One Christmas Day, a Sunday, in the late 70’s, it was very snowy in Issaquah WA and all family parties were cancelled. But we had a driver in our house who grew up in Minnesota and we had a good car for snow driving. We decided that, now that the gifts were all open, we would go OUT to dinner (gift to me, the Mom) and then out to a movie (gift for the Kids.) The movie we chose was really special, and I feel sure it had been scheduled to attract the Jewish folks who were not doing Christmas, but wanted to do something special on a Sunday.
The film was a Canadian release just now in 2011 restored onto DVD, and it was called Lies My Father Told Me.
Check it out!
We do tell our children lies. They are called by many names, including stories, tales, fairytales, traditions, mysteries, fables, wishful thinking, and other euphemisms. But we do tell them to our kids even while sternly requiring them to always tell the truth.
The first big lie my parents asked me to tell was the memorable moment my father told me to keep my little brother in the dark about Santa. I had asked the definitive question about Santa and got a straight answer from my Dad (I was about five). He then inducted me into the world of Lies Because We Love Them. I was to perpetuate the lie about Santa to be nice to my little brother!
Today, while I was showering, I was thinking of my six year old grandson who is boasting his first ever missing tooth, and is still trying to figure out how the tooth fairy found it under his pillow and replaced it with two quarters without him knowing when or how. He had been staying awake waiting for her, but she seemed not to have come. In the middle of the night he visited his dad about some other matter, and his dad took him back to bed, and casually asked whether the tooth fairy had come yet. Nope, my grandson assured him. Better check, said his Dad. The eyes nearly popped out of his head when he found the tooth gone and two quarters in its place.
I was showering and smiling and then I thought…I know…I’ll send a letter from the Retired Tooth Fairy saying that she had heard skuttlebutt about the going rate for detatched children’s teeth having doubled in the space of about thirty years, and she was wanting to know if he REALLY got TWO quarters instead of one. Then I thought about the lie that would eventually get outed and decided I had better not aid and abet or I would also be in bad graces when all was exposed and the young man was disabused of his delightful belief. Just one of the disappointments that we run into as we grow into adults.
Do these lies hurt our sense of truth? Do they help us to use magical thinking when the chips are down and we are really not wanting to know something…like that if we don’t study our vocabulary list we will not pass the quiz? This could escalate into a habit that affects other more important matters.(“If I sneak off and have a clandestine affair my spouse will never find out about it and so it will be okay.”)
It was quite a long time ago that I found out that lying takes an enormous toll. What a good aha that was!! The self-blackmail we use to cover a lie is possibly the largest part of the price we pay– how many lies pile up to cover the other lie before it all falls down like a pack of cards and we are then ashamed and must possibly pay lots of retribution to family , friends, or the government. Not only that, but we have had to keep a close watch on whether other people are suspicious. All the time. And the trust that used to be between us and “them” is corrupted… we know they shouldn’t have trusted us, and we are afraid of any who will eventually learn that we are not trustworthy. So we act guilty. And it’s because we ARE.
Getting a clean slate is the most empowering thing. Keeping it clean is fairly rigorous, too, in today’s ethically sloppy society which values image over fact, and which allows lies to prevail “for the good of all concerned.”
It’s a full-time job trying to be a Truthteller. I am flawed by human nature (it’s not a perfect world) and lying to myself is the beginning of lies to others. (“ I’m not going to suffer if I eat this second half of the pie. And no one will notice, and if they do they won’t mind if it’s gone.”)
Even that self-justifying “Serves him right,” when saying a hurtful thing or slamming the door is the beginning of a lie. The closer that sort of mundane self-justification is followed by an admission of wrong the more quickly it is off the slate. Things like latent memories of slamming doors can actually fester into lifelong barriers!! Really!
I am not Miss Goody Two Shoes. I still say bad words when I drop something into a muddy driveway, or spill coffee grounds all over the counter. And it’s very tempting to forget certain things I have said I would do. I am pretty good at forgiving myself, once I have owned up to myself that I am remiss and that I need to clean up my desk in certain areas.
In truth, I am REALLY MESSY about a lot of things, but at least I am trying hard not to lie to myself or others about it. I just say so, and people are amazingly accepting of that truth and forgiving of my sins. They are sort of glad to know that I am just a fellow human. It brings fellowship!
I like Santa Claus. And the Tooth Fairy. They make me smile. Maybe it’s because they fall into the realm of diapers, potty chairs, booster seats, rope swings and tricycles. These are temporary fixes that work well for little children in wonderland. It goes with the acceptability of baby talk, and allowing the little ones to believe that we understand “goo goo gaa gaa” perfectly. (Well, we do, if we’re watching closely and know our child well. Besides, we expect them to believe that the mashed peas are really “a choo choo train that is coming .. toot toot..and wants to go down the little red lane.“) Fantasy is wonderful, and long live those things that make life move along more pleasantly! But not at the expense of Truthtelling.
I wonder what it will be like when my grandson gets to that portal where he crosses over the delicate partition between his belief in the lie, his questioning of the truth of the lie, and his participation in perpetrating the lie; when his father tells him to let his little sister believe in the Tooth Fairy.
I never considered my father a liar .. at least not a seriously mired-in-the-mud one. He lied to himself about things we all knew, and he tried not to know…he did more smoking, for instance, than anyone else I knew. It contributed to his death, which came much too early. But he mostly told truth as he saw it, and even ruefully admitted when he had missed the mark and had to own up! He even admitted regrets like this to his children! This is good parenting, to my way of thinking; excellent modeling for a child to grow up with.
It helps me to remember a time a month or so ago when I saw a prank afoot in the kitchen of my son and my grandson. My son had a mischievous look in his 40+ year old blue eyes when he shrugged and indicated he didn’t know what had happened to the six-year old’s plate of ice cream that had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the table. My grandson planted two feet on the floor and crossed his arms and said, “Daddy….TELL THE TRUTH!” This is good stuff.
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