We have all heard it said: “Kids say the darnedest things,” however, I have to admit that at this stage of parenthood I tend to say some pretty, darned, outrageous things myself.
It is not until after I utter things like, “Please stop eating toilet paper,” or “Stop putting a leash on your sister,” that I pause and think, I never thought I would say something like that.
Upon some reflection I have realized these phrases we express as parents or guardians fall into three categories: cautionary statements, convenience mistruths and playful tales.
First: cautionary statements. These statements make me realize that children are actually rather uncivilized creatures. It does not matter how many times I say, “Stop eating dog food,” my one-year-old just wants those tasty morsels in her mouth. Just now I spouted, “Stop putting your hands in the toilet!”
I also recently overheard my spouse beseeching the question: “What makes you think crawling headfirst down the stairs is a good idea?”
With more than one child you say things like, “Stop trying to close your sister in the drawer,” or “Your brother’s head is not for sitting on.”
Moreover, you try to convince your children to play nice with their younger siblings by uttering, “Your toy chainsaw is definitely not for pretending to cut your sister’s legs off!”
A friend of mine had to repeatedly remind her daughter: “We are humans, humans poop in toilets, not on the front lawn!”
Another parent recounted that she had attempted to explain the concept of germs to a toddler while prying a piece of chicken out his hand he happened to be eating off the airport’s floor.
Next, there are the convenience mistruths. These statements are to maintain parental sanity. I recently caught myself saying, “No those are not beans in your burrito, those are tiny pockets of cheese.”
Other parents convince their children to eat things like fish by promising them it is, Newfoundland Chicken. Are these lies? Yes! However, it makes our children consume valuable protein so they are white lies. Some parents express to their children that the television will literally only turn on if their rooms are clean. If a moment of peace is what you need on a long road trip, you could encourage your children to choose their words wisely by cautioning them that humans can only voice approximately five to 10 thousand words per month, and they are approaching their limit.
As our children grow older we will likely get caught in our fibs, and we will have to own up to our silliness; however, for now why not take advantage of these white lies to inspire good behaviour?
Finally, there are the playful tales. It is admittedly nice to have fun at your child’s expense. My favourite example of this comes from the book Raising Cubby. The father, John Robinson, convinced his son that he was purchased at a Kid Store, and that the salesman promised that the child would do all the chores, thus Dad felt cheated.
Robinson also proclaimed to his son that Santa was initially a whaling captain. Speaking of Santa, for several Christmases we have trained our youngster to believe that due to the fact that we live fairly far north, and thus relatively close to the North Pole, Santa can have his nightcap at our house. Each Christmas Eve our child faithfully leaves a glass of quality single malt scotch whiskey for Santa rather than the traditional milk.
When I was pregnant with our second child I let our first believe that there was a baby, a fire truck and a hot air balloon in my belly. When he came to meet his sister I indeed had a baby, but there was also a large present in the hospital room with a fire truck and a hot air balloon inside. To this day he believes his thoughtful sister brought him those nice presents!
These playful tales draw on our gullible children’s imagination and make it fun to be a parent.
The truth is these seemingly ridiculous phrases we utter, and stories we tell as we guide our kids through life should not frustrate us. Rather, they should make us realize how much these small, vulnerable, somewhat-barbaric little people really do need us.