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