On a recent trip to the park with my daughter, I saw a human dressed as a soft toy. I see a lot of these at the moment. The sun seems to bring them out. I usually see them at fun days promoting things and giving out balloons, or at the end of a dragon hunt ready to give out hugs. I know they are harmless enough but I have to confess I find them a little unnerving. Not quite on the level of Pennywise the Clown, but creepy nonetheless. I realise they are innocent, and usually very good people, but there is something about them that I just don’t like. Perhaps it is the fact that they are unnaturally happy and have the same levels of energy and joy no matter what time you see them. My kids on the other hand absolutely love humans dressed as soft toys. They rank just a tiny bit below those ride-on machines that are placed outside supermarkets and other such places where, as if the experience of doing the big shop with toddlers isn’t bad enough, there sits a machine outside that will eat your money, give you nothing in return, and is guaranteed to make your child cry when you punctuate the air with the words, “Mummy has no money today”.
So there we were, enjoying our walk through the park. Lovely, sunny day. Crisp air. Picture perfect, a bit like a magazine photo. And then I saw the soft toy person thing. I’m not sure even what it was. My daughter thought Lion, I guessed at Tiger. I saw him first and hoped if I distracted her, my daughter wouldn’t notice. But she noticed in a huge way and we had to go and say Hi. Now, regardless of how creepy I find them, there is no way to explain to a four-year-old why this is and why she can’t go and meet them. So off we went to meet the Lion/Tiger person and have an awkward moment not knowing what to say and then taking pictures. Ultimately I survived but I was secretly pleased when, on our return that way later, he had gone home.
This is one of the situations where I wished I could call upon my bank of acceptable lies. Acceptable lies are those it is okay to tell to very small children because a) They will believe you completely, b) The lie won’t actually hurt them and c) The lie will get you, the grown-up, out of a sticky or generally undesirable situation. And there is a d), which is a bit controversial but basically goes like this – the lie will enrich your child’s life.
Let me give you some examples of acceptable lies.
1. The park is closed.
This is a common lie and is mostly confined to requests to go to the park at tea time, bath time or bed time. It is perfectly OK to use this lie. It makes life much easier than just saying no.
2. You already finished the sweets/chocolate.
This is a handy lie to have available if you have a stash of chocolate in the fridge, say from a time such as Easter, and you are concerned that letting your child eat it all will have a negative effect on their teeth but it is still legally their chocolate, therefore you convince them they have already eaten it. Very small children will believe you. Beware of the sharpness of pre-schoolers though, they are less easily fooled.
3. Your cousin/friend is also going to bed right now.
This one helps if your child is resisting bedtime. If they think their chums are also going to bed at the same time, they may be more likely to comply.
4. ‘On Demand’ TV only works in the afternoon.
As a child, kids TV was on twice a day – cartoons in the morning and The Broom Cupboard after school. There was no choice. We couldn’t put Topsy and Tim on repeat until the theme tune became our ear worm. In today’s modern world of techno-amazingness, my children have become accustomed to swiping their fingers across any screen and being able to request any programme. Our idea of a limit to this is to tell them they have to watch only what is on in a morning and nothing else because the on-demand feature doesn’t work that early.
5. The spider has gone to find his friends and family.
This is for moments when it is completely unavoidable to kill a spider. This may be because the spider landed on the pillow next to you at night and frightened the life out of you. Whatever the reason, there will always be a question from the inquisitive mind of a child about what became of the spider. Unless you want to be seen as a horrible spider-killing monster, you need to use this lie.
I’m sure there are more I use in every day life and there are others I have heard in passing, but have yet to use, such as “The Internet closes at six”. This isn’t to say I spend my time lying to the kids. On the contrary, I try to tell them as many truths as I can and help them learn about what it means to be honest. But the little lies have their purpose whilst the kids are so little and they can help make things just that little less bit easier.
And for anybody reading this and thinking you never lie to your kids, one word – Santa.