Recently, Pip has been, I think the best most accurate word would be experimenting with telling us small lies. We always catch her out, either instantly or after not very long at all. We’ve talked about lying with her and how important it is to always tell us the truth. Even if she’s done something wrong, lying about it will only ever make the situation worse. I think this idea has mostly sunk in, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear a few fibs every now and then! But I think she understands that lying is essentially wrong.
So why exactly do so many grown ups think its a perfectly acceptable thing to do? People lie all of the time. I used to lie all the time. I’ve realised that this was basically because my entire life was based on lies. Lying to myself and everyone around me was how I coped. When it struck me just how destructive this behaviour was, I managed to stop it and now, I do not lie. About anything. Ok, I might sometimes be careful with the truth. If someone has a bad haircut, I might say something like ‘Oh, I thought the style you had before really suited you’ rather than ‘Blimey, did you do something to really offend your hairdresser, because it looks like they’ve assaulted you with a comb’. But I won’t tell an outright lie.
Which is why I will not tell my daughter the plethora of lies that so many children are told. I know parents say that it’s all about magic and imagination but if your little girl or boy directly asks you if Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy is real and you confirm they are, you have just told your child a lie. I actually find these lies pretty disturbing anyway. Why on earth would telling your child that a strange man is watching you throughout the year and, if you’re good enough, he’s going to break into your home late at night be a nice thing? Or that a magical being is going to creep into their room at night and take their discarded teeth in exchange for money? How are these stories anything other than really creepy? And then when the children do start to question how these things can really be true, some parents go to insanely great lengths to fabricate evidence of these fictional characters. I recall reading of one mother who used icing sugar to make the ‘snowy footprints’ left by Father Christmas in their living room. I can only imagine how much fun cleaning that up on Christmas morning was.
One criticism I’ve had of this total honesty policy is that it’s somehow affecting her imagination or her enjoyment of childhood. Anyone who knows Pip knows that this is not the case. The imaginary role play games she plays are amazing. She makes up very detailed stories and characters all of the time, which we happily encourage. I’m not against fiction – it would be a bit weird for someone who studies and loves creative writing! But she knows that it is not real. I know that Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter aren’t real. That doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of them.
I realise that sometimes total honesty is not the easier path to follow. But I believe that, for my family, it is the right path. It’s the path that ensures my daughter knows that everything her parents tell her is the truth, or at least what we believe to be the truth based on the best evidence we have. There are no empty threats or pointless lies to be disappointed by later. The wonders of the real world – those of nature and science – provide all of the childhood joy that she needs.