My little one has been perfecting her lying recently.
“Did you just scribble over all these walls?” I ask.
“No.” she answers.
“It wasn’t you who did this?”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“But the marker in your hand is the same color as the scribbles.”
“Funny! But it wasn’t me.”
We assess each other for a moment.
If I wanted to, I could play the mean Mommy. I could pursue a tribunal-style interrogation, bring in witnesses and push her into a dramatic, teary confession, which would result in nothing constructive really. Or I could concoct a simple ploy. I would admire the painting; then inquire as to the wonderful artist whose work needs praising. But, I don’t. I don’t, because what’s the point? To punish and make her feel bad - or to try and instill a lesson of which I am still not sure of.
“I understand.” I finally say “Well, I want whoever drew on the walls to know that art is fantastic but in this house I would much rather it be on paper, so please no scribbling on the walls” I quickly add: “Or on the furniture!”
And, I leave it that.
Later, it hits me that I should have addressed the lying. Not necessarily create a battle about it, but more of a ‘you can tell me anything without fear’ context. One of my goals for a healthy parent-child relationship is to share honesty. I want both my daughters to know, that as they grow up, they can tell me anything without fear. They can share their secrets, angst, worries big or small. I want them to know that if they are ever partying the night away, they can call me up anytime they want, because they need a ride home. No questions asked. No judgment added.
I also want them to know, that from my perspective, lying is not a horrible thing. I’m not talking about psychopathic tendencies here, but little white lies and even big gray ones. Lying can serve a purpose, and can be a good thing sometimes.
All humans lie, if you disagree, you are either lying to yourself or to the people around you. As a parent it’s fascinating to see how early, naturally, and instinctively it is developed. Not all children lie. My first is way too honest, which worries me more than an occasional lie because in life, we sometimes need filters, and lying can be that for us.
“If you truly want honesty, don't ask questions you don't really want the answer to”
Sometimes, we want to know the truth, we need to know the truth, but on a day-to-day basis, how much truth do we really need in our lives?
There are moments when truth is essential, and there are moments when lying is as much about self preservation as not choosing to divulge intimate details about your finances, relationship, and personal matters to others. I am not encouraging lying regularly per se, but there is no need to share what you are not comfortable with.
As long as you are essentially a kind, and relatively honest person, what harm does an occasional lie do? Unfiltered truths can cause more pain than most people are prepared to deal with, so an occasional omission might be a better option.
The bigger lesson and the one I hope to teach with time, is that she doesn’t need to lie out of fear, but if she’s not comfortable sharing something, that’s okay too.