September 18, 2015
By Ekta R. Garg
I think I’ve blogged before about lying to the kids, and the lies haven’t stopped. Is that a terrible thing? I’m not so sure. Some parents, I’ve read, believe in telling their kids the truth all the time. I have to wonder, isn’t that exhausting? More than that, isn’t that (in certain situations) offering kids way too much information?
Believe me, I don’t lie with abandon to the kids. Parenting is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation, so sometimes a person really has to come up with responses on the spot. But now that I’ve been a parent for almost a decade (!!!), I’ve started anticipating what the kids might ask. Or how I could possibly respond to future questions. Once in a while, that means fudging the truth just a little. Or a lot. Especially when it comes to cotton candy.
(Did I ever mention that this blog gives me a chance for confession? I’m just waiting for the day when the kids get old enough to surf online unaided and start reading through each and every one of these.)
We’re pretty careful with the amount of sugar we let the kids consume. Recently at the kids’ dance class, another parent asked whether I let the girls eat the lollipops they receive after class. I told her no, that the kids know they’re not allowed to have suckers before dinner. We use suckers and other candy and ice cream and other sweets as treats, not as an essential part of the meal.
(This probably explains why throughout our entire Europe trip, when dessert came as a mandatory part of dinner every night, Nine and Seven would get wide-eyed every single time and then smile with glee as they ate. Even we aren’t heartless enough to refuse them cake in Europe.)
Last week Seven’s school held a back-to-school carnival and picnic. At the annual event parents can let their kids run free while they socialize. The kids come back to their respective parents once in a while to check in, which Nine and Seven did when they came running to me to ask whether they could get some cotton candy.
I hesitated, and then said, “Sure. Just don’t eat all of it.”
I didn’t give them any more instructions, just watched them scamper off. After thinking for a minute about what they might actually do with the cotton candy, I turned back to the parent with whom I’d been chatting. A little while later Nine came and handed me the bag of cotton candy, and I was pleased to see it more than half full. Between two kids and all the running around they were doing, I figured they’d burn off most of the sugar before we got home. I kept talking to the parent a little while longer and then went to the trash can to throw out my plate…and dropped the cotton candy into the trash as well.
Not long after, I decided to track the kids down and take them home. I found them waiting patiently in line for the bounce house and also spotted other parents waiting for their kids. We started catching up on the summer and everything else when Nine looked at me.
“Where’s the cotton candy?” she asked.
I was wearing my sunglasses, so it was easier to hide my deep betrayal. I still went through the motions, though. I turned my head as if caught in mid-thought, turned one way or the other as if looking around, and then I said, “I don’t know. I think I might have put it down somewhere.”
In the trash can, I completed mentally. I like to try not to tell a complete lie, if I can help it.
Nine shook her head, clapped her hand to her forehead, and gave me a look that said, “I can’t believe you couldn’t even keep track of something as small as cotton candy.”
Later on as we drove home, Nine broke the news to Seven that I “lost” their cotton candy.
“It’s okay!” Seven said defensively. “Mamma didn’t mean to.”
Okay, so I can’t lie here. I did feel a little guilty. But I also did it with the best of intentions. There was way too much cotton candy in that bag—at least, for the girls’ tolerance level. Some kids could probably finish off the quart-sized bag by themselves and not bat an eye. Our girls would probably start climbing the walls. Almost literally.
They didn’t say anything after that, so I figured the cotton candy issue had abated. But it came up a couple of days ago as we drove to school one morning. Nine mentioned the cotton candy again.
“Mamma didn’t do it on purpose,” Seven said. She sounded an awful like a parent discussing a toddler who had just discovered that crayons mark on walls.
I didn’t say anything. Often these days when I’m driving both kids to and from school, I don’t infringe on their conversations. I’ve learned that I found out way more by staying quiet.
That morning I learned that lying to my kids—when it comes to cotton candy anyway—may not be such a big deal. I also learned that Nine and Seven probably see my shortcomings and oversights much as I see theirs. Should that be comforting? It is and isn’t all at the same time.
It also, I think, gives me wiggle room to lie. Only when I have to, of course.