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Why Women Lie to Their Kids

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Smell that? Yeah, it’s my pants on fire.

After becoming a mom, I also became something surprisingly sinister: a liar. And, boy, did I get good at it. I can whip up a nifty half-truth to head off a kid (or hubby) meltdown without batting an eyelash. I can only shrug and look up for lightning.

One trip to the pediatrician’s office spawned a web of lies. In the waiting room, I told another mom how wonderful and easy breastfeeding was. And I quote: “It was bliss from the beginning.” Gag. Why did I even say that? Truth be told, it sucked—literally and figuratively. Then I crossed my fingers behind my back and told my son it was just a quickie checkup (whoops, shot day!). To create the ultimate untruth grandslam, I flat-out lied to the doctor about my daughter’s early dental care—“Why, yes, I do brush that one tiny little baby tooth every morning and night.” I’m not alone here. As moms, we sternly wag our fingers at kid-generated dishonesty but have somehow carved a little clause in the rule book for mommy lies. Hypocrisy? Sure, but there are a number of good reasons we do it.

1. For starters, the magic of childhood would be eliminated without lying. There would be no Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, or Easter Bunny.

2. Lying helps you sidestep a hissy fit. It was easier for me to tell my little ones the park was closing (at 2 p.m.!) than to deal with the complaints or tantrums when it was time to go. Sure, you can call this lazy parenting, but motherhood hits you with so much so fast, sometimes self-preservation trumps integrity.

3. Often, kids aren’t ready for the cold, hard truth. That’s why we say “No, honey, there’s no such thing as the bogeyman,” although we know from watching the news that, sadly, there really is. There are monsters in the world; they just don’t live under our kids’ beds.

Beyond time-savers and innocence preservers, there’s a power that comes along with parenthood that, at first, makes you feel as if you’re above the law. But as the kids get older, you have to come clean and set a good example. I see now that I use a crafty white lie as a pedestal, shield, or crutch too often. I’ve vowed to tell the truth faster. Sure, my parenting skills aren’t perfect, but I’ve realized I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I know I’m a great mom, flaws and all.

Janene Mascarella is polishing off a box of Teddy Grahams and promising not to tell her husband that the kids did it.

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