I don't often get to watch the news.
Sometimes, if my kids are sitting with me absorbed in a game on their ipad, I'll turn it on, expecting it to be about the weather or politics.
Yet the news is never just about the forecast or an election. Every day, there seems to be more bad news, and as soon as I put it on, I have to turn it off.
"Where was that shooting?" they'll ask, curling into a ball beside me. "What's a terrorist attack?"
Shit, I'll think. Then I'll use my newly acquired skills to deflect the question, ignore their inquiry, or swiftly change the subject. I'll curse myself for trying to peek at the world outside my own home and be content to watch sports highlights instead.
Lying isn't bad when you want to save someone from pain or confusion because they are too little to understand that the world can be ugly and bad.
I used to get caught explaining the truth in as gentle or simple a way as I could. I'm honestly not that quick on my feet; I could never seem to think of a lie fast enough to make it believable. I would forget to say, "Good question," or "Hmmm . . . I don't know," like I try to now. Instead, I'd tell the truth.
For instance, several months ago as they watched Mrs. Doubtfire (a PG movie about divorce), they asked me, "What's a stripper?"
There was one single, tiny line in the movie where the son asks the dad if he's getting a stripper for his birthday. They were watching on the screen in the car as I drove them to hockey practice. I was focused on the road, not on deflecting their surprising question, and so I accidentally told them as though I was reciting the definition from the dictionary. "A stripper is someone who dances naked for other people."
"Ooo! Can I see a stripper," they asked, their curiosity piqued. "Do you have to be naked, too, or are they just naked?"
I'd quickly laid a booby trap for myself. No matter which way I stepped, or how hard I tried to back track, I was still stuck. The next thing I knew, they were planning to go to a "strippers club" when they turn 19. "I want to marry a stripper," one of my boys even announced to my boyfriend's parents at dinner one night. I was mortified. It was embarrassing, inappropriate, and the worst part of all was that they had learned it from me. (If anyone reading this is a stripper, please don't take offence. It's meant to illustrate a point, not be a point! I truly don't judge.)
And this is how I've learned to tell my kids fractional truths, PG truths, or to deflect, change the subject, or pretend I didn't hear to begin with. There was a line in a movie we watched recently, The Pink Panther, where Beyonce's character says she was upset when her boyfriend cheated on her. I braced myself, but it seemed lost on my boys. Phew. I dodged that one. There have been a few other close calls, where my new skills weren't needed.
But today they asked to see the ring their father gave me when we got engaged. "You can't see the ring because I sold it," I told them, hoping to put the issue to bed. Shit. Another booby trap. It seemed my skills still need some work.
"Why would you sell it?" they asked.
"Because I'm not married, so I didn't need it anymore," I said with a sort of finality, to show them that it made sense, like it was the only possible answer.
They seemed upset. I had to mollify them. Maybe I was too harsh with my initial response. "Well, I saved one of my rings because it was special to me. It's in a safety deposit box in the bank. Maybe you could see it one day."
"Can I have it one day," my oldest son asked. "I can give it to my wife."
"Sure," I told him. "That's a great idea!"
I was back on my game, deflecting, agreeing with this preposterous idea. I didn't want to explain that my ring was probably jinxed. That my marriage ended in divorce and that I'd never forgive myself if he proposed to the love of his life (possibly a stripper) with my cursed diamond and then he got divorced. No, that ring will stay stored in a dark box in the depths of a bank along with the truth about how my marriage ended.
There are cases where lying is bad. When you deliberately deceive someone to protect yourself or your secrets. When you lie because you're too cowardly to tell the truth. But lying isn't lying in the bad sense of the word if you're trying to protect an innocent child, is it?
Lying isn't bad when you want to save someone from pain or confusion because they are too little to understand that the world can be ugly and bad. They have time to watch the news when they are bigger, to learn about terrorist attacks and shootings, about cheating and even strip clubs. But I promise, it won't be from me. I'm going to shield them from certain truths for as long as I can.
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