Most people don’t go into parenthood expecting to lie to their kids, but sometimes withholding the truth or engaging in a handy bit of subterfuge becomes a necessary strategy. Those little evasions and fabrications are what help us get through the day. There are the lies that almost everyone tells (the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy), the lies that some people tell (that very, very old dogs enjoy their retirement on farms) and the lies that just make life better for your particular family.
For instance, I once listened to a podcast where a woman revealed that she had chicken for dinner every night for her entire childhood. It wasn’t until she went to university that she found out that people eat things other than chicken for dinner. It never occurred to her to question her mother’s judgment, and it never came up in conversation. As listeners, I suspect that we were supposed to sympathize with the daughter, but it was hard not to think about her mother’s genius. By my calculations, she must have saved at least four hours a week (taking into account the time saved on food shopping, food prep and recipe perusal), which works out to a whopping 208 hours each year. That poor woman was probably petrified whenever one of her kids was invited to a sleepover for fear that the truth might be revealed and the gig would be up.
This got me thinking about all the things I tell my kids to make my life easier. There are a lot of things that I don’t want my kids to find out until university—or at least until high school. If you help me out, I promise never to tell my big-mouth eight-year-old that Santa isn’t real.
1. Having pancakes for dinner isn’t normal
Someone once mentioned to my daughter that she had pancakes for breakfast. She thought that was the funniest thing she ever heard—until I explained that they were probably pancake leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. What kind of crazy overachievers have time to whip them up for breakfast anyway?
2. The police don’t actually give you a ticket if you take sticks and rocks home from the park
The rocks and sticks (and sand and bugs and that broken yo-yo) belong to the park. Stealing from the park is wrong. The police should be able to issue tickets. Summary conviction, fine only.
3. Ice cream sandwiches don’t come with a bite missing
If my kids happen to be at your house and you happen to be serving ice cream sandwiches, just take a quick bite before you hand one to them—ideally, from the top left-hand corner.
4. “Mommy chocolate time” isn’t a real thing
This very important part of our routine happens right after breakfast and before the mad dash to get out the door in the morning. Last gulps of coffee are consumed in conjunction with the aforementioned chocolate. My kids know that caffeine isn’t enough; mommies need sugar and cocoa butter, too. It’s like a morning vitamin but just for moms. Please, please, don’t tell my kids that this doesn’t exist in your house (because it should).
5. Many families regularly get out and do things before noon on Sundays
Hey, Facebook friends who post photos of your entire family cross-country skiing on a Sunday morning, I’m looking at you. My kids don’t need to know that, while we were still in pyjamas, baking cookies (or just eating cookies), you and your kids already dressed yourselves—not only in regular clothes but also in outdoor clothes. Let’s keep that our little secret, OK? Oh, and while we’re on the subject, please don’t tell them about winter sports—it’s just too cold out.
6. The toy store is open just as many hours as the other stores
If we had to stop into that place every time we walked by, we would never get anywhere. Luckily, I’ve explained to my kids that the toy store keeps very special hours, similar to those kept by the candy store and indoor playgrounds.
7. Grown-ups don’t get commission on Halloween candy
It’s cold out there. Without my patience, guidance, costume procurement, coaching and navigation, the kids would have nothing. Thirty percent of their haul is very reasonable.
8. Five minutes is always 300 seconds
In my house, five minutes isn’t bound by the typical rules of space and time. For example, a five-minute phone call might not be the same as five more minutes at the park. A five-minute timeout might be shorter for a child who needs some quiet time in his room than it is for a mom who needs some quiet time locked in the bathroom.
9. There is no such thing as “car vocabulary” that can only be used by the driver
Also, “mother ducker” is exactly what I said when that guy cut me off.
This article was originally published online in April 2017.