I told mine that unicorns lived in the redwood forest where we were hiking. Afterwards they were so disappointed that they didn’t find any that I had to fake the evidence. (I stole this idea directly from that guy who did the same thing with Ewoks a while back.)
This is a fantastic lie.
Our daughter knows about the invisible threads, too.
As for the last line, somehow, we’ve never quite been able to bring ourselves to use it on our kids. It’s astonishing and heartbreaking and hypocritical and short-term cruel, but my kids know we (and they) are gonna die, and that nobody really knows when, and all we can do is 1) be careful, 2) be hopeful, and 3) do the best we can with the time and circumstances we’re given. I say “hypocritical” since we encourage them to put their teeth under their pillow and put out a stocking for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve, and I’ve always been happy to fill their wee heads with all the same manner of nonsense described in the rest of that lovely poem. But for whatever reason, I can’t bear the thought of adding a dollop of betrayal and deceit on top of their grief and sense of loss should I inadvertently step out in front of a bus or succumb to a surprise brain hemorrhage.
I don’t actively recommend this course of action to anyone else; it’s an intensely personal and subjective parenting choice that’s going to be neither popular nor appropriate for many children. The last thing we want is our kids constantly fretting every time we go to work that we might not make it home alive tonight. But as it turns out, my kids don’t do that. So far, the concept of mortality (insofar as they grasp its utter finality, which at 6 and 4 can’t be completely perfectly) does not seem to distress them unduly. They get the fact that they won’t see their great-grandmother, or their mother’s late cat, ever again, and though they miss those dear departed ones, they go on with their lives without dwelling on the tragedy, and though their questions demonstrate that they do think deeply about these matters, they are not fearful and existentially anxious children. They give slightly quizzical looks to friends and classmates who talk about grandparents and pets who “are in heaven now,” but we have yet to address that formally.
Not the first time I’ve thought this: BS, you must be one truly excellent parent.
And all you can do is hope and pray that they’re old enough to understand that last lie, before they find out it’s a lie.
I’ve told my son that tiny water bears live in moss.
As a parent, and as a child, I know one thing for sure. The only lie in that poem is in its title. There is truth, and then there is truth, and often three year olds grasp that far better than adults.
Thankyou for making me cry.
I don’t see any point in telling cute little lies to children. Reality is interesting, if you walk through a forest with kids and can’t come up with anything better to tell them then some lie, maybe you should go learn things, and stop wasting children’s time.
Boy, you sure sound fun. (Note: that was actually a cute little lie.)
Kids’ lives are filled with time to waste; wasting time is what being a kid is about!
Awesome dad: I can tell by the pixels. Bonus points for lens flare!
And they do! I see what you did there. Cool stories can be true – I like fiction, but because I know it’s fiction. I never understood the point of purposely telling falsehoods (even harmless ones) to children. Oversimplifications, yeah sure, but not outright lies.
Attempting to stifle a child’s imagination is far worse than lying to them.
Kudos, that’s really going the extra parental mile! And they’re likely to cherish that picture forever.
I knew this would be the kind of response I would get, but I never stifled my sons’ imagination. They mostly read fantasy and sci-fi. But giving them real facts to build their imaginations on is more valuable then building on some other imagination. And childhood time not should not be wasted it is the shortest time of life, each year is different and unique. I wasn’t the type to fill their lives constant activities, I just don’t see any point in giving false information when real information is more interesting.
“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”
You see, there are two errors novelists can make. The first, more common one, is to make your protagonist annoying as hell. However, the second kind, as in Dickens’ Gradgrind, is to make the villain actually make sense. All this “if you don’t lie to children about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny they’ll turn out to be humorless Vulcans” might be why so many adults have so much trouble distinguishing bullshit from science.
As Douglas Adams said, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
Facts Hercule, facts!