Christmas has come and gone and families all over America and beyond have once again pulled off a fabulous lie in the form of Santa Claus. It’s an acceptable lie, one that’s become part of our culture, but it remains, in fact, a filthy lie.
Our kids are older now. We’ve long left the lying to my brothers, who both still have little kids. I was never very good at the lying about Santa thing. I always got carried away and made up a fantastic backstory for him involving ray guns and time machines that even a six-year-old had a hard time believing. My son thought Santa and Obi-Wan Kenobi were the same person for a very long time.
I was never entirely comfortable with the story, as I knew with all my heart Daddy would shoot any living human that broke into our house in the middle of the night, bearing gifts or not. I had the same problem with the Tooth Fairy, because I knew if something weird ever flew into our house to collect discarded body parts, one of my uncles or my granddad would definitely trap it. (Then they would feed me Tooth Fairy like they fed me squirrel by telling me it’s “tiny little chickens.”) For some reason, the Easter Bunny always seemed the most plausible to me. I have no explanation as to why I believed a giant bunny hid eggs while Jesus was being resurrected over a fat guy breaking in and leaving gifts, I’m just telling a story here.
Lying to the kids is perfectly alright when it involves fairy tales. It’s OK to lie to kids when they’re scared or hurting or just sad. It’s not OK to lie to kids about things they need to know.
Our daughter has a growth on her thyroid gland that has become invasive and has to be removed. She will likely lose the thyroid and have to be on medication for the rest of her life. The condition is hereditary on my side of the family, my grandmother and mother have both had the same diagnosis and procedure. For some reason, it skipped me and now afflicts our daughter. (I can’t even get a disease up in here!). She’s nervous about the operation, and was talking to my Mom about it at Christmas dinner.
“Nana, does it hurt?”
“Oh no dear. I had no pain at all, it was a breeze. I was fine in about three days.”
After my Mom left the room I turned to my daughter.
“Of course it hurts. They’re operating on your damn neck, for heaven’s sake. They’re going to cut you open and wrestle a growth that’s insinuated itself in your body for God only knows how long. Jeez. You just got done with nursing school, you know damn well it’s going to hurt. Nana had no pain because I fed her morphine every two hours, just like I’ll do for you. Now don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine.”
OK, so maybe I need to find a balance between telling the kids the brutal truth and coddling them with filthy lies. It doesn’t really matter at this point, they’re both old enough to think I’m completely nuts and probably don’t believe anything I say anyway. They’ll talk out of the other sides of their mouths when I get that Sasquatch interview. You just wait and see.