When Lying is a Good Idea

Last year, I was happy to discover that they were planting corn in the fields outside our house. It's so nice to have the privacy, I thought to myself. Until I remembered a story my friend Katie told me about how her two cousins got lost in a corn field for hours when they were children. "They were screaming and my Aunt couldn't find them. Literally," she said, "it was traumatizing." 

My daughter is, for the record, obsessed with corn. She tells me corn is favorite vegetable, and that corn stalks are her friends. So instead of panicking, I did what any decent parent would do. I lied. Yes, I did. At first, I had some misgivings about this, but after running it by a trusted friend, who assured me that it was the right thing to do, I felt it was totally fine. Her reasoning was that in tribal cultures there were myths that they would tell the children to help keep them safe, and this was no different. And we dubbed it "the safety lie." 

There was only one thing my daughter had been afraid of up to that point and it was called "The Lump." Don't ask me why, I guess the word just freaks her out, so I decided to leverage this to my advantage and, ultimately, hers. We told her that "The Lump" likes to live in the corn fields--that's where he makes his home--so it's important for us to stay out of the corn fields because, naturally, we don't want The Lump to get us. That was it. That was all I needed to say. She never touched a toe in those big, leafy corn fields, and when they plowed them down, she asked what was going to happen to The Lump. I told her he would go move to another field. No harm, no foul. 

Eventually she will get older and she will realize there are not Lumps that live in the fields, and this will be part of her maturation process. But in the meantime, it kept her safe, not lost in a corn field, and bought me some peace of mind. Sometimes you have to tell a little lie to keep kids on track. 

And you know what? I think we need to lie to kids a little more often. 

This became clear to me, particularly when it comes to Active Shooter Drills in daycares and elementary schools, as my daughter's new fears now extend beyond Lumps. After an intruder drill at daycare several months ago, my kid now ends phone conversations by saying, "hey, if any strangers try to come in your house, let me know!" and asks her grandma during sleepovers, "What will you do if a guy with a gun is waiting outside the house?" And as it turns out, she is far from alone. 

There are more and more reports coming out that children are being traumatized by these drills--that they are scared of going to school--or, like my child, think that a "bad guy with a gun may come in at any time." Personally, I don't think that these are things that five year olds should be scared about. Lumps, to my way of thinking, should be about as scary as it gets. 

Of course, I cannot fault the daycare for doing the drill. They are being prepared, and as a mom, I can appreciate that. Ditto for schools. But what I cannot get on board with is telling kids what they are all about because it's too much unnecessarily scary information. And the drills themselves are, in fact, scary for children. For god's sake, we need to stop telling little kids whose wild imaginations cannot process the thought of "active shooters" that we are doing a mass murder preparation drills. Call it a "hurricane" drill. Call it a "safety drill." Call it an "all out ostrich, put your head in the sand" drill. I don't care. I'm asking that we collectively get together and tell a little white lie to protect the innocence of childhood. 

Adults used to be comfortable lying to their kids about all kinds of things. Shit, my parents told me that a chicken lived behind our refrigerator because it made a strange clucking sound. And also, my mom told me that she was elf--a real elf--who traveled on Santa's sleigh to his workshop. I mean, how many of us are about to tell our kids that A HUGE BUNNY is coming to deliver presents?! And I get it, these things are "fun" and silly and traditional, but maybe that's more to the point. We will lie to our kids in the name of a good time, but not to protect their developing minds which deserve a safe haven. Nah, bro. I ain't down with it. 

Yes, they will look back and realize what it really was, and that we told them a lie. YES, we can give them more information the older the get, but NO we don't have to be explicit about what that means when kids are four, five, six or even seven. I think a lie--a safety lie--is in order. I even think that looking back, our kids will thank us for not giving them information they really weren't ready for. The worrying needs to be left to the adults because the adults are the ones who are equipped to fix it. 

And honestly, sometimes, for all our rigid morality, the truth is simply overrated. 

No comments:

Post a Comment