Wednesday morning, 7am, Frank bursts into our room like a whirlwind and I blearily say good morning, and remind him that today he’s going into school dressed in his onesie and wellies for a “wild rumpus day”. He replied “yes I know, don’t forget we need to bring in sausages for the party”. Suddenly I’m wide awake and interrogating him; what sausages? what party? what do you mean we’re bringing sausages?! I have a vague memory of going into school as a kid with sausage rolls or cheese and pineapple sticks for end of year parties, but I didn’t think that was still a thing. In reaction to my questioning Frank was adamant; he claimed a letter had been sent home regarding these sausages, and although I reasoned that the school would have sent a text or email, we do get a lot of messages and lets be honest – some of them slip through the net. The net being my waning interest in school spam. So it is fathomable that a sausage email was sent and went unread. With this in mind I started panicking slightly and began silently mapping out how much earlier we’d have to leave the house if the school run involved an emergency trip to tesco express on a mad sausage hunt. Thank the sweet baby jesus for the class parents whatsapp group, because a quick message on there and it quickly became apparent that the kids weren’t bringing food in at all, and that it was a complete fabrication. Was he lying to get sausages? Or was he confused by something (perhaps they were discussing party food and got his wires crossed?) Either way, I’m so pleased I didn’t randomly send him in with a pack of sausages for no reason. His teacher would have thought I’d finally lost it.
Lying is a tricky one with kids isn’t it. At first glance we may be horrified at the idea of our offspring lying to us; imagine the inflection as I clutch my (fake) pearls “I just CAN’T believe he LIED to me, and about sausages no less”. But here’s the thing – we lie quite often in front of them, to them, to each other, to ourselves…is it unreasonable to expect them to always tell the truth? An impossible standard that we do not hold ourselves to. Of course, there’s varying degrees of lies. Big lies can erode trust and shatter families. But little lies (Fleetwood Mac in my head now) can often be the kinder option. We lie to protect those around us from being hurt or, in the case of our kids, to protect their innocence. One could argue that the concept of Father Christmas is the biggest fib going, and yet we merrily lie through our teeth enthusiastically all through December. I am pretty confident I can tell when my kids are lying 99% of the time, and I’m pretty sure my mum still knows when I’m lying even though I’m in my mid-thirties and have had a lot of practice.
Its easy to get cross with kids when they lie to us but lets consider how often we encourage them to lie; to say they like a gift to spare a family member’s feelings, perhaps. Personally I don’t expect the boys to always be completely truthful. In fact sometimes their truth bombs can be very unwelcome, such as their thoughts on my “big wobbly tummy”. What I do really hope is that they feel able to confide in me, and tell me anything that’s bothering them. I’m not going to demand absolute truth but if there is something they need to tell me, I hope they always feel they can. We were driving home from school one day and Frank said, out of the blue; “I’m not like the other children”. I felt my heart jolt and braced myself for a serious conversation; and after a deep breath asked him “why do you say that sweetie?” He replied – “I’m half vampire, because the sun burns me sometimes and I like the taste of my own blood when I get a cut”. Oh, OK then – you creepy child of mine. One day this conversation might go a bit differently, or something else will come up that is more serious than his notions of half-human half-vampire existence. When that day comes I won’t care about lies about sausages, or who stole a biscuit – I’ll just be thankful they could share with me. I hope they will. In the meantime, I’ll try not to lie to them too much – Santa lies aside of course.