Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nine Lies Good Parents Tell Their Kids

When my 3-year-old and 1-year-old daughters ask me questions about the world, I do what any good dad should: I lie. Honesty leads only to endless follow-up questions and an eventual nervous breakdown. A rational man can only hear “Why?” so many times before he starts huffing markers. When my oldest daughter Betsy recently asked me why people have hair, I knew a real answer would lead to hundreds of additional questions and two marker stains inside my nostrils. Instead, I did the reasonable thing and said her hair keeps her head from floating away. She immediately dropped the subject because she was terrified I’d give her a haircut. Rather than being a vice, dishonesty is a powerful tool that keeps children in line and makes parenthood almost tolerable. I’m not alone in embracing this essential skill. Here are the nine lies all good parents tell their children.

You’re fine.
Here’s the deal, kid: It didn’t hurt when you fell down the stairs. You just don’t realize how pain-free you are because you hit your head pretty hard. Seriously, that was some impressive tumbling. I’ll give you a high five when you stop seeing double. If you stop crying and agree I’m right, we’ll go get ice cream. And on the way back we’ll swing by the emergency room for that concussion. And remember: Don’t tell your mom.

Thanks to all their extra cartilage, small children are unbreakable. They’re basically super balls with arms and legs.

That toy is broken.
Sorry your talking stuffed animal mysteriously stopped working at 2 a.m. when I took out the batteries and threw it in the freezer. I’m sure those events are unrelated. Unfortunately, those were the last two AA batteries in existence. They’ve been outlawed by an international treaty because dolphins were choking on them or something. To avoid a mass extinction of ocean life, you’ll have to play with a toy that’s silent and slightly freezer-burned. Thanks for understanding.

You’re a big helper.
I asked you to grab a single plastic cup off the counter, but instead you dumped out three entire drawers of various kitchen utensils. I should’ve seen that coming. If you ever get around to actually handing me that cup, I’m sure the five seconds it saves me will totally offset the time I’ll spend picking up and washing the hundreds of individual items that now cover the floor. But it’s unfair for me to be the sole beneficiary of your boundless altruism. Go help your mom with whatever she’s doing while I stay here and try to remember why I had kids.

This is good for you.
I chose everything on your plate specifically for its nutritional content. OK, so maybe these generic chicken nuggets contain more sodium than the Pacific Ocean, but according to the box they’re edible and 50 percent cheaper that those other brands that have actual flavor. They also take 30 seconds to cook in the microwave. That makes them healthy in my book, at least as far as my mental health is concerned. Forgive me if I don’t have the patience to cook a full meal while you scream at my feet for 20 minutes. To be a better parent, I’d have to be deaf, and I’m not ready to take that step. Maybe I’ll just buy some earplugs. In the meantime, I assume whatever I’m microwaving right now passed a rigorous inspection by the Food and Drug Administration. “Nutritious” and “technically suitable for human consumption” are pretty much the same thing.

There’s no reason to be afraid of the dark.
Monsters aren’t real. Sure, there’s irrefutable evidence ghosts exist, but that’s it. Other than Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, who are also legit. And zombies, which will definitely end the world as we know it someday. But besides those things, the dark is completely safe. If you need me, I’ll be in my room with the covers pulled over my head and the nightlight on.

All the candy is gone.
It looked like your grandmother gave your 45 pounds of chocolate, but that was an optical illusion. In reality, that huge bag contained only about three pieces of candy, which you already ate. After you went to bed, I was shocked to discover the rest of the bag was filled with nothing but air. And in case you’re wondering, I absolutely didn’t hide the candy on top the fridge to feast on by myself in the coming weeks. You can check for yourself as soon as you grow five feet.

Fridge tops are also great places to hide contraband from short wives. Mine still doesn’t know I own a crossbow.

This is the only show on TV right now.
I know you’d rather watch cartoons, but all the 24-hour the kids channels mysteriously shut off tonight. Also, the DVD player and Netflix can’t show children’s programming right now because a highly specific solar flare knocked out only the things that make you happy. It’s outrageous that America didn’t take steps to protect its national cartoon stockpile, but here we are. I promise I’ll write an angry letter to the relevant authorities first thing in the morning. In the meantime, your mother and I are going to watch our show, so cover your ears. This one is recommended for mature audiences due to light swearing and frequent hooker murders.

That big, expensive thing you wanted wasn’t in the store.
I’m heartbroken, too. I was really looking forward to spending $60 on something you would play with for five minutes and then leave in the middle of the floor for the next five years. No, I can’t check again later because the law says each parent can only try to buy it once. Capitalism is funny like that. Let’s just watch TV and see if you get distracted by a commercial for some other must-have piece of plastic that will also be perpetually out of stock.

Disneyland isn’t real.
It might look like it exists on those commercials, but it’s just as fictional as Narnia or the moon. If it was a real place, I’d definitely shell out thousands of dollars to fly halfway across the country with two toddlers. My idea of a relaxing vacation is to listen to your screams for hours in a confined space, and I’m sure everyone else on the plane would feel the same way. If Disneyland were real, you’d be too small to go on the rides, anyway, so we’d spend all our time waiting in line for autographs from grown women who pretend to be princesses. If I wanted that much exposure to poor life choices, I’d go to a renaissance fair. I know you’re disappointed Disneyland isn’t real, but for $5,000 less and 100 times more fun I’ll let your ride with me while I drive through the car wash. I’ll wait here while you nominate me for father of the year.

The only real torture for Guantanamo Bay detainees happens on the flight there, when each suspect is forced to sit next to a crying baby. (Photo by John Murphy)

Dishonesty is the foundation of every healthy parent-child relationship. Moms and dads who master these simple lies are guaranteed to get along with their kids – at least until those offspring are old enough to Google stuff on their own. Then those Internet-savvy children will learn an important lesson about never trusting anyone, a revelation they never would have experienced without years of prior parental misinformation. Clearly the benefits of lying are endless.