Should We Lie To Our Children?

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My eldest daughter came into my bedroom the other day and asked:

‘So is the tooth fairy real or what?’

I was momentarily taken off guard and didn’t know what to say.  But then I looked at her waiting expectantly for my answer and thought to myself, she is nine years old now.  Her friends are starting to talk.  Some still believe, others don’t and it must be a confusing time.  Maybe it’s time I told her the truth, as I don’t want her to feel silly when she finds out from one of her friends at school.

Parenting-and-LyingSo I told her:

‘No they’re not real.  Mum or dad puts a coin under your pillow,’ I said and waited for the disappointment to register.  But instead she wanted to know what I did with the teeth and when I said that I threw them away, this bothered her more than the whole idea of no tooth fairy taking them did.

I felt a little sad during this conversation.  My first born is growing up and some of the magic of her early childhood is starting to fade.  But I had started to become uncomfortable with whole idea of leading her on.  It had started when we were last on holiday and she had lost a tooth whilst we were away.

At the time my daughter carefully set the tooth out by her bed with a note asking questions regarding who this ‘holiday’ tooth fairy was and whether she knew the one back home.  The next morning no tooth fairy had been (oops) and she was most disappointed.

This led to the launch of an elaborate story/lie on my part about how we were on holiday so her usual tooth fairy would have had to contact another one who lived near to where we were staying to ask her to collect the tooth instead.  As we were only visiting, this new tooth fairy would have had to put us to the bottom of her list, so that she could see to her usual children first and that maybe she’d been particularly busy and hadn’t managed to get to us yet.

And would you believe it, when we got back from breakfast the tooth fairy had been!  She even managed to leave a note telling us all about herself and how she knew my daughter’s tooth fairy back home.

I was telling some friends later about how such an elaborate lie to a nine year old did not sit comfortably with me.  After all aren’t we teaching our children how important it is to tell the truth?  My friends said I should get over it as it is lovely that she still believes, but I am not so sure.

Sharing the truth with my daughter felt as though she was making the first steps in to the ‘grown up’ world.  I had expected her to come charging through the door demanding to know why I lied to her for all those years, so all things considered she took it well.  But I could tell by her face that there were more questions to follow:

‘So what about the Easter Bunny then?’  She said.  ‘You hide the chocolate in the garden really, don’t you?’

I could only nod, inwardly cringing.  But I made her promise not to say anything to her younger brother and sister, as just because she knows the truth it doesn’t mean that they should.

‘It can be our grown up secret,’ I said.

See how my lies are spreading?  Now I’m dragging my daughter into it too!

I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable by then and hoped that the conversation would soon come to an end.  But I wasn’t going to get away that lightly it seemed:

‘You’re not going to tell me Father Christmas is fake too are you?’

‘Oh no I said, definitely not.  He is 100% real.  Of course those ones you see at the Garden Centre aren’t real, you can imagine Father Christmas can’t be everywhere at once; he’s much too busy at the North Pole.  Do you know you can even go and visit him?  He lives in Lapland.  So he must be real.’

So there I go again with my elaborate lies.  But I still need for her to have some magic and the magic of Christmas is the most special of all.  I wasn’t ready for that to end just yet.  My daughter seemed happy with my answer and I knew then that our conversation was done.  I breathed a sigh of relief content that I’d made the right decision.

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