As parents, we’ve all done it. Most of us, anyway. We’ve all told that little white lie, with the intention of protecting the imaginations and/or innocence of our children. You know the ones I’m talking about: those itty-bitty, tinnnnny white lies about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny…or even about Goldie the Goldfish who has somehow – in just a few short hours – shrunk from 4 inches down to 2 1/2 and isn’t quite as orange as he was when the kids went to school that morning. Seriously! Who wants to tell an 8 year old that Goldie the Goldfish went up to the Great Goldfish Bowl in the Sky? It’s much more humane to run to the local pet store and replace him with another that looks – to you – exactly like him.
Over the years, I’ve told some doozies.
When my daughter was about two, she was afraid of the dark so I filled a spray bottle with water and my favorite perfume and called it “monster repellent.” Each night at bedtime, I methodically sprayed every inch of her room to keep the monsters away. It worked! So long as I didn’t run out of “monster spray,” I could be sure that she’d go to bed fairly easily at night, and she was assured that monsters wouldn’t sneak out from the closet or from under her bed.
When my children were afraid of the thunder and lightening outside, I told them that it was their great grandparents up in Heaven. The rains were nothing more than the great grandparents taking a shower. The lightening was Great Granddad flipping the lights off and on to tease Great Gram while she was in the shower; and the thunder was her temper tantrum, letting him know she didn’t appreciate his childish antics. The idea of two old people behaving like children was enough to give them a giggle and make the booming flashes less intimidating. Amber is now 16 and still remembers those stories. She loved them.
Probably the best little white lie I ever told, though, was about Santa and the high-tech gadgets he uses to keep an eye on all of the little children of the world. It was a great story…until I got caught!
My son Braden is a really sweet boy, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one more ornery. He’s got a lot of energy and loves to push the envelope on every little thing. The worst part is that he’s so smart that he will find a workaround for every single thing you ask him to do. “I’ll make a deal with you,” he might say. “I’ll do what you ask, if youuuuuuu…” (fill in the blank, but I can assure you that the tradeoff is never reasonable).
Needless to say, there were times when I was ready to pull my hair out in big clumps. Actually, there still are days when I feel like pulling my hair out in big clumps!
About four years ago – back when Braden was only about 4 – I’d completely lost my patience with his constant negotiating attempts and misbehavior. So I did what every frustrated parent does: I threatened him with a little white lie. I pulled the “Santa is watching you” card.
“Braden,” I said as I pointed to the smoke detectors in the house, “do you see those little round things on the ceiling in most rooms in this house?”
“Yeahhhhh?” he responded.
“Well, those are Santa’s little spy cameras. That little flashing light tells you that it’s working, and Santa sees absolutely everything you do and say. So you better behave! Christmas isn’t that far away and you don’t want Santa to bring you sticks and rocks like he did your Uncle Sam, do you?”
“Uncle Sam got sticks and rocks for Christmas?” he asked in shock and wonder.
“Yup! Now you don’t want rocks and sticks like Uncle Same got, do you?”
“No way!” he practically shouted. And from that day forward and for the next four years, all I had to do was to take an obvious glance at the smoke detectors when Braden was misbehaving, and that would bring him back to some semblance of good behavior.
Did my brother – Uncle Sam – really get sticks and rocks for Christmas one year? Probably not, but I’m sure I heard that somewhere. Uncle Sam is 10 years older than I am, so our folks probably told me that little white lie when I was Braden’s age for the same reason I’d told my little white lie to him. And it worked!
Until I got caught…
Four years have passed and Braden is now in 2nd grade. This week at school, the big topic is all about fires and smoke detectors and how to get out of your house safely. As part of his homework last night, Braden was assigned to walk through the house and count all of the smoke detectors…er…Santa Cams…in the house. I’m sure you can imagine how this rolled out.
“Braden,” I asked when he got home from school, “do you have any homework tonight?”
“Not really,” he said. “I just have to walk around the house and count all of the…the…the…OH MY GOSH!!!!”
Uh oh…I knew what was coming…
“OH MY GOSH!” he shouted again. “YOU told me those were Santa’s spy cameras! I learned in school today that they’re SMOKE DETECTORS! All this time I thought Santa was watching me in every room in the house, and they were smoke detectors! Mom!”
When you’ve been caught with your pants down in a bad lie, the only sensible thing to do is to play dumb.
“WHAT?” I exclaimed. “They’re not Santa’s spy cameras?”
“No, they’re not! And you knew that! You just thought you’d make me behave by making me think Santa could see me! No wonder my friends laughed when I told them that they were Santa’s spy cameras and he could see us through those things!”
At this point I quit feeling guilty and just couldn’t stop laughing at the image in my mind of the expressions on the faces of Braden’s friends as they tried to understand what he meant about Santa being able to see them through the smoke detectors. Eventually my laughter must’ve been contagious because it took only seconds for Braden to join me in my humor. Thank goodness that child has a sense of humor!
The moral of this story, my friends, is this: If you’re going to tell one of those little white lies, make sure you come clean before you get caught! That, or just don’t get caught!