I often joke that the cornerstone of good parenting is the ability to tell a convincing lie.
Let the “she’s an awful parent” anger flow through you. Now purse your lips. Let a little judgmental gasp escape. There you go.
Now think about it.
“I can see you even though I’m in the other room, you know!”
“If you keep behaving this way, I’m afraid Santa might not come this year.”
“Here, let me kiss that scrape- it’ll heal faster.”
See? I’m not so crazy after all.
Sadly, I’m the worst liar on the planet. Even a little white lie sends me into fits of giggles, blushing (which is so painfully obvious on the milk-white cheeks of a Ginger), and the sudden inability to lift my eyelids. Creepy, I know. So if I’m ever speaking to you and spontaneously slip into a strange “I just met my celebrity crush and also I’m drunk” behavior pattern, you know I’m making something up.
I also feel the need to express that I HATE lying. It just feels so…wrong. I’m truthful to a fault, especially with my kids. I don’t ever want them to think they can’t trust me.
And yet….as soon as my son was born I developed this strangely intoxicating Super Power. I can spin the tallest of tales to him on a whim, in any situation. I’m not one for threatening and I try to leave Santa and the Bunny out of it (it just seems like they have pretty full plates already), so I’ve reserved this uncanny ability for emergencies only.
Take the other night, for example. Vince had been rambling on for hours (no, really – HOURS) about a spider in his bedroom. We live in a rural area; this is nothing new. Nonetheless, he rattled on from dinnertime through bath time and right into story time.
According to his testimony, the suspect had leapt out of the toy box that houses his car collection and viciously chased him out of his bedroom. It was huge. It was furry. It was angry.
It was also nowhere to be found.
I displayed the appropriate amount of reverence for his tale, searched the premises, and assured him that the 17-foot beast with wild fur and an anger management problem must have snuck out the open window. I thought it was over.
I was wrong.
As soon as we entered his bedroom Vince’s whole body tensed up, his eyes filled with tears, and he crumbled like a gluten-free cookie (all you Celiacs know what I’m talking about) into my arms.
“Mommy, it’s REAL! The spider is real! I saw it! It has 5 legs and it’s mad! It’s not outside! I can’t stay in here! Please!”
He really was terrified. I had to do something. My Spidey senses started tingling….and the web began to weave itself before my eyes.
“Well, ok then. You know what this means, right? It means we have to get the spider spray.”
“The spider spray?”
“Yup. There’s a spray- it’s very hard to get but I managed to find a bottle awhile back- and it sprays a scent that spiders hate so much that you only need a little spritz in each corner, and one good spray across the threshold of the door. No spider will come near this place for at least 48 hours.”
“Really?” His eyes were so wide and hopeful that I suddenly felt like I was looking at Cindy Lou Who on Christmas Eve, and I was about to push her tree up the chimney.
I hated being dishonest but it was too late to turn back, so I walked purposefully to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of Febreze Pet Odor Eliminator.
“Here it is,” I said solemnly. He reached out to touch it.
“No! It’s a very concentrated formula- highly dangerous. Only someone trained in spider spraying can use it.”
I began spritzing the corners of his bedroom while he watched nervously.
“Spray across the window sill, too, Mommy, just in case he wants to get in that way….and the rug over there, that’s where he ran away….and I think you should spray all the walls-“
“No, no this is enough,” I insisted. I wanted to deter the fake spider, not send my child into an asthmatic fit.
“I’m also going to put the air conditioner on.”
“But I’m not hot.”
“Ahhh, but spiders hate the cold. They have tiny, thin legs, and when they get cold their legs shake so much that they can’t hold themselves up and they collapse onto the ground. They just sit there wiggling around and they can’t get up. It drives them crazy. If this guy hears the air conditioner and smells the spider spray, he’s not coming anywhere near this room. He may even walk all the way down the street.”
Who was I?!
“Are you sure this is going to work, Mommy?”
“Bud, you’re good. I promise.”
I tucked him in, kissed his forehead, and smiled reassuringly. Then I ran the Hell out of there to pray that no spiders would wander into his room, lest he either a.) Never trust me again or b.) Think I’m totally inept. I’m on thin ice after the whole “of course I can fix the hole in the pool” fiasco.
The next morning I woke up feeling pretty darn crafty. There was no toddler in or under (yes, he does that) my bed, which meant one thing- no spider nightmares or imaginary sightings.
“Well,” I thought smugly as I sauntered into the living room, “sometimes you have to do a bad thing to achieve good results.”
I halted mid-saunter. The tone in his voice was grave.
“Well, Mommy, I’ve got some bad news. Your spray didn’t work.”
“It…didn’t?” My cheeks were suddenly very warm and my eyelids were starting to twitch.
“Nope. I woke up in the middle of the night and checked under my bed, and SUDDENLY there it was. It was even madder and bigger. And instead of 5 legs, it only had 3 this time. It had crawled under my bed to hide from the air conditioner, so its legs weren’t cold and could still stand up. And from under the bed it couldn’t smell the spider spray, so it was just fine, Mommy. It didn’t go gone, Mommy. It didn’t go gone.”
John Wayne sighed, shook his head, and settled onto the couch to watch Teen Titans and have himself a shot of chocolate almond milk, and I let the cold, hard truth wash over me. He had used my powers against me!
Moral of the story, folks: you can only lie to your kids until they’re better at it than you are.