Apparently honesty is the best policy – except when you’re bringing up your own kids, when a few little fibs seem to be the best policy/easiest option.
Molly is five and is going through a very curious stage. Whilst she’s learning about the world and life, I’m learning about managing her expectations, dreams and opinions.
She’s also of an age when just making up spurious answers won’t wash any more, as she’s started quoting me on my responses.
Some of her questions are light and fluffy and can be brushed off with exaggeration and embellishment.
The Easter Bunny was a prime example. Molly asked if it was a rabbit the size of a house that roams the country delivering eggs and goodies to children. She was concerned that if a mammoth bunny was hopping around the nation, she might occasionally squash a passer-by, car or bus stop.
Personally speaking, I see this as an open invitation to create a brilliant but slightly bogus story that allays her fears. The legend of Bernard Bunny and his girlfriend Coco the chocolate egg-laying goose could now live on. I might drop the bit about the goose producing foil-wrapped eggs though.
Other questions are deeper in context and require more than a flippant, fabricated answer, which is where I tend to struggle.
A good friend has an elderly uncle who is very ill. I relayed the sad story to my wife and at some stage said: ‘He’s had a good innings at 97, but sadly I think he’s on his last legs.’
After overhearing the story, the following day Molly was mentioning the story to a family member and explained that his leg had fallen off, thus being on his last leg.
After explaining the phrase and the situation, she started asking me about death and what heaven was like. For all parents these are tough questions – one false move and you can leave your child pondering the unanswerable in their sleep.
For me, I made the unprecedented step of actually thinking long and hard before engaging my mouth. The answer was largely based on the truth and I encompassed some of the sadness, reality and inevitable elements.
At the same time, I tried to balance my answer with reassuring tales of peace, serenity and the unknown. I’m pleased to report that my measured and thoughtful approach worked and although there were a few other questions, a predominantly honest answer had won the day.
The second toughest question ‘where do babies come from?’ has been uttered a few times too. I’m still recovering from the afterlife discussion, so someone else needs to step up on this one.
That, or Bernard Bunny and Coco Goose will feature in a new chapter.