Lying to Children

Yesterday, as I was walking to the gym for my yoga class, I came across a field mouse, deceased, on the sidewalk. It reminded me of the time many years ago in San Antonio when we had the toughest time getting rid of a pesky mouse who had invaded our home. After many failed attempts at capturing it in a trap, we resorted to sticky paper. The next morning my husband went into the laundry room and found the enraged little beastie firmly attached to the glue. Our youngest son, who was about seven at the time, was right behind my husband and asked his dad if he were going to take the mouse outside and let it go. My husband looked at the mouse who was snarling menacingly, its jaws snapping at him, and said he couldn’t let it go because it would just come back into the house. Our little boy, eyes wide, asked him what he was going to do with it then. “Well…er…I have a friend at the university who works in a lab and likes mice. I think I’ll take it there.” That satisfied our son who pictured the “sweet” little furry creature frolicking with other little mice friends, living out its days in air-conditioned comfort. Of course, you know that was not the fate of that “sweet” little mouse.

Another time, my husband was chopping down ligustrum bushes in the back yard in preparation for putting up a privacy fence. The bushes were so tall and thick, they were like small trees. Unfortunately, they were tree-like enough that a mama finch had made a nest and laid her eggs in the branches. My husband did not see it until my two boys, who had been helping him by picking up the cuttings and piling them in a heap, discovered the nest among the debris with three baby birds in it. One baby was already dead and the other two were barely alive. My husband and sons felt terrible. “Daddy, can we save these two?” our youngest pleaded. “We could put the nest in another tree so the mama can come back for them.” My husband knew it was futile, and the babies were too young to be hand-fed, but looking at his son’s little trusting face, he had to give it a try. So he scooped up the nest and found another ligustrum bush to set it in. The next morning, when my boys went out to check on the nest, the babies were gone. “Daddy, daddy, the babies aren’t in the nest anymore! Do you think the mama came back for them?” My husband went out to look for himself, and after making a careful inspection, he found one baby on the ground, dead, and the other missing. Lurking at the edge of the yard was one of the many cats in our neighborhood, and it was licking its chops. When my husband went back inside, he said, “Yes, that must be what happened. The mama bird came back for her babies.” My son was in innocent bliss. Son, if you are just now discovering the deception, I’m terribly sorry.

Our three (one on each end and one in the middle) and my brother’s two

One can argue that we should always be straightforward with our children and tell them the truth in situations like these. They need to toughen up and learn what life is all about. Yes, I suppose there is some truth in that. But they will have to deal with the harsh realities of life soon enough, and buffering that until they are more able to handle it doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It’s interesting to note that our other son, who is three years older than his little brother, knew his dad wasn’t telling the truth, but he kept up the deception, too, for the sake of his tender-hearted sibling.

I sometimes wonder if our government thinks we are children, too, when they keep telling us things are getting better or that they are working harder for us. I see so many people still struggling and out of work, school debts mounting with no way to pay for them, less money in my pocket because of rising health care costs and no cost-of-living increases in my retirement check, both parties continuing to argue and refusing to work together, and I’m supposed to believe we’re on the upswing? Note to Washington: Guess what? We’re not children anymore.

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About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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24 Responses to Lying to Children

  1. Amy says:

    To end the story with such a statement is powerful! The worst part of this nasty political game is that they want to make the other party fail at the cost of ordinary people…

  2. An excellent and difficult post here. Being a father of two I know the pain of having to tell a lie because the truth just won’t work. I hate it and I’m glad my two are just about past the age now where any of that is necessary. I won’t miss that aspect of parenthood.

    Your last paragraph was very powerful but does raise mixed feelings in me. We may not be children but as a society we still tend to act like it. We want it and we want it now – isn’t that how our children behave?

    If a Government says “doom doom, it’s all doom” don’t we,as a society, tend to react in a panic and make things worse? It is easy to blame a Government (and believe me I’m no fan of politicians and bureaucrats) but perhaps we only change them when we change ourselves first.

    In Bangladesh, where I live and work, there is a lot of official corruption. One brave journalist once admitted in print that if he wants corruption to disappear from the Government it has to start with him not giving a bribe to the policeman who stopped him for speeding to make it ‘go away’.

    He’s right.

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, Ken, for your very thoughtful comment. I agree, there is plenty of blame to go around. But here in the States, our politicians just don’t want to work together. It’s a constant power struggle. And the greedy corporations certainly don’t care about anything but making money for the people at the top. Oh, they say that’s not true, but they keep laying people off or cutting benefits while the leaders of the company continue to get their big bonuses. Furthermore, the banks are still acting recklessly. They learned absolutely nothing from the bailout. I want to tear my hair out!

  3. pattisj says:

    That was a great closing in light of the rest of the post, Susan.

  4. Loved this post, Susan. It is hard to get that balance just right, when to tell our kids the truth and when to shield them from it. I suppose even if I do manage to shield them, they will learn the truth eventually. I suppose it’s getting harder and harder to maintain any sense of innocence in the world anymore.

  5. Lenore Diane says:

    The last paragraph blew me away. As I read above, I noticed it came to you at the last minute. Well done. I liked the comparison.

    With regards to lying to children, we are lucky in that regard. Well, where animals are concerned, anyway. Joe and Charlie hunt for bugs, etc. They are well aware of the life cycle and for that I am thankful. What gets me is the lying about Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny doesn’t exist in our house – he’s never visited, nor will he.
    Santa doesn’t really visit here. We have stockings, but when asked – I tell the boys that we bought the stuff, because Santa was too busy with the kids that really need it.
    I don’t know. Lying. That’s a tough topic.

  6. Al says:

    It seems to me it’s a moot point anymore. Children these days are bombarded with so much so early that they are almost street wise by the time they start school. They seem to be exposed early on to issues that we didn’t even think about until adulthood. If you go by the news, it’s all we can do to protect them from physical harm let alone innocently hiding the truth about a dead animal.

    Things have really changed, but I have high hopes that the pendulum will swing back to the direction you are writing about. It was a nice post about finer days and finer people.

  7. Amen! Your analogy is sadly spot on. No handbooks on raising kids. So when you’re in those moments you have to go with your gut, which is usually filled with protective love. Loved this post and the striped socks on the kids!

  8. Susie says:

    Lying to children is an interesting topic to ponder. In theory, I prefer the factual approach. When kids ask me potentially tough questions I wonder if my responses match up with what others have told them. I do appreciate why a nice answer is easier and softer and certainly have felt the appeal of a “yes, the mom found them.”

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks for your comment, Susie. It’s hard to balance, isn’t it, between protecting their tender emotions and making sure you are honest with them? I agree that in most instances we need to tell the truth. You also need to know your own children and how much of the truth they can handle and when.

  9. Ya got that right, sister! Excellent post!! Unfortunately I think most children these days are smacked in the face with many of the harsh realities of the world ready or not…

    • Coming East says:

      I must have been quite innocent when I was growing up, Carol, because I don’t remember any harsh realities. Well, until my grandfather died when I was seven. But you’re right about the kids these days. I feel sorry for them.

  10. absolutely love this post! The story of your children and protecting them is so sweet and true. We love to protect our children and keep their innocence in tact for as long as possible. The last statements are priceless ~ great way to end this post. So appreciate your writing! DAF

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