My sister-in-law is pregnant, and my brother posted something on his Facebook that got me thinking.  He said he and his wife were discussing…

[W]hether or not to tell our kid that [S]anta is real (and other stuff like the Easter bunny and tooth fairy). What are the pros and cons you all have experienced dancing with these kinds of lies?”

This sparked a wide range of answers.  
Some responses were measured—“This sort of thing is tricky because of school and peer groups.  On one hand, you don’t want to lie to your kid, but on the other, you don’t want them to be left out of the group.”
Some took a hardline—“I feel these stories are the first betrayal a child experiences from their parents.  Don’t do it.”
Some were jokes—“Only teach your kids about Krampus and Zwarte Piet.”
Some were pragmatic—“Parenting is based on a carefully constructed web of lies.”

It was fascinating to see the array of responses, and a lot of people shared the innocent lies that their parents told them growing up (my favorite being, “My dad would hang flypaper in the garage and say he was catching flies so he could make fly-soup.  He never cracked a smile to let me know it was a joke, and I fretted about it all day”).

My wife and I want to have kids someday, and I’ll be the first to admit that I know nothing about how to raise a child, but this sort of question never even crossed my mind.  What is it appropriate to lie to your child about, and when is it appropriate to lie to them?

I can’t really recall any lies my parents told me as a kid.  I never believed in Santa Claus—if anything, they explicitly told me that Santa wasn’t real, and that Jesus is the reason for the season.  They never told me “You have to do X or else a scary monster will get you.”  No lies about making fly soup, that they are the ones who paint the leaves different colors in autumn, or anything like that.

But on the other hand, I had plenty of siblings willing to lie to me.  One of my brothers convinced me that the reason the aliens invaded in “Independence Day” was because they were after the dolphin ring Will Smith was going to propose to Vivica A. Fox with.  And I believed him.

And I realize now that I lie to my niece all the time.  For several months, we convinced her that my name was Owen and my wife’s was Beru, so that she would call us Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.  I also convinced her that you have to put your arms up whenever you drive up or down a hill.  Three years later, she still does it regularly.

Kids are insanely gullible.  They will believe literally anything you tell them.  I am excited for when my wife and I have kids because I think it will be extraordinary fun to mess with them.  Plus, if my jokes/lies ever go too far, I know my levelheaded and infinitely more responsible wife will be there to put an end to my merrymaking.

I’d like to end by asking all of you—what lies did your parents tell you when you were a kid?

Paul Menn
Paul ('10) lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Emma ('10), and cat, HandsomeMarcoCat. He loves board games, Babylon 5, and honey-curry chicken. Everything else is negotiable.

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