The lying isn’t what makes me a good parent, but it doesn’t automatically mean I’m a bad one either. Because you lie to your kids too. I know you do. And if you say you don’t, you’re a dirty goddamned liar.
We lie to our children for a multitude of reasons. Because we want to protect them. Because we don’t always know the right answer. And yes, because sometimes we’re lazy.
There’s a difference between lying to kids specifically to hurt them, and little white lies. The latter is the result of taking care of tiny humans who inevitably drive you to your breaking point and threaten to send you careening over the edge.
So with that mind, here are 19 common lies parents tell their kids.
19. “It’s time for bed.”
Technically bedtime is in an hour. But since I’ve had a long day, you can’t tell time, and daylight savings has brought on the sweet merciful darkness, the night-night train is boarding early.
18. “Oh honey, this tastes delicious.”
No it doesn’t. I don’t care that it’s called “Dada’s Surprise,” because I know the surprise is you took a little bit of everything in the house and mixed it together to create this abomination currently accosting my taste buds. I can’t prove you did it on purpose because you know I’m parentally obligated to imbibe it, but we both know you’re old enough to realize milk and orange juice don’t go together.
17. “That drawing is FANTASTIC!”
Look, I’m your dad. I’m never going to tell you something you worked hard on sucks. But why do you insist on playing this game where you make me guess what you drew? If I’m being an honest, it looks like a sphincter with three arms — not Batman. In the future, just tell me what you drew so we don’t set ourselves up for mutual disappointment.
16. “No, I don’t know where your art project went.”
Yes I do. I threw it away. Not to be mean, but because I have to. Seriously buddy, you bring home five art projects a day from school. Our kitchen wall is filled with your creations. If I don’t make at least a little room, we’ll be on Hoarders in a hot second.
15. “My phone is dead.”
Can I play with your phone? Can I play with your phone? Can I play with your phone? Sometimes I give in and placate you, but dammit IT’S MY PHONE AND I WANT TO PLAY WITH IT! So I lie to you and tell you it’s dead in the hopes you’ll get distracted by something shiny and allow me to tweet about how annoying it is when young kids are completely hooked on technology.
14. “Your mom and I are going to bed too.”
After a certain point, The Bedtime Wars drag on so much that anything is fair game. Which means I will lie to you and say whatever is necessary to put you down. So yes, of course we’re all going to bed. Don’t mind the sound of the TV downstairs, I’m just leaving it on for the dog.
13. “No, I don’t think you’re getting a shot at the doctor’s today.”
Actually you’re getting four shots. Which means I really didn’t lie.
12. “We can’t have a cat because you’re allergic to them.”
We’ve never had you tested, so technically this might not be a lie either. But I will tell 1,000 lies if it keeps those godforsaken felines out of my domicile.
11. “The dog ate your candy.”
Unlike cats, dogs are fantastic animals and man’s best friend. They are also a great tool for parents to shift blame. Because the truth is, I ate your candy. I’m not even sure how a box of Thin Mints became yours. I paid for the damn things. I should just be able to tell you I ate them because I was hungry and dammit this is my house! But then you hit me with those sad eyes and I have no choice but to do the right thing — blame an innocent and much beloved household pet.
10. “Babies are made when two people really love each other.”
Or when two people have too much wine. Or the condom breaks. Or mommy forgets to take her special pill. Or when the vasectomy doesn’t take.
9. “Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy doesn’t come if you don’t poop in the potty.”
Yeah, we actually told Will this when he was potty training. MJ and I got a 6-pack of beer, blocked him in the bathroom, and waited him out. Then, at the end of our ropes, she told him the Easter Bunny would skip his house if he didn’t poop in the toilet. Thirty seconds later he dropped a few chocolate nuggets in the porcelain basket and potty training was finished. See? Lying is just good parenting.
8. “I think your favorite stuffed animal is on vacation.”
If by “vacation” you really mean somewhere in the 50-mile stretch between the grocery store, pet store, and toy store, then yes — he’s on vacation. A permanent one. Ultimately this will end in disaster and tears and crying and refusal to sleep without your old friend, which is exactly why I’m going to lie to you for as long as you’ll buy it. Sometimes parenting is strictly about survival.
7. “The toy store/candy store/Disney World is closed.”
I’ve told you no. Repeatedly. I’ve explained to you with perfect logic and reason why we can’t go to any of the ridiculous places you’re begging me to go. But you don’t care. It’s not your job to care. I get that. But it’s my job to be on time (or at least not ridiculously late), which means it’s a million times easier to lie to you and tell you the place you want to go is closed. Some day you’ll be able to tell time and this ruse won’t work, but today is not that day.
6. “We’re all out of ice cream.”
Until you go up to bed. Then it’s ice cream city up in here.
5. “It’s a tie.”
Bullshit! I won. Not only that, I mopped the floor with you. It wasn’t even close. I’m not sure why I have to spare your feelings, since it’ll only be a few years until you’re older, I’m weaker, and you dance on my withered bones once you’re able to defeat me in just about everything.
4. “Caillou isn’t on TV anymore.”
Not on OUR TV anyway. That bald-headed whiny little shit.
3. “Yes, your fish has been very sleepy lately.”
Someday, when you’re older and I’m mentally prepared, I’ll tell you that Nemo now sleeps with the fishes. But in the meantime, your sleepy fish will be totally reinvigorated as soon as the pet store opens.
2. “We won’t let anything happen to you.”
For my money, this is the best (and most necessary) lie on the list. And make no mistake — it is a lie. We can strive to protect our kids all we want, but shit happens. If gunmen walk into the school, a driver crosses the double yellow line, or armed robbers break into our house, then parents are hard-pressed to be able to keep this promise. But you can bet your ass I’ll keep promising my boys this until the day I die. Because it’s the right thing to do to make your kids feel safe.
1. “Your mom and I were just…wrestling.”
Mom is on top of me because she’s trying to pin me. No, you can’t play too. Yes, we need a lock on the bedroom door.
So how about it parents. What other lies do you tell your kids?