I have a book in the downstairs loo called Great Lies to Tell Small Kids. It includes such maxims as ‘if you try a vegetable you might like it’ and ‘men don’t go bald naturally, they just like getting their hair cut that way’.
My personal favourite, and one that I was able to use for a good few years, is ‘wine makes mummy clever’.
We’ve all done it, I know, yet don’t we encourage children not to lie?
Children take things so literally, but life is not black and white. One annoying habit children have is to correct you unnecessarily.
‘Could you pass the bowl, please?’
‘It’s not a bowl, it’s a plate, mummy.’
Through gritted teeth and desperately fighting the urge to throw the bowl/plate across the kitchen: ‘It doesn’t matter what it’s called, it’s obvious what I mean isn’t it?’
‘But it’s not a bowl, it’s a plate and you say that we mustn’t lie.’
(Tears hair out and weeps alone in the bathroom.)
But sometimes the truth hurts. There is a funny character in the popular BBC comedy sketch show Armstrong and Miller who is horribly honest to his son. The character is divorced and sees his child at weekends only.
He answers his son’s innocent questions about a range of matters, including the reasons behind the separation, with a disarming level of honest and overly pedantic details.
The reality of life is that sometimes it is best to be economical with the truth.
This hit home the other night when we found ourselves all watching a programme about Freddie Mercury, on the day that he would have been 65.
The children, all fans of Queen’s songs, were transfixed by old footage of Freddie prancing around on stage in tight trousers.
They all know that he was gay and they asked if he was married to his long-term partner, the now deceased Jim Hutton. I had to explain that only recently have same-sex partners been able to marry, and they were genuinely surprised.
‘Why shouldn’t they marry, if they love each other?’ my eight-year-old said.
But when the subject of the AIDs virus came up it all went a bit pear-shaped. Trying to explain to a young child, who doesn’t really grasp certain biological facts yet, about an illness which can be caught from having unprotected sex was really tricky. I was trying to be as truthful and as matter-of-fact as I could.
She may well come across people who carry the virus in her future life and I don’t want her to grow up thinking it’s something wrong or dirty.
And at some point she needs to know about this stuff in order to protect herself.
But explaining how it is caught was a conversation I certainly didn’t want to be having just before bedtime.
Especially since the moment you start talking about unprotected sex, it opens up a whole can of worms which is somewhat inappropriate to delve into, especially on a school night.
I tried my best but didn’t do a great job.
Should I have lied? Or was I just daft to let them watch the programme in the first place?
I think I need more of that wine to make me cleverer.