It would depend who’s asking. If it were my two little boys, I’d have to lie and say no.
I’m not generally in the business of lying, partly because I have a moral compass and partly because whenever I have lied in the past, I’ve been found out. Like the time I told the whole of my class that I was moving house, just because I wanted to have some news to share at ‘news time’. I was five years old and hadn’t worked out that I’d be busted as soon as the teacher asked my mother where we were moving to.
So I learned my lesson…but despite that, there are times when I just can’t resist. Those times always involve my children. They are not deceptions about the important things in life – I’m not talking about the ‘yes, Daddy’s your Daddy’-type lies when little Johnny looks uncannily like his Uncle Reg – but little white lies that help ease the passage through the parenting day. ‘No, there aren’t any choc chip cookies left’-type lies, when you know full well there are but you want to eat them yourself later in front of Mad Men.
We’re all taking advantage of the fact that our children don’t know the rules of the world yet, of course. I once heard of a mother who told her child that when the ice cream van played its tune, it meant there was no ice cream left. Small children don’t question the fact that the toy shop isn’t open on Saturday afternoons, or that it is already 7pm when in reality it is only 6.15 but you’re just trying to dupe them into the bath early. When they don’t know which ingredients you’ve used for their meal, they can only suspect that what you say is in it and what is actually in it are two different things. Sweet potato is not a popular choice in our household, for example, so I have been known to pass it off as something else. Littler tends to fall for it, being as he is under the misapprehension that his mother would not lie to him, but if his big brother is around I can always rely on him to let the cat out of the bag. ‘Mummy,’ said Bigger Boy a couple of days ago, ‘I don’t think this carrot is a carrot.’
Soon they learn that actually, there are some chocolate cookies left in that tin, because they have the means to open cupboards and look for themselves, even if it means devising complicated and generally unsafe scaffolding constructed from chairs, tables and any nearby box to climb up to the shelf you’ve put the biscuit tin on. Anyone would think my sons don’t trust me.
One of the advantages of moving back to a country my boys barely know, as we will shortly be doing, is that I can reinvent some rules. My boys are now under the impression that we are relocating to some sort of dictatorship where children aren’t allowed to watch more than an hour and a half of television per day, and certainly not before they’ve finished their Weetabix. It might be taking advantage of their ignorance, but if it keeps Dora The Explorer off our screens then it’s a measure worth taking. Tomorrow I’ll be explaining to them Britain’s policy on chocolate: only allowed if it’s Lindt and you give half your share to your parents.
But seriously…I do think honesty is the best policy, if only because your children are generally sharper than you are. I am therefore deciding to tell the truth and nothing but the truth from now on. No word of a lie.
By the way, I’ll be thirty next year and you’re all invited to my birthday.*
*That was a lie of course. You’re not.