The mysterious New Englander known only as Homemaker Man has one of those resumes that will one day land him his own talk show or in jail. He is a former dishwasher / short-order cook / baker / deli man/ grant writer / sketch and stand up comic / mailman / partier. Up until recently, he also drove a Zamboni. Now, he describes himself as simply “a devoted and tired family man” who also writes one consistently funny blog about his life called Musings from the Big Pink.
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I heard the Pumpkin Man, my youngest, crying.
The Peanut was standing over him while he lay on the floor, face down, wailing. There was a favorite toy between them. I peeled him off the floor.
“Did you push him?” I asked The Peanut, who was then 2.
“Yes,” she replied.
Just like that. “Of course I pushed him,” my girl seemed to be saying, “he was touching my shit.”
“You pushed him?” I’m smooth when I’m surprised.
“Yes,” she repeated. Her tone indicated that, while a very nice man, I’m not the shiniest coin in the fountain.
After I recovered, I said, “Thank you for telling me, that’s very good. But you don’t push your brother. It’s not nice. OK?”
(Solemn head nod of agreement)
That perfect arrangement of my daughter acting as her own stool pigeon – at one point I convinced her to wear a wire — was rearranged a few weeks later.
“Did you push him?”
“No, he fell,” she’d say, removing her hooded coveralls along with the duct tape she had used to seal the openings around her rubber boots and gloves. She watches a lot of CSI.
Things snowballed from there.
“No, he fell.”
“No, he hit himself.”
“No, he wants me to have it.”
It may have started during potty training. Diapers filled with lies by omission. And who can blame her? When you learn that there are places other than your pants in which you’re supposed to “make,” you also learn it might not be something you want to talk about when it happens. This kind of brings me to my point.
Lying is good. Sometimes. It’s something we all realize, but we don’t tell our kids. We figure they aren’t mature enough to handle it. You know, like we are.
Truth is hard, and while most of us strive for a version of it, many of us take a quick honesty vacation at least every now and then.
Some lies are beneficial. Lies like Santa, the Easter Bunny, or “Yes, that drawing looks exactly like mommy and not at all like the monster from Splice,” can help raise a child’s self-esteem or their ability to dream. And sometimes, they just make things easier. “We have to go to the park right now or the slide will be closed.” Or, “Go back to sleep honey, Mommy and Daddy were just exercising.”
In the past, I’d feel a little guilty about lying to my kids. Turns out, it’s one of my more prescient acts of behavior modeling. Seriously. I’m not lying. Right now.
Here’s proof. This article from the Daily Telegraph UK, which references a real doctor in a real research type place, says that not only is lying at an early age a sign of “better cognitive development,” it also suggests that the child will be more successful when they grow up. If that isn’t enough to sell you on a life of dishonesty, the study also states that those kids who do lie or cheat as they grow up don’t suffer higher rates of dishonesty as adults.
It’s not something we can fight; the numbers overwhelm. The percent of kids who lie by the time they’re 4 years old: 90 percent. That other 10 percent — probably sleeping.
So don’t fret when your toddler tells you the cat threw that shoe through the television. She’s just stretching her brain.
And, if by the time she’s 5 or 6, you think your kid has never ever told a lie, one of you in that relationship has better cognitive development than the other person. Chances are it’s not you.