I treasure mealtimes with my girls, it's our chance to catch up on the day's events and to get assurances for anything that might have upset, angered or made us falter a little...a bit like group therapy, now I think about it.
One such mealtime, we were chatting away and conversation came to something a child told my eldest (who teaches part time, at one of those places that parents drop their kids off to straight after school).
So this usually chatty child was relatively quiet that day, not saying very much at all. My eldest offspring felt she had to check all was OK with him so asked the question. To her amusement the child replied that his dad had informed him he was dangerously close to his maximum word usage for the month, and he was now saving as many words as he could for when he really needed them as there were still four days left to the end of the month when his new 8000 word allowance would kick in. We all giggled at this really cute story and at how parents manage certain challenges with their children.
"Well I never knew of that one!" I laughed...adding it would have been so useful for my eldest when she was younger.
Little did I know I had just tampered with Pandora's Box! Out came all the one liner white lies I had told them over the years...
"Oh goodness, really? Oh yes, I remember that one" I'd reply sheepishly.
"Mum do you realise you forgot to undo some of these?" My eldest can really put you on the stand (metaphorically speaking), actually little one is pretty good at it too, I like to think it's a reflection of my wonderful, empowering parenting.
What on earth did she mean 'undo' them? I had no idea...despite the knowledge I was now going to experience every parent's worst realisation...an unwelcome guilt trip, I just had to ask.
"Do you remember when I was in year two and I came home from school to tell you the story about the new girl with a lisp?" I vaguely nodded, yes I did remember it. "well" she went on "when I came home and told you that Sarah had accused me of teasing the girl by saying she had a 'lithpp', and I had insisted that was how it was pronounced, I completely believed that was how it was pronounced because that's how you used to say it to me" uh oh I can see where this is going...
"Mum, when I came home and told you the story, you assured me I was right and Sarah was wrong" I explained, in my defence that my job was to maintain a confident child, of course I said she was right, anything else at that point would have been a potentially less confident child and a very long explanation...as a working single parent, I didn't always have that kind of time.
"Well mum, you never undid that lie, because I believed that was how it was pronounced for years after that incident...do you realise how embarrassing that was when was older?" hmmm well she had a point, there comes the guilt trip, I have to accept the pain with humility, my failure has been highlighted and I have to eat humble pie...one of many occasions may I add, the frequency increases as they get older.
My little one (not so little at 17, but still my baby), sensing the power shift, decided to add her tuppence worth about wondering how long it would take for her to have curly hair like mine as she always ate her crust even though she didn't like it...oh dear! I had to salvage the situation. I informed her that she has delicious silky straight hair, why would anyone want a jumble of frizz, which is my hair on most days, if I don't dowse it in leave in conditioner?
"Well what about the one when you told me I came out of your belly button?" right yes that one, hmmm, it is a difficult one to answer when asked by a four year old...I did in my defence, say that I thought sex education at school would undo that one...no? Yes it did! So what's the problem here? Ahh the problem was that many weren't undone and that was, in their very grown up opinions, wrong of me.
So it went on "That's not the point mum, the point here is we believe everything you tell us" if they had not been in such full flow, so very serious, I would have added, that statement was no longer true...but I couldn't, this was their platform to voice their grievances...how did such a cute story turn into this? Why wasn't I vigilant enough to see where this was going? Too darned late for that now, I am going to have to take it all on board I've been cornered and there's no way out!
How could I after all my experience of studying about children, working with children, training others to work with children, find myself in this compromising position?
You must be reading this thinking, what a terrible parent. I think if I were reading this I might also make a similar judgement, seriously though...come on, be honest, as one parent to another, do you remember every incy little lie you have told your kids for the sake of peace, sanity their confidence, whatever the reason? No? Nope me neither, the unfortunate thing is they do remember.
Having apologised a good few times, as the examples just kept on coming, some things I had said and never given another thought to as they served their immediate purpose at the time...some examples, I had to try so hard not to chuckle at. Each chuckling at the others gullibility, whilst giving their examples.
The main thing this conversation highlighted to me was....we can have a slightly (though not life affecting) negative impact on our kids without even realising it! That would make parenting more of a minefield than any of us ever thought. I appeased myself with the thought that these are memories that they will look back on in time and laugh about.
Then I came to thinking, surely I cannot be the only parent with such an extensive list of white lie offences. Surelyall parents at some point in their children's lives are guilty of this. My mission now was to find those examples and lo behold! The internet was over flowing with examples for me to read though and feel better on. Here are my very favourite links:
After all is said and done, parenting is not a science at all, each child is unique and each brings their own joys and challenges. We as parents, do the best we can in order to ensure they grow up to be strong, healthy, happy, confident little people and eventually, capable adults. Sometimes, little, incy, wincy, tinsy little lies become necessary to realise our responsibilities to raise well balanced children and of course, many times just to maintain some sanity and semblance of boundaries.
I ate humble pie and have to admit, I reflected on their very valid points...the real judge of all of this will be when they become parents, bring it on!! I will take it upon myself to list every little white lie they tell and check if any are ever undone...oh the pleasures of parenthood.
I have a separate site just for parents...interested?