I Cannot Tell a Lie! Err... Maybe I Can.

I'll be honest (heh) I'm a proponent of the white lie -- the tall tale -- the short story. I'm also a proponent of telling the truth in ways children can understand. I think its important to be honest with our kids but I also think we have to use our discretion as parents. In other words, potayto, potahto. We do the best we can. 

I'm a master storyteller when it comes to telling tales of where poop goes when it goes down the toilet, explaining in my own words, "where Daddy's hair went" Because I figure, teaching Archer (and Fable when she's older) to be imaginative is important.

All Fables are rooted in truth. 

However, I also think it's never too early to be honest about certain things, even if the truth is complicated and even difficult to understand, for example I think it's important for Archer to understand why we protest the passing of Prop 8 as well as the truth re: why Mommy doesn't have a penis. "Where did your penis go, Mommy?"  

Tempting as it may sound, I'm not going to make up a story about how my penis flew away and is partying with Archer's long lost Trader Joes balloon and Hal's hairline. 

I do like my mom's advice (maybe because she's a GENIUS!). When we were kids and we had questions about the plausibility of say... The Tooth Fairy, my mother would just repeat the questions back to us like so:

"Mommy? Is there a tooth fairy?"

"Do you want there to be a tooth fairy, honey?" or "What do you think?"

Of COURSE I wanted there to be a tooth fairy and OF COURSE I thought there was. Case closed. The end. No lies. Just... stories.

What about you? Where do you draw the line between tall tales and real truths? Do you grapple with storytelling? Do you have a whole truth and nothing but the truth policy in your house?


P.S. Sorry about the HELLO GIANT FACE Momvo screenshot. Oy. 


Anonymous | 10:08 AM

The problem with telling them white lies is to know where you draw the line. What is real and what is fiction

Is Santa real?? Is Jesus real??

I like the thought of telling stories as long as we set them up as a story and nothing more... We can celebrate with the tooth fairy as long as they understand that is fiction and it is separate from reality!

HeatherK | 10:47 AM

"that is a transvestite hooker...Illegal, maybe, but not wrong."

HA! love it!

Raeann | 11:00 AM

Do you cut Fable's hair? (sorry, totally off topic.)


Nope. My babies are just bald. Takes a while for their hair to come in.

Anonymous | 11:40 AM

What an interesting topic. I have no children, but came across your blog the other day and have become absolutely obsessed with reading it. Not in a creepy way, don't worry:) I just think you're an amazing writer with beautiful insight, your kids are gorgeous, and we're about the same age. All ingredients for a pleasurable reading experience!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I think when it comes to kids, it's best to find a balance as you have suggested. We often don't give kids the credit they deserve when it comes to how much they truly can understand. Having said that, I personally think there are things that they shouldn't have to try to understand just yet. There is nothing more beautiful in my mind than a child's innocence. They have yet to be tainted by this sometimes ugly world. So I guess my ideal situation would be to maintain as much of that youthful innocence as possible while simultaneously ensuring that you are adequately preparing them for the harsh realities of this world. I also think that a mother knows her child like no one else does and knows what they are capable of understanding and what "truths" should be kept from them until they can handle it. You go with your mommy instinct....that's what it boils down to for me.


Amen, Anonymous. Absolutely. You will be a fab mother* someday!

*If you choose to become one. :)

Anonymous | 12:30 PM

You replied! Perhaps you can help me out again....a little off topic, but I was telling my best friend about your blog. She is 26 with a 3 year old boy and a single mother. Absolutely the most amazing mother. I read one of your posts about going out one night when Archer was younger, and the realization that you made about not missing your old life. I can't find it now! I've been scouring your site looking for it so that I can send it to her because I think it would touch her the same way it did me. Do you happen to know which one I'm talking about and where it is? Thanks so much!!

And yes, I absolutely cannot wait to have my future babies:) The hubby and I are going to start trying this summer!


That's because the post you speak of is here:


Twas a guest post.

Glad you enjoyed it and hello to your friend!

Anonymous | 12:41 PM

Ah, yes, that's it! Thanks so much! I know she'll love it!

Anonymous | 1:38 PM

Our policy is about like yours. my DD who is 7 is what we call an "Old Soul". So mature, so understanding.

Anywho.. no lying to the kids, we use age appropriate explainations and try to help them understand.

Anonymous | 2:55 PM

My policy is to be as truthful with my kids (5 and 3) as possible. I know how I feel when someone is obviously telling me a white lie, "Oh you look great today!" when I didn't sleep the night before and haven't combed my hair in two days. I lose respect for and trust in that person because if he/she would lie to me about something as ridiculous as appearance, what would he/she say about something important? I never want my kids to think of me as being insincere or distrustful.

Your balloon story made me laugh, because I took the exact opposite approach and explained the most common wind patterns. That day there was an onshore wind, so I explained how his balloon was on its way to the hills and would probably continue to float inland. It's not as fun as your story, but he calmed down and watched the balloon and the clouds blow toward the hills. The rest of the day he asked me where I thought his balloon was then, so we looked at maps together and guessed which city/town the balloon was near.

Anonymous | 3:53 PM

Good episode. I only wish they were longer!

EdenSky | 5:27 PM

Do I lie to my kids? HELL YES. I for one, think that lying to kids is essential. I don't want my kids growing up to believe everything they are told. I want them to be intelligent people who really think about things rther than accepting them at face value.

I go in for the big lies like Santa in the interest of maintaining the magic of childhood. The small lies, like: "The petting zoo closes at 1:00 because the animals need their naps." in the interest of making my life easier, and the white lies: "Honey...whatever you get for your birthday, just say thank you, don't say "I don't like this." OK? We can trade it for something else later." in order to help my kids function in society.

When my 5 year old asks me a stupid question (did I say stupid question? Yes, children DO ask stupid questions) I make up some ridiculous answer that can be classified as either a lie or a story and it entertains us both, then my kid actually THINKS about what she was asking and either comes up with the answer on her own or asks me a much better follow-up question. If I just told her the truth in the first place she wouldn't have learned anything.

My daughter knows that if she asks me to tell her something "For Real" then I am not going to mess with her, and she can always trust me there. I see no reason to bore her with facts when fiction can be so much more interesting when it comes to unimportant things.

kittenpie | 5:35 PM

Mostly, I try to explain things carefully in a way she will get and be able to relate to, though I am with you on the crazy poop stories! Some lies, though, I have a hard time maintaining, perhaps because I am ambivalent about them myself - santa being a case in point.

Katiedidtoo | 6:13 PM

I am lying as I type this. I would never be able to tell the girls that the cat got hit by a car, I would be hysterical.

They already accepted the fact that he got outside and wanted to find a cute little wild cat to start a family with. There is absolutely no sense in telling them we found him by the side of the road.

No good at all would come of it (I keep telling myself...)

messyfunmommylife | 6:56 PM

I love balloon cake! ...thats a transvestite hooker! I so share way more truth with Aiden than some like. One of my close friends told him she had magic hands that didnt get burnt so she could touch candles. She finds my honesty irritating I find it all in good fun :)

Anonymous | 6:57 PM

My mom did do the white lie thing; however, she really ingrained in us the importance of always telling the truth.

Of course, with me, that back fired. As she says, if she's having a bad day, she won't ask me how she looks because I will tell her. I've gotten better with it as I've gotten a bit older, but I'm still often painfully blunt and honest.

Amber | 7:08 PM

Thank you for this post. I really was worried about how to handle "Santa" (oh dear do I ever pick the most inane things to stress about, lol). I love your idea (well your mom's) about turning the question around. I think you've solved my conundrum!

amyinbc | 8:18 PM

I used a similar technique as you mom. "Do you believe there is a XXX?" "Well some people do..." Never wanted to lie outright and always willing to tell the honest to goodness truth if I thought they were ready and really looking for it.

Colleen | 8:35 PM

Wow - that's ironic - wonder what's in the water this week? I wrote about lying Monday and posed (or at least considered) some of the same questions you raise. I didn't have a gorgeous daughter to feature in mine, though! Check it out. Or not. You can lie to me. http://colleencomments.blogspot.com/2009/03/you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it.html

Kendra | 7:05 AM

Wow, I loved what you said. I was with you 100%. When my oldest (now 5) was born, I was determined to be 100% honest all the time, because you don't lie to people you love and expect them to trust you. Then he started talking and I realized it was a lot more complicated. After a lot of thought, we do the Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, and I really love it. I think your mom's technoque is perfect and plan to use it myself as my kids start to ask questions.

I realize now that I'm a too-much-information parent; that's just how I'm wired. Sometimes that's good and my kids will listen as I try to explain why we recycle so that "the Earth won't die." Or we have a nice long talk about what different people think God looks like. Sometimes I can see their eyes roll back and my husband cuts in with "because that's the way it's done. Want to wrestle?"

I probably would have told him that the balloon left because he let go and next time we'll tie it to his wrist: completely honest but not nearly as sensitive or creative as your explanation. I guess I need to remember that there is always a time and place for creative storytelling with kids.

Banteringblonde | 7:44 AM

lol @ flying penis, I got the same question "what happened to your penis mommy?" I've had a few fibs come back to bite me in the @ss so I try not to get too imaginative... although my latest post doesn't support that does it. crawling back in my hole now....

Anonymous | 8:53 AM

The more I've thought about it, the more I've decided that ALL parents lie to their kids sometimes. And they're lying if they say anything different:) Furthermore, I see absolutely nothing wrong with it in many instances, and would go so far as to say that a "whole truth, and nothing but the truth" policy could actually be more damaging than helpful in some cases. I think most of the time, you should keep kids on a "need to know" basis and use your discretion on what you think they need to know.

Anonymous | 2:03 PM

You can teach your children to be imaginative without lying to them. They trust you to tell them the truth. That's part of how they get their sense of security.
Fantasy and make-believe have their place but little kids don't understand how the world works. They need to know basic things that we take for granted. If you make up a cute little story that amuses you it can backfire and then you've got a kid who's anxious and suspicious.
If I can't trust my mom, who can I trust? Is she telling the truth this time or is she blowing smoke up my ass again?
When they get a little more mature they can handle fantasy. I once made the mistake of assuring my three=year-old that a magic wand I bought from a party supply store was actually able to perform magic. Man, was he angry and disappointed when he found out it didn't do squat.

Leslie | 6:08 PM

Um, that baby is SO CUTE. I just want to eat her up. So. Cute.

Paulita | 8:18 AM

um...I'm sorry you lost me at the picture of Fable

42pennies | 10:20 AM

Yeah, that's a delicate line.

I had to laugh at your mother's strategy. That's pretty much my strategy. Until it falls flat on its face, as it did recently on just the topic you mention.. Just count yourself lucky that your kids are still little (and/or not overly, shall we say, "persistent", like mine).

I'd write about it here, but it's kinda long, and I did write a whole blog post about it on the day that it happened. Check it out:


Anonymous | 11:33 AM

I have just recently found your blog and have been reading it like a book. Back cover-front. I wish your old blog still existed because I really wanted to read from the beginning. Anyway, I actually spent an entire Saturday reading your blog and my goodness...I was crying so hard. My roommates would walk into the living room and see my wet face and make fun of me but I didn't care cause I was sooo into it. It reads like an excellent novel. I need to order your book today as well. I've been procrastinating.

I'm 21 and I havent started thinking about any of that yet, but let me tell you, your blog actually makes me want kids. I can't wait to experience that love. Except I can. But you know.

Ok you're fantastic! Have a good one.

Tina Nanez | 3:53 PM

LOL to the flying penis story! I recently found out i'm having a boy so i'm how the hell i'm going to answer those questions (i grew up w/ 1 older sister).

My mom use to "lie" (which she calls teasing) to us all the time - she would scare us to discipline us. "If you get off your bed one more time the monsters are going to grab your feet and pull you under the bed". I definitely won't go to that extreme!!

Anonymous | 6:07 PM

The tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Clause were some of the best parts of my childhood. I am doing it with my kids and the day they want it to stop, it will.

Anonymous | 7:57 PM

My husband and I will probably at least visit Hell briefly for the lies we've told in the name of getting our son to take his medicine, and things like answering the question, "Is our kitchen floor laminate?"...we're just a bunch of goofs and joke around a lot. The truth is good but sometimes a little much for kids and he is 5. You have to use your head and your heart. Omission is allowed. Rule #1 at our house helps us decide HOW to tell the truth as well. Rule #1 is BE NICE.

the little travelers | 8:45 AM

I loved what Eden Sky said about boring kids with the truth when fiction can be so much more interesting.

i don't know how we've lost this as a society. throughout all of human time people have relied on parables and stories to relay certain truths- yet with interest and finesse. Telling a child about the physics behind why water looks blue is crushingly boring. But a wonderful story about a King of the sea who laid down his velvety robe... it really speaks to the child's emotional and spiritual world rather than the intellect. In the west we are so cut off from our feeling world and imagination. It's like we're big fat boring brains running around. blah. and blah again. Here's to magic, imagination and stories. every single culture on the planet has come up with their own version of a creation story because story is a human need as well. many parents who are so hell bent on 'truth telling' rob their children of the delight of being swept away into another dimension of this world. and are usually quite smug about it. too bad for their kids. even einstein said he would not want to live in a world without magic. and i think he was a scientist, right??