Monday, May 9, 2011

Mothers who lie

Okay, someone I hold in high esteem (basically one of the most intelligent women I know) is a philosopher by profession and recently wrote a chapter in a book. But not a chapter in a book that is too hard for us non-philosophers to read, but one we can all get into. I wouldn't say it is dumbed down, but just that it is very readable. It essentially delves into the philosophy of motherhood. Please believe me that this is not a "buy this book" post (no link to Amazon here); I'm telling you the truth. And therein lies the issue. That's what it's about. The chapter is entitled "Lies and the Lying Mothers Who Tell Them." With proper mention of Kant and Bok and Augustine and Mill.

What lies have you told to your children, as a mother and/or as mother in medicine? Perhaps some creative mothering? Maybe:
  • If you jump on the couch that way you will crack your head open.
  • That's a beautiful drawing.
  • Your little brother did it by accident, I'm sure.
  • You will grow nice and tall if you go to sleep right now.
  • It's very late.
  • The tooth fairy _______ (fill in the blank).
  • Don't touch that! It will make you sick and you will have to miss your party tomorrow.
  • You will literally turn into macaroni and cheese if you have that for dinner again tonight.
  • There are no monsters upstairs in your bedroom closet (okay, that one is true), but if you don't get dressed right now they might start wearing your clothes.
  • We are leaving this store right now.
  • This won't hurt.
  • I'm almost done (with this email, post, tweet)
  • I'll be home soon.
Is it okay to lie to your kids? Is it for their benefit? Wishful thinking? For the greater good? What lies have you told to your children, as a mother and/or as mother in medicine?


  1. Well, growth hormone release is stimulated by sleep, so no lies about that one. :)

  2. VKN: laughter is good (true!)

    Anon: True, true, and not unrelated!

  3. My husband asked that we commit to not lying to our daughter while I was pregnant. It makes sense-- we want her to trust us. Then we came to the tough ones: Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc. I convinced him they were essentially fairy tales, and that fairy tales are good for kids (here's hoping the Brothers Grimm weren't reporting reality). In fact, we decided that it's important for kids to have fantasy, so we agreed that, although Santa would never visit our house and we would do nothing to encourage her, we would not interfere if our daughter wanted to believe in him. Worked pretty well: "Is there a Santa?" "What do you think?"

    In other areas, when she asks a question, we tell her the truth. I'm not sure other parents always appreciate our policy. She asks a lot of questions!

  4. The major lie I tell is: "If you don't get dressed NOW, we're leaving without you."

    I feel really guilty about that one and at the same time am terrified of when it will no longer be effective.

    In general though, I think sometimes you have to lie to kids for their own good (I can't say the above is an example of that). I'm sure not going to tell her that the drawing she made looks exactly like every other drawing she ever made. But one thing I really try to never ever do is break a promise to her.

  5. hh - I completely support and enjoy using the "what do you think?" approach.

    And I must add, that I TOLD THE TRUTH when daughter asked how babies get out of mommies, yes I did.

    Fizzy - and that security we give them by honoring our promises help them feel safe to navigate their way in this world with or without us

  6. My son turned 8 a few days before my daughter was born. He was very interested in how she was coming out, so I told him the truth.

    He looked me over real good then said that if I wasn't going to tell him the truth, at least I could have come up with a better lie.

  7. I used to tell them if they didn't get dressed I would take them to school in their underwear. It worked! Luckily I never had to "make good" on my threat.

  8. Trigem - Ha!!! Oh really, you could've been a lot more creative ;-) Still laughing about your story.

    GS - And yet I find it hard to believe they weren't therefore highly motivated TO go to school in their underwear. Definitely would have backfired in my family!

  9. I have to disagree with hh. There are horros in this world that small children should not be exposed to, especially when they are too young to understand or classify the information. Where do babies come? Fine. Grandma is dead and will never come back? Painful but sound. Why did we have to stay locked in our classroom today? Because an armed gunman had just raped and murdered a three year old and the police were looking for the gunman and parts of the little girl's body? NO. NOT. AGE. APPROPRIATE.

  10. My son thinks the van that travels through the neighborhood at dusk is the "music truck".


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