Elma Family Kitty Motherhood Pause for Thought Pip

On a little bending of the truth

25/02/2015

I think it has been well documented on these pages that either my general knowledge about geography is atrocious or I haven’t always been completely honest with my daughters when it comes to the location of a number of large mountains.  Now while the former is true, and I did quite genuinely once describe Antwerp as “a Finnish sort of place” in a game of Articulate (yes, I now know it’s in Belgium, and yes, I’ve never lived it down), I do know that Snowdon and Broadway in the Cotswolds are different places, as is Kilimanjaro in Africa and the big hill in the park in Leamington.  What the girls think is another matter.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I’m sorry to say the fibbing doesn’t stop there either; in our bathroom is a small square plate of glass that shows you some numbers if you stand on it – Kitty thinks it measures your shoe size and I’ve done nothing to disabuse her of that fact.

By the time you get on to Father Christmas you begin to wonder whether we’ve ever told a truth in our lives, and that’s before we’ve even met the tooth fairy or allowed any mention of the Easter bunny to get into the picture.

H and I prize honesty in our children as one of the fundamental character traits that we want to instill in them.  We’ve always asked them to tell us the truth first, and that we’ll never be cross if they do, even if it sometimes takes a big deep breath and a moment to collect myself so that I don’t go with the immediate reaction of utter vexation that there are now great big rainbow stripes of crayon across the lounge carpet (not that that’s what someone was up to this afternoon while I was sat just out of sight nursing their brother – I knew they were being too quiet). So if that’s the case I wonder whether we should be quite so comfortable with all this bending of the truth and invention.

There are some things where we do stick to the facts; on Christmas Eve we all knew we were stood in the middle of the playing fields watching the ISS zoom over head, and not just because to Kitty that’s far more exciting than Santa, and when she asked how baby Pip was going to get out of my tummy at the hospital I gave her a simplified but still accurate answer (though thank goodness she wasn’t very curious about how Pip got in there in the first place).

I know that it sounds a bit hypocritical on paper but when I think about it I’m actually quite happy being a little creative with the truth from time to time.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that Kitty doesn’t know that we have scales; the longer I can protect her from the side effects of the media’s obsession with every woman’s body size and shape the better, I want her to have confidence in herself first and foremost and to know that she is so much more than a number on a scale or the dress size on the label, and the same goes for Elma and Pip.

And as for those ‘mountains’; well I saw their faces as we reached the summit of both peaks, I saw how happy our make believe had made them, and I wouldn’t swap that for any precocious knowledge of English, Welsh or Tanzanian geography.

Childhood is a time when anything is possible; a time when mystery and the magical can quite happily run alongside the mundane and ordinary, and that’s something I want to protect and encourage, because I know that it will wear off by the time they hit double figures.  They have their whole lives ahead of them to know that Snowden is in Wales and learn all sorts of detailed facts about East Africa, and perhaps when they’re learning all these important facts they might just remember with a smile the time that we imagined a mountain and climbed it before elevenses

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But I’m curious, where do you draw the line between make believe and being overly creative with the truth?.

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  • Jovana 25/02/2015 at 1:23 pm

    I am completely there with y’a. I have no idea whats with the obsession of telling the absolute truth to the kids all the time…there’s plenty of time for that. I have no worries that my little ones will think that fairies actually exist. Part of our fibbing includes various fairies that visit for various occasion (I usually make them out of felt -they supposedly freeze and make themselves look like dolls when people are in a room)…anyway these are tooth fairy, seasonal fairies (spring and winter so far) and my favorite, broken arm fairy- she came when my 6 year old broke her arm. Funny re: scale we also had tried avoiding telling the truth about that one for awhile and I never use it in my kids presence (for much the same reasons). I also used to simplify what I do for a living: I am a military ethicist so I spend much of my time thinking and writing on issues in war, so for the longest time I oversimplified what I think about and let her dad’s career- the astronomy take center stage- much fewer dead people in astronomy:))))

    • Carie 25/02/2015 at 10:33 pm

      Yes I can see explaining your job would be a bit of an interesting one. We once asked a very young Kitty what Mummy and Daddy did for jobs; Mummy helped cross people (I’m a lawyer so fair enough) and Daddy waters plants (not even near) so we stuck with trying to explain Mummy’s job! I love the sound of all your fairies 🙂

  • Mandycharlie 25/02/2015 at 1:28 pm

    I think any make believe has to be tempered with the idea that the child does actually believe that they climbed Kilimanjaro at lunch time and as such wishes to share that knowledge with their fellow peers. Where upon they can be ridiculised, leading to feelings of isolation and confusion. Putting Santa and Tooth Fairies into their own special box, we still played make believe but the boys knew when it was an imaginary game and when it was the truth. Now, who wants to go on a bear hunt?

    • Carie 25/02/2015 at 10:30 pm

      Kitty went back into nursery telling everyone that she’d climbed Kilimanjaro – the other children just thought it was fun and left it at that but I suspect that what a 3 year old can get away with will be different to when she’s 8 – but then when she’s eight she won’t believe that it was really Kilimanjaro – perhaps circumstances will dictate what we can and can’t pretend!

  • Brandi 25/02/2015 at 2:15 pm

    I have to admit I am a terrible liar. I have a hard time even with santa and the tooth fairy. I guess it feels like a deception to me and it makes me uncomfortable. I know the time in which they believe goes by so quickly, but it is just a hard thing for me to do personally. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing it 🙂 Make believe I can do, but feeding into something I know is not the truth had always made me a bit squirmy inside.

    • Carie 25/02/2015 at 10:26 pm

      I’m a lousy liar too and I’ll admit I got a bit vague over Father Christmas this year; I don’t want Kitty to be the one girl in the class who tells everyone else the secret, nor do I want her to miss out on that magic feeling of seeing a lumpy stocking and all the fun and anticipation of Christmas morning. It’s a tricky one to balance isn’t it – it’s different when it comes from them, like Kitty’s misinterpretation of the scales which is just something I haven’t corrected.

  • Katie @mummydaddyme 25/02/2015 at 2:41 pm

    What a lovely post Carie and I agree- there’s no harm with a little bending of the truth from time to time. I tell Mads in the morning that my yoghurt is broccoli flavoured so I don’t have to share it. 😉

    • Carie 25/02/2015 at 10:22 pm

      I love it! It’ll last until the day she decides she really likes broccoli and wants to try it!

  • older mum in a muddle 25/02/2015 at 6:11 pm

    I’m so with you on this…. why spoil the fun and magic – a little white lie isn’t going to harm here and there, as you say they’ll reach the age when they learn the real facts. Until then, let their imagination wander and play.X

    • Carie 25/02/2015 at 10:20 pm

      Imagination all the way – perhaps it’s as long as it’s coming from their imagination not mine?

  • sustainablemum 25/02/2015 at 8:00 pm

    I think there is a fine line between answering a question or telling a child something in an age appropriate way and doing so with misinformation which may lead to them not trusting and believing us as they get older. I also think as a parent you know your own children best and only you can work out where that line is.

    • Carie 25/02/2015 at 10:20 pm

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, it’s all a question of judgment – it’ll be interesting to see whether what was right for one of the children isn’t for another, the littlest two are too small to really retain information so it’s mostly a question of judgment for Kitty at the moment.

  • susan 25/02/2015 at 11:04 pm

    Love this post! I don’t think you fibbed at all. You just took a bit of creative license, like every other parent on earth!

    • Carie 28/02/2015 at 8:53 pm

      Hopefully!

  • carlin 26/02/2015 at 1:42 am

    I can totally relate about Father Christmas – I am a terrible liar and it won’t be long until it’s obvious. I suspect they know as much, but I let them guide the magic themselves and follow their lead. (They are 8 now so they are a bit older). I won’t go up against fairies or Santa, but I’m always honest about everything else as much as possible because I just can’t take it (it’s just my thing). Plus all personalities are so different in kids. It sounds like you have a good thing going with your girls.

    • carlin 26/02/2015 at 1:46 am

      And yes to the imagination guiding everything, that’s sort of how we did it too.

    • Carie 28/02/2015 at 8:50 pm

      I know when I was growing up we all got to a point where we all knew that we knew but no one said anything because we just all enjoyed having stockings so much – my sister and I made sure that Father Christmas didn’t forget my parents either and it was a wonderful way to start Christmas!

  • Jess 26/02/2015 at 8:08 am

    Beautiful post Carie, and I’m with you, bending the truth for the sake of some wonderful imaginary play is completely fine. Imagination needs to be nurtured and it sounds like you’re doing a good job of that 🙂

    • Carie 28/02/2015 at 8:48 pm

      Thank you 🙂

  • sally 27/02/2015 at 10:10 pm

    I’m all for imagination and make believe for as long as possible. There was a girl at our school a couple of years ago whose parents were going through a really nasty, acrimonious divorce, and unfortunately the children were very much stuck in the middle of it. I will never forget hearing that the little girl’s Mum had told her that Father Christmas was not real – to prove to her that she was the honest parent and her Dad was the one telling her lies. Such a sad story, and makes me determined to let my children enjoy their own world, full of magic and wonder for as long as possible.

    • Carie 28/02/2015 at 8:28 pm

      Oh that’s so sad! If you ask my husband’s parents now they still won’t tell you anything about Father Christmas – and he’s 34!