It starts innocently enough...
"Look at what Santa brought you!" you say to your less than one-year old child on his first Christmas, as he's tearing open the gift YOU bought and wrapped and placed perfectly beneath the tree.
But before you know it, you're not just providing yourself an alias, you're creating entirely fabricated worlds within our own. "Yup," you say in response to your questioning four-year old, "Santa sure MUST have a lot of factories in the North Pole to make all of those toys. And yes, the elves are the factory workers. They sure do have a big job to do!" I find myself doing a pretty good job of convincing him (and myself?) about this fanciful world and the magic of the holiday.
But it's okay because we all do it, right? Lie, I mean...to our kids.
I was noticing the other day how many lies I tell the boys...probably because the holidays are around the corner. In our house, there's the Santa Lie, the Elf on the Shelf Lie, and another holiday-related lie in the mix: because Halloween Candy is unsafe for Evan's milk and peanut allergies, we leave our candy out after trick-or-treating. While we're asleep, "The Great Pumpkin" comes and trades our unsafe candy for a super-cool new toy. The candy finds a nice new home at the top of the pantry for Sam and I to enjoy after bedtime.
So we tell the boys stories to create a magical childhood. That's not so bad. And, now that there's a baby mysteriously growing in my belly, we tell them stories to keep that childhood age-appropriate: "How did the baby get in there?...Um...well, when a mommy and a daddy love each other Very Much, they might decide that they want to start a family. When they're ready to start their family, THAT'S when the baby starts to grow!"
And that, somehow, this baby has to find her way out: "Well, the mommy waits until the baby is all finished growing and ready to be born. When the baby's ready, the mommy goes to the hospital and THAT'S when the doctor helps the baby to be born!"
They're not outright lies, and I'm comfortable sharing information on a need-to-know basis, but pretty soon, Evan's going to realize that intentionally placing unnecessary emphasis on certain words does NOT constitute an acceptable explanation.
And then there are the lies of omission...telling only part of the story to avoid hurt feelings or an epic meltdown: "When you're at school? Oh, you know, we just do boring stuff like go to the grocery store" [but on the way home, we'll go to the playground. Or we play at our friends' houses. And sometimes, we even go out to lunch at a RESTAURANT!!]. When I bring Max up for his nap, Evan goes into his room to read while I read to Max. As soon as Max is asleep, Evan comes back downstairs to play or watch a movie or just enjoy some one-on-one time with Mom. Max is thoroughly convinced that Evan sleeps, too. I never told him that....I just don't correct his assumption when he wakes up and asks, "Evan awake now, too?"
We try to avoid lies that are totally unnecessary...like telling kids that all the stores are sold-out of a certain treat or toy...or that the TV is broken when we've reached our screen-time limit for the day. We're pretty good about offering quick, succinct explanations for our rules or decisions....but sometimes I find myself feigning ignorance ("Oh, that [stupid] plastic disc that came in the cereal box? I don't know...it's probably around here somewhere [like, maybe in the trash can where I put if after you went to bed last night because it's a stupid toy with no play value and I'm tired of you throwing it at your brother].") or just stretching the truth a bit to keep everyone happy ("You stay at school until 3 because all four-year olds [at your school] stay until 3. That's how four-year olds [at your school] get ready for kindergarten.").
As adults, it's just an acceptable part of socializing with other adults. We lie to protect the feelings of others, to help us come up with an excuse for missing something or not being able to help someone out, and because sometimes it's easier to just agree...even if, by agreeing, you're lying about your true feelings.
But kids aren't in on this weird component of adult social interaction, so every time I hear myself do it, I'm afraid it will be the time that Evan (or Max) calls me out on it....and then what? Admit to lying? Lie to cover up my untruth? Where does it end?....because it really should.
So I've become more conscious of my socially "appropriate" lying, like saying I already have plans to get out of attending something I don't feel like attending, and that can be stopped immediately (a "Thanks for the invitation but I will not be attending" is good enough, and honest). The kids don't need to overhear even those innocuous untruths.
But Santa? The Great Pumpkin? That magical readiness that allows babies to grow in a belly and, eventually, come out? I'm okay with those stories hanging out for a bit. And when the boys, someday...probably on the school bus, learn the truth about Santa and sex and childbirth...I'll try not to feign ignorance, but I may tell them to go ask their father.