Friday, April 25, 2008

The Parent Lie

I recently told my first creative parent lie to the Bean. You know what I’m talking
about…one of those really outlandish explanations for something that appeases a kid. It’s usually something that defies the logic and reason of an adult. But kid logic is a magical thing and understanding it is a valuable tool in the parental arsenal.

When I’ve watched parents in the past, I’ve been in awe of how quick on their feet they need to be. I’m not talking about running around making sure the kid doesn’t stick his finger in an electric socket or anything like that. I’m talking having to be mentally sharp. Seeing a parent deflect a barrage of “why’s” or coming up with a kid friendly answer to a tough question is like watching those guys on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” conjure a great joke out of thin air. It takes a lot of improvisation and creativity to conceive a parent lie. And though I have a modicum of creativity, I’ve never been sure if I have the skills to pull one off.

My first parent lie was simple, but effective. As I was getting the Bean ready for
bed, I asked him if he wanted to go to the zoo with me tomorrow. He enthusiastically said yes. Then his little mind started to churn. He realized that tomorrow is a long way away.

“Go to the zoo now,” he said.

“No buddy. It’s time for bed now. We’re going to the zoo tomorrow.”

He didn’t like this answer. His face flushed and his eyes started to dampen. In a matter of seconds the whole thing was going to go south and we’d be in full-on tantrum mode—a dangerous place to be just before bedtime. That’s when the lie popped in my head.

“Besides,” I told him. “We can’t go to the zoo tonight. All of the animals are sleeping.”

He looked at me quizzically. The lie gained momentum.

“Oh yeah. They’re all asleep. But the animals called me on the phone. They told me that they’re very excited to see you. They’re getting the zoo ready for you. But they said they needed to get plenty of rest so they would be ready. Especially the monkeys. And they said they hope you get plenty of rest to so you will have lots of energy to see them too.”

He digested this new piece of information for a moment and looked at me with an expression that said, “Okay. That makes sense. I see your point.” And all was calm. I finished putting on his PJs and soon he was asleep.

Like I said, simple but effective.

I know that as his view of the world becomes broader, my parent lies are
going to have to become more elaborate. And I also know that there will be a day, not too far in the future, when the kid won’t believe everything that I tell him. But for now, I’m basking in the soft glow of another small parenting victory.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Nice going! I try never to bring up fun stuff before bed anymore because of just that reaction.

My new response to the question of "Why?" is that after he asks about the same thing several times and I answer it I respond with, "Why do you think?" There is usually a pause and more than half the time he answers his own question. And the whys stop for that topic at least.