The Twenty-Second Chart

November 25, 2011

By Ekta R. Garg

My brothers and sisters in the parenting fraternity, forgive me.  I feel compelled to reveal one of our secrets.

I lie to my children.

I lie intentionally.  I examine a situation and at certain moments choose NOT to tell the truth.

And do I do this because I want to protect my children from the harsh reality of the world?  To shield them from the horror of war, the utter gall of perpetrators, the nastiness of professional sports?

Sometimes.  And sometimes I lie because I’m tired.

Last week Three proceeded to stand beside her bed just before her afternoon nap.  She asked for a specific stuffed animal to sleep with.

You must understand, this child adores animals.  She watches “The Lion King” and “Madagascar” with glee.  She spots billboards for animals to adopt and points and exclaims at the cats and dogs appearing with pleading eyes.  And 95 percent of the time, she sleeps with an animal.

The good thing is that she doesn’t have an attachment to any one particular stuffed animal.  That is, we don’t have one bunny that’s traveled the world and back, or a bear that has spun in the washing machine so many times the original color no longer has a name.  She loves all of her stuffed animals equally, without bias, without prejudice.  Each of them gets their turn as the favorite.

So last week she asked for the current favorite.  And the current favorite happened to be sitting downstairs.  I thought for a moment, looked around her room, and spotted a previous favorite sitting on the bookshelf.

“Well, your dog said he wanted to sleep with you today.  He was missing you.”

Yes.  I actually did.

“Oh, okay,” Three replied, picking up the dog, reassuring him of her love, and letting me off the hook of having to go down and come back upstairs again.

And that was the only reason I made up the ridiculous excuse.

I must admit, I felt slightly guilty when she accepted my lie so easily.  The poor kid usually doesn’t ask for much, and I denied her the chance to sleep with the Animal of the Week because I felt lazy.  To argue my point, I must emphasize that Three accepted my explanation without batting an eye and was quite amenable to it.

But the lying doesn’t stop there.

Three doesn’t like tomatoes.  Her older sister loves them, but Three politely declines any tomatoes if someone offers them to her.  This includes tomatoes in her food.

With the temperatures dropping here in the Salt Lake area, I have gone back to my soup recipes.  Our family has spent many lunches and dinners cozying up to the table with warm bowls of soup and hefty slices of garlic bread.  And often the soup includes—you guessed it—tomatoes.

Three doesn’t mind if the soup has a tomato base.  It’s only when she can see chunks of tomatoes that she protests.  And then we have to proceed to dig out a few of the tomatoes to satisfy her.

But we don’t dig all of them out of her soup.  We manage to hide some of them under other vegetables or pasta or other things.  And sometimes we lie about the tomatoes.

I’m a major Rachael Ray fan, and Rachael has this fantastic sausage and tortellini soup.  It has, among other ingredients, lots of tomatoes.  And in the entire process of introducing soups to Three and helping her develop a taste for them, my husband and I had to figure out how to explain the tomato pieces floating in her bowl.

“This is a tomato,” Three stated with confidence as she held up her spoon with the offending vegetable square in the middle.

“That’s not a tomato,” I countered quickly.  “That’s a carrot.”

“Oh,” she replied.  She proceeded to put it in her mouth, chewed it, swallowed it, and then thought about it for another minute.

“But carrots are orange,” she said, looking at her dad to explain her latest implicit observation.

“Not all carrots,” he said, continuing my falsehood.  “This carrot is red.”

And, yes.  She fell for it again.

The latest lie came this evening.  My husband and I spent the majority of the day weeding through Black Friday deals and items to purchase Christmas presents for our family.  After a long but incredibly productive day at the mall, we came home and enjoyed a quiet evening with the children.  I planned to take out some leftover pasta for dinner for the adults, and I asked the girls what they wanted to eat.  After a few minutes of pondering the matter, both girls agreed they wanted turkey sandwiches.

At dinner time I placed the sandwiches in front of both girls.

“My bread has a hole in it,” Three complained.

It was one of those holes that occur naturally in bread, and for some reason Three didn’t like it.

“It’s there so you can see your turkey and cheese,” I answered quickly, knowing my younger daughter’s penchant for quirky, funny things like this.

“Oh,” she said, chuckling at the thought that she’d be able to see the inside of her sandwich as she ate it.

Okay, so this third time I lied because I wanted to circumvent the tantrum that would occur if I didn’t find a pat answer to her complaint.  At least my intention had some nobility about it.  And I could make the case that the second example could help Three try new foods and not judge them simply because of a name, a stereotype she’s affixed in her mind. “I do not like tomatoes, therefore I will not eat this.”

But the first lie?  The first lie simply goes back to that dirty secret all parents share.  Sometimes we lie because it’s more convenient.  The lie has no merit, no basis for teaching a life skill or protecting anyone from anything.  We just do it because—well, because we don’t want to have ascend and descend flights of stairs for a stuffed animal that in all likelihood would end up on the floor anyway.

Terrible, you non-parents say?  I say spend the weekend with a three-year-old.  You’ll find yourself lying for leisure at least once long before Sunday evening rolls around.

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