hall of justice, and I love it, and you, the most.

    I know it’s hard, but it’s just what you do until you don’t anymore. I was thinking of you over Easter, actually, when you said you were in a craft store, and imagining the hell that was. And knowing how much I can’t stomach a lot of this and yet I was raised to believe so strongly in it and still humor my mom with her baskets (and really fucking love mine, can’t lie.) and yeah, brain explosion.

    I do maintain, however, that that leprechaun bullshit is completely fabricated by the public schools and is sadistic and should be stopped. Just sick and wrong. I’d rather let my kid drink a Guinness than participate in that.

    All of that said? Don’t kill Santa, Tampa, or I’ll beat you down.

  23. ….when I think that I am just about to start all this…..well

    aaaaaaaaaaahhh !! Help!

  24. The consensus around here is that kids are kept in the dark until they’re finished with third grade. All the parents seem to agree on this unspoken rule.

  25. I have always said that Michael’s is the Seventh Ring of Hell. I loathe craft stores.

    As a kid who didn’t believe in Santa or any of that stuff but pretended for my younger cousins and parents sake I have to go with the “childhood joy” answer. I do love seeing how excited my kids get and I remember how bland things seemed to me compared to the kids who did “believe”. So now I play along and get them cracked out on the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa and more. I tell myself it is like beliveing that Yoda and Darth Vader are also real.

  26. being Jewish is nice in this realm for once – we just tell the kids we were persecuted and we won – of course now the kids think everyone wants to kill them – you can’t win!

  27. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Santa exists.

    And the tooth fairy is a man. Hence the hesitancy to pop out and be “discovered”

    (read: sarcasm)

  28. I know the whole tooth fairy charade is going to come crashing down because I keep forgetting! The last two times I had to make tooth fairy deliveries, I forgot until I woke up early the next morning and had to rush in before the girls woke up and quickly shove something under a pillow. We also do “notes” to the tooth fairy, and she writes back in very fancy hand writing, so that’s hard to pull off bleary-eyed at 5:30 am.

  29. i accepted the fact that all these “creatures” were a bunch of lies when i was 5. and i was okay with it. i lived. sure i didn’t get enough gifts for Christmas, but i’m happy leprechauns aren’t real! i’m sure your kids will understand that all these things are made up by bored-as-hell people in earlier centuries. lol.

  30. My MIL, who once sat my child down to tell him about the importance of telling white lies (AGHH) set the Bunny free this year. I don’t care that my kids know the truth (and we celebrate the real Easter) but who the hell was she to tell? Oh, and she never told me about the conversation. The kindergartener liberated the entire first five rows of the bus. It’s fine because I called her up and she threw the 4 year old under the bus. We broke up. HA! All it took was the Easter Bunny. Small price, I guess.

  31. Ugh. I am dreading this. Our girl’s been too young to have to worry about it, but she’ll be 18 months old at Christmas this year and the grandmas are going to be Santa crazy. My husband and I are for the myth-fairytale-legend, game-of-pretend Santa, not actually believing in it. Plus, my husband wants the credit for the good presents.

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