Do/did you lie to your kids?
You’re going to say “no” right off the bat, but did you perpetuate the Santa myth? Do you keep bad news from them? Do you shelter them from unpleasantness?
I never believed in Santa as a kid, no matter how hard my parents tried to get me to. They even had our neighbour dress up once to try and ho-ho-ho his way into my heart. I was about four and this is one of my first memories. I distinctly remember feeling like they were trying to pull some kind of trick at my expense because I knew absolutely that it was the neighbour in that costume. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and felt really upset.
I don’t know what was wrong with me as a child that I had no capacity for fantasy. I wasn’t unimaginative, but my imagination didn’t run to princesses, monsters, fairies or wizards. I would never have been interested in Harry Potter or Twilight. I liked stories about real people doing real things.
XUP Jr., on the other hand, wholeheartedly embraced the entire Santa thing; the tooth fairy thing; dragons, sprites, elves – you name it. I never did anything to encourage it. She picked it up from friends, TV, books, whatever and stubbornly believed, no matter what I said.
“Don’t you believe in Santa, Mummy?”
“Why not? He’s so good and nice and brings you presents if you believe in him.”
“I just don’t. But you can if you want to.”
I could never bring myself to be mean enough to flat out tell her she was delusional. So, she believed in Santa until the year she turned 13. Freaked me out.
“Shut UP! You still believe Santa is going to bring you presents?”
“Ya! All my friends say I’m a baby and that Santa isn’t real, but I know he is because he brought me those slippers that I really wanted when I was 7 and I know you’d never get them for me.” (XUP Jr. always had weird things like slippers and pencils and a rocking chair on her Christmas wish list.)
It was my mother who burst that bubble when she told XUP Jr. the story of how she found out that Santa wasn’t real. (Never imagining that a 13-year-old still believed in Santa). XUP Jr. was shattered and ran crying to me beating me on the chest with her fists, wailing that I’d been lying to her for years.
Anyway, the point of the story is that I’ve made it my policy never to lie or hide things from my daughter. If she asks me a question, I’ll always tell her the truth as I see it and in a way I think she’ll best understand it. If someone dies, I don’t tell her they’ve gone to heaven. I tell her some people might believe the dead person has gone to heaven and then I’ll tell her what I believe.
Once, when she was 5, there was a news story on the radio about a man who’d raped a 5-year-old child. Somehow this caught her attention and she asked me what rape was. I told her that the man had touched the child’s “nakie parts” and had really, really hurt her. She asked why someone would want to do that to a child. I said because the man has something wrong with his brain and thought it was fun. She said, “If a man wants to have fun with a child, he should take her to a playground and push her on the swings or something.”
“Yes indeed,” I said, “But some people are not nice and don’t understand what’s fun and good and what’s wrong and bad.”
I don’t know if that was an appropriate conversation to have with a 5-year-old or not, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time.
Do you shelter your kids from stuff – not including the obvious violent TV/movies/video games. Do you soften reality for them or avoid hard questions? Do you encourage them to believe in fantasy/magic? Why or why not?