It started with the vegetables.
As soon as my baby was able to chew anything besides my tender bosoms, I shoved as many vegetables into his mouth as I could, cheerfully exclaiming the whole time how incredibly “nom-nom” they were.
It was the first lie I told him.
Vegetables are not, in fact, “nom-nom.” They are horrible. The only reason we humans eat them is so that we live past the age of 24 (or because the restaurant is out of the fried cheese appetizer so we settle instead…sigh…for the fried pickle platter). And yet there I was, putting on an elaborate show about how delicious they were to my 6-month-old.
“Look, Mommy eats them. Nom-nom-nom,” I repeatedly said as I did that optical illusion trick where I turned to the side and made it look like those disgusting mashed peas were going into my mouth (because babies are adorable but extremely dumb).
I lied to him because I didn’t want him to turn out like me, someone who cried the last time she had to eat a tomato (in my defense, I was only 28-years-old). I want him to have a wider palette at the age of 6 than I do at the age of 33.
But this lie, this tiny, little white lie, was just the first of many. Because the sad thing is, childhood is built on a web of lies. A web of lies weaved by the people who are supposed to love the child the most.
It starts innocently enough. Take Santa, for instance. You just want to add to the magic of Christmas, right? Everyone does it. What’s the big deal?
Until the day you realize you are essentially saying, here, kid, sit on the lap of this strange man who reeks of gin while Mommy takes 58 photos with her phone and then pays the nice elf who smells of marijuana $35 for an identical photo while you tell the strange man what you want for Christmas so he can break into our house and leave it under the tree we murdered specifically for the occasion.
And that’s just the beginning. There are so many more lies coming my son’s way.
There’s the tooth fairy. Hey junior, stick that body part that just fell out of you under your pillow so a magical creature can break into our house and purchase it for 25 cents using the honor system (although with the current rate of inflation, my son will likely be getting a check for $200 under his pillow with a note in the memo to please not cash it until next Friday).
And the Easter Bunny, where, the thing is, sweetheart, some super-intelligent rabbit lays eggs and then paints them and hides them and you have to dress up in a turquoise shirt and khakis in order to go find them. And then we all eat ham until we get the meat sweats.
And don’t forget St. Patrick’s Day. See, honey, Grandma is going to babysit you because Mommy and Daddy have to get drunk today to celebrate the birth of the leprechaun. It’s the law.
And as he gets older it’s only going to get worse.
Where do babies come from?
Well, when a mommy and a daddy really love each other, they do a special hug and then mommy hates everyone for nine months and that’s how we got you!
Do girls have cooties?
Yes. Stay away from them until you are 35. Then find a nice one right away and give me 11 grandchildren.
Where do people go when they die?
Who wants to go get ICE CREAM!?!?
Why do I need to learn algebra? I’ll never use it once I graduate.
Don’t be silly. I use algebra every day. For things like…taxes. And…uh…grocery shopping. Why do you think it’s called “pi”? Solve x for “e.” And you get pie. Now shut up and do your homework.
So, are all these lies necessary? Yes. One, because they really do make childhood more magical. Or at least they did for me. Kids don’t care why that strange man wants to give them free toys or why a fairy wants to hoard their tiny body parts or why a rabbit poops eggs to celebrate spring. They just want free toys and free money and free rabbit poop eggs.
Two, they shield kids from important life facts. No one would ever reproduce again if they knew at the age of five what their Daddy was doing to Mommy (or vice versa) during their “special hug.”
But most importantly, we need little white lies to survive as a species. I mean, of course none of us have ever used algebra after high school (unless you’re like a wizard or an engineer, which are the same thing in my book). But if we told kids the truth, then there would be riots in the streets and eventually we would stop teaching algebra until it became like a dead language and that would be the day the aliens invaded and the only way to stop them is to solve that stupid triangle thing. Only no one will remember how to solve it and we all die horrible fiery deaths.
Which is why the first time my son catches me in one of these lies, I’m going to tell him I had to do it for national security reasons.
I’m a patriot, really.