On Thursday, I found myself helping my daughter search for her half-eaten packet of chocolate M&Ms.
A packet of M&Ms that I had finished about five minutes before she started asking for it.
We searched for nearly 20 minutes. This was the most thorough search I have ever conducted in my life.
In the end, we conceded that her naughty toys must have eaten them, and I promised that we would go up the shops later and get some more.
Which was also a lie.
And afterwards, in the middle of the night – my favourite time of day to become wracked with mum-guilt over all the things I mess up on – I started wondering why I thought it was okay to lie to this small, impressionable person that I was trying to raise to be the best she can be.
Because I lie to her all the time.
(Quick change of subject – I learnt the other day that in America, this symbol #, means ‘the pound sign’. I’m not sure if that’s £ or lb, but either way. Now you know. For my American friends, this means ‘number’ in the UK – I needed the clarify that or else the next bit won’t make any sense)
Anyway. My lies.
In fact, I was quite surprised just how much I lie to her. These are the lies I’ve told to her in the last week, in addition to Lies #1 and #2 above:
#3 We walked past a child’s ride, the ones where you stick a coin in. I told her she couldn’t go on it because it was broken.
#4 And later that same day, when we walked past a carousel I told her it was closed. And
#5 The boys and girls on it were being naughty and a man will come and tell them off
#6 When I’m eating something and she wants it, I tell her it’s yucky. Or
#7 It’s just for mummys and will make her poorly if she has it
#8 I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve told her there are no biscuits/chocolate/sweets and then sneakily eaten said biscuits/chocolate/sweets, behind the fridge door, or with my head stuck in a cupboard
#9 I frequently tell her that daddy’s watching when she’s being naughty. Even though he’s at work in the city and we’re in the next state. Omnipresence is surprisingly common, actually. Nanny also watches. As does Miss Arlene, her nursery teacher
#10 If you don’t tidy your toys away, I’ll give them all to a little girl who will. God knows what I’ll do if I ever have to follow through. a) I don’t know any little girls over here and b)… I spent a lot of freaking money on those toys.
#11 I won’t ask you again. She knows I’m lying. I know I’m lying. We both pretend I mean it.
I wondered how much harm I’m doing with these little lies here and there. After about five minutes of deliberation, I decided none.
And then I made myself think about this a little more as the principal reasons I tell her lies are all completely selfish. They are either a) to make my life easier/sweeter, b) so that she doesn’t think too badly of me, and c) so that she doesn’t pick up the appalling habits I have – like stealing sweets.
Anyway, after thinking some more, I still decided that there is not much harm done.
I thought to the lies we tell as adults, and I figured that it’s just ingrained behaviour in all of us. Even the most worthy, honest people I know tell lies – they tell them so as not to hurt someone’s feelings; Your hair looks amazing. Your boyfriend is delightful. I didn’t get your text
And as for the not so worthy and honest amongst us – bloody hell, how many times do we get exposed to lies every day in the media alone? And, at work, how many times have you been told that something has been done when it hasn’t even been started? That someone is on their way when they haven’t even left their house? Humans lie on CV’s, to their partners, to their parents, to their friends.
As a race, we love telling fibs. We get kicks from it. I know people who will tell a porkie for no reason whatsoever. None at all. They will pretend they’ve been to a restaurant (or not). That they’ve seen a film (or not). Heard a song (or not). For no reason other than that it’s easier to lie when someone asks rather than have a long conversation about something they’re not interested in hearing about. And maybe there’s a little kick out of doing something frowned upon, something a little bit naughty. Something you might get caught out on.
Of course, some people take this to extremes. The adrenaline junkies of lying, if you like. When their lie is of such a magnitude that if they do get found out, heaven and earth will come crashing down. Literally, the apocalypse will happen. But then, you always get some weirdos wherever you go.
Animals lie – it’s how they survive. Squirrels will pretend to bury their nuts if they feel they’re being watched, and will then go and bury them elsewhere. Baby Capuchin monkeys pretend to be in distress so that they can distract the adults and then run in and grab the good food. Topi antelope males pretend that there are predators near when they think that a female is losing interest. Animals do these tricks to survive. Or in the case of the antelope, to be a domineering bloke. Same difference.
So, I don’t really see it as lying to BC. I see it that I’m teaching her how to adjust into childhood, and then adulthood. To learn how to not hurt someone’s feelings. Hey, as long as I teach her not to lie about the important things, or anything that can hurt someone, does it really matter that I tell a tiny white lie about having Minstrels in the fridge? In hindsight, all I’m doing is teaching BC survival skills.
And trust me, making sure she doesn’t go anywhere near my biscuits/chocolate/sweets is most definitely a survival skill.