One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard was Sara Cox saying she told her kids that when the ice cream van plays a tune it means it has run out of ice cream. This was years before I had kids of my own but I remember thinking how much fun it must be to sit with your other half over a bottle of wine, agreeing fibs you’d tell your kids for your own amusement.
And then you have kids, and realise that the real brilliance of their childish innocence is not that you can use it for amusement, but that lying to children is something you need to do SIMPLY TO SURVIVE.
My parents definitely lied to me. I once announced to my teacher that you were allowed to swear when you’re driving (something I believed for years). I thought babies were made if you swallowed an apple pip (to this day I only eat my apples sliced, just in case). There was the time I found all the (beautiful, I’m sure) gifts I’d made for Santa out of toilet roll holders and pipe cleaners underneath my parents’ bed a few days after Christmas and they said they’d just loved them so much they wanted to keep them for themselves. Ooft. Even when I was in my twenties I told my now husband that my Dad had turned down a CBE in the 90s because he didn’t believe in the honours system – he was suitably impressed with my Dad’s principles and told him so when they met. Turns out my dad had told me this 10 years earlier simply to test my gullibility, for his own amusement. To be fair, I delivered.
Now I find myself lying to my 2 year old on a far-too-regular basis. But it’s fine, because I’m doing it SIMPLY TO SURVIVE. Here’s a list of my most common lies of the moment:
1.“Santa’s watching you” Rejoice parents everywhere! Christmas becomes significantly harder work when you have kids – creating a magical experience in this day and age is a pricey and timely business – but it’s all totally worthwhile because of the fact that Santa (and his helpers) can be used as an ongoing threat regarding bad behaviour from about the month of September onwards. I love Santa these days more than I ever did as a child for this very reason. We’re currently working on explaining the very special supervisory role the Easter bunny plays. Forget Elf on the Shelf, now it’s all about… Egg on the Peg?! (Quuuick, trademark!)
2.“That’s a nut” This is my current favourite. My son knows he can’t eat nuts, so as long as I tell him whatever I’m eating is a nut, he doesn’t try and steal it from me, And when you have a ravenous toddler who wants to eat EVERYTHING this is an important survival strategy. Such us his unconditional trust in me, he never thinks to check. (This only makes me feel a teeny bit bad).
3.“[insert name of person most important to him that day] just phoned and said they’re sad that you’re being a naughty boy” This is becoming an increasingly important one – it might be Nanna / Grandad / nursery teacher / friend / elderly neighbour but each day there’ll be someone different who takes the “person of the day” role and he would do ANYTHING to be in their good books. Can also be used in the context of “I just spoke to [best friend of the day]’s Mummy and Daddy and they’re fast asleep already”: instant slumber.
4.“Mummy’s going now then. Bye bye” A classic, and I’m sure not something the psychologists would recommend for fear of creating abandonment anxiety, but used by parents everywhere nonetheless. Unfortunately all too frequently followed by a shameful walk across park / softplay / café because it’s totally failed and you still have to full-body-wrestle your child back into the buggy in full view of all the judgy parents who would never let their children out of arm’s reach… ah well.
5.“Awww, it’s broken / lost / we don’t have any more batteries” VERY useful for the toys with the most irritating sounds (hello toot toot drivers) or the ones that cost about £30 to restock with batteries (hello mini dyson hoover)
6.“CBeebies has finished early today” (as you click to AV setting on the tv to get the “noisy snow”) Basically the only way to get to watch anything “normal” on TV between 7am and 7pm
7.“Mummy doesn’t have any money today” Useful for all sorts of confectionery-based situations but especially for those horrific ride-ons outside supermarkets. Thankfully in this cashless age this is often not even a lie, though bless the innocence that means they never question how you seem to have money for everything else. God help us if (or surely when) those money-eating machines become contactless…!
So there you go. Those are my current day to day lie-based survival tactics. I look forward to them getting more and more complex over the years as the kids start to get smart and twig on. Though then again, given they’ve inherited 50% of my gullibility maybe they won’t…
Happy fibbing everyone!