The other day, S and I were talking to a lady and her little girl, who was the same age as S. The mother whispered to me, it's her birthday today. Just as I was about to start making a big fuss of the child, her mother quickly added, she doesn't know! We're having it on Saturday, with a party.
Part of me thought, what a clever idea - a two year old has no idea which day is which, so why not orchestrate it so that their birthday falls on a day when you have time to celebrate, right?
Another part of me thought it was a bit mean and manipulative to change your child's birthday to suit your other commitments. In the same sort of way that you wouldn't pull faces at a blind person just because they couldn't see you, you shouldn't lie to children just because they've no way of knowing any differently.
I'm still undecided on this point, but it did make me think about the lies adults tell to children. Here are some:
- It's bad luck to cry on your birthday
- It's magic and only works if you are good
- If you pick your nose, your brains will fall out
- The wind will change, and your face will stay like that
- The dog went to live on a farm
- Maybe tomorrow...
- If you swallow apple seeds, a tree will grow in your tummy
- No, you just ate the last one.
- We can't go in there; that shop is closed today
I am also reminded of my nan, who was the queen of the ridiculous lie. She told me if I put my fingers near the electric sockets, they would bite me. She told me she was a witch and could do magic. She told me if I played with my navel, my insides would fall out (and I still have a phobia of belly buttons).
And of course, then you have the big, universal lies like Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
I'm inclined to avoid telling lies to S, however white they may be. I still remember the day I found out Father Christmas wasn't real: my sister told me in whispers that our parents had been lying to us the whole time; she'd seen our father sneaking into our rooms on Christmas Eve. I have this feeling that if you indulge in these things, then at some point you have to reveal the lie, or have it revealed for you. I'd rather it was never there in the first place.
Then again... what's the harm in indulging a child's belief in magic and mystery, in fairies and pixies and the fantastic?
I'm interested to know what my lovely readers think about this sort of thing. Do you resolutely tell your children the absolute truth about everything, or do you tell little white lies from time to time?