Of Necco Tiles and Christmas Tales
One of the benefits of having more than one child is that it makes it really easy to deflect responsibility for things, which you might rather avoid. Like, for example, when your nine-year-old asks you what happened to the Necco roof tiles on the gingerbread house that she made during her special “all-cousins-overnight-gingerbread-and-toaster-waffles-extravaganza” at her Grammy’s house. If you have more than one child you can say something like “I’m sorry, I’ll talk to your brother about that. He’s only three. Thanks for being so patient with him.” And as long as you can keep the concerned mother face, (the one where you furrow your eyebrows and nod your head slowly,) she need never know that it was actually you prying those sugary architectural embellishments from the facade of her little edible cottage. (By the way, if you ever find yourself needing to steal candy off of your own child’s gingerbread house go straight for the non-spoon end of a metal baby spoon. You might think that a butter knife would be the natural “go to”, but it’s too round and slips a lot. The spoon is blunt for stability and slightly curved for excellent leverage. I’m telling you, that royal icing could replace the O-rings in the space shuttle. There’s no getting through that stuff.)
Now, it may seem wrong to tell such a … well, a big old fat lie to your kid, but I’m a big believer in the concept of “net good”, and I’m pretty sure that leaving my daughter with a memory of her mother sitting on the kitchen floor in her “sock monkeys and air stream trailers” pajamas hacking away at her gingerbread house with a baby spoon would not be good for anyone.
I find it interesting what we remember about our parents. My guess is that the stuff that I want my kids to remember is not what they’ll remember about me. I picture them reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to their children one day saying, “Your Grandmother loved this story. She used to read it to us every year. As a matter of fact, it was because she so diligently read to us for at least twenty minutes a day, as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatric Know-It-Alls, that I was inspired to write that Nobel Prize winning novel last year.” In reality however it will sound more like this: “I didn’t know that Go Dog Go was so long. When my mom read it to me it only had ten pages. Weird. Maybe this is a different version.”
Aside from liberally editing annoying children’s stories and the seizure of gingerbread house candy, there are other parenting moments of which I am not particularly proud. For example, telling my three-year-old that although it was unfortunate that her binky was missing, she had surpassed the approved “binky use” age threshold and would therefore need to soldier on through childhood without it. (It worked well, by the way. She never asked for it again). Or, insisting to my son that there was a Storm Trooper hiding in the basement so that he would embark on a “search and destroy mission” and leave me alone to write on my blog. Or my running narrative of nearly every Disney princess tale where I inform my daughter that if Cinderella had stayed in school and gotten her Master’s Degree she could’ve moved out on her own and not married the first boy that asked her to dance. (I’m sticking by that one.) Or my favorite seasonal lie: “I’m emailing Santa, not his elves, him. I’m sure he’ll be interested to know that you think I’m a “total meaner” for making you fold your clothes.” I can solicit all kinds of good behavior with that one.
Let’s face it folks, a lot of parenting is just finding the smallest lie that works best at the time. Is it wrong? Almost probably. Is it effective? You betcha, and if you really think about it, believing tiny little lies are a lot of what childhood is about anyway. Sometimes lies sustain the wonder of the child (ala Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the belief that you really can grow up to be a Jedi). Sometimes lies, however, sustain the sanity of the parent. And when there is not much sanity to be found, I’ll take it where I can find it. Even if it’s stuck to the roof of my kid’s gingerbread house.