Parenting Fundamentals – Lesson One

Parenting is difficult. It requires numerous skills, not the least of which is gazing into the innocent little eyes of your child and telling a big, fat lie. Unfortunately, not everyone is born with this skill.

When my wife and I were preparing for our first child, we bought a copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care Book.  (No, not that Spock. That was “Mr. Spock” from Star Trek. Dr. Spock was Mr. Spock’s younger brother.)  One big problem – nowhere in the book does he explain how to lie to your kids. At first, I thought our copy was missing a page. Did he just forget? Was his editor hung-over the day he proofread the manuscript?

Before any of you purists climb onto your high horses, I’d like to take you on a walk down memory lane. Here is an example of how my parent’s lying to me played a critical role in my development. To do this, I must introduce Brownie the Cow.

I grew up in a logging town.  We had a few acres, and my parents bought calves which we raised. We named each one, and my favorite was Brownie, who, not surprisingly, was brown. One day, Brownie disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  Coincidentally, our freezer became brimming with beef. When I asked my mother where Brownie went, she made a critical error – SHE TOLD ME THE TRUTH! The tears flowed like Niagara Falls.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. Each time I sat down for dinner, I would tearfully ask, “Is that Brownie?” And my mother answered in a steadfast voice, “No.” Now, that’s what I call responsible parenting.

Later, I was able to observe my oldest sister, put these skills to good use. In her young adulthood, she found herself with two kids and an unruly dog. Now, I cannot state the following with what one might call “actual knowledge,” and I was the one who bought that Brownie story night after night, but I’m pretty sure what I’m about to tell you is another example of “good parental lying.”

One day I visit my sister and the dog is gone. My young niece and nephew explain to me that it went to live on a farm. Keep in mind that this is in Oregon. The zoning laws are draconian. Land use regulations prohibit people from buying a few acres and starting a little farm. As a result, there just aren’t that many farms. So right off the bat, I’m suspicious. I’m young and single at the time and have no kids. I haven’t pondered the importance yet of lying to children. So I express my skepticism to my young niece and nephew. And WHAM, my sister slams into the conversation like a marine hitting the beach at Normandy, strongly attesting to the accuracy of the farm story. Then the kids, sensing that Mom is under siege, chime in with their support. I push back a bit, grilling the kids, then let it go.  (“No,” they had not seen the farm. “No,” they were not told the location of the farm.)

So, here is the short and sweet on laying on the baloney to your kids: Keep it tight. Any unnecessary details will come back to bite you later when you mix them up: “The dog’s on the farm.” And, a flat affect greatly enhances believability: “No. It’s not Brownie.” In conclusion, Dr. Spock’s brother Mr. Spock would agree that there are times when lying to your kids is absolutely the right thing to do. In fact, it’s logical.


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