I have a relative whose children never experienced Santa Claus because she didn’t feel it was right to lie to them. Don’t worry, she doesn’t read this.
Hmm…interesting approach. Meanwhile Tighe and I feel no such ethical anguish about lying to Nate and Sam.
I mean, don’t get me wrong—I’m brutally honest sometimes. Recently, while listening to the news in the car, Nate asked me what the Supreme Court is. I began, “Well, there are three branches of the federal government: the executive, the judicial, and the legislative—“
“I hope transformers are real.”
“Me too!” Sam shouted from his car seat.
I ignored them and continued my discourse, detailing who makes up each branch, what their various functions are, and how checks and balances works to keep our government useless. Which is fine as far as I’m concerned. I ended with an explanation of why the President’s Supreme Court nominee is such an urgent and significant matter.
I followed up with a basic framework for both sides of the abortion debate and right as I was about to make the logical jump to the topic of euthanasia, I turned around and realized Sam had fallen asleep. Nate was pretending to be asleep.
Which is a shame because I have a lot to say about euthanasia, especially as I approach old age myself.
My point is, we don’t always lie to them. We’ve briefly talked about underage drinking—mostly with Sam, of course—premarital sex, and how sausage is really made.
However, I do believe that a certain degree of fantastical, imaginative thinking is important to a child’s developing brain. So, sometimes, we lie to them.
My favorite lie is that they have super powers.
Well, they don’t have them yet, but they’re in line to inherit them from Tighe. I don’t remember whether this lie was meant as a threat—like, Tighe’s omnipotent, fear him!—or whether we were trying to incentivize some desired behaviors, but the lie has yielded both results.
And before you jump to my defense and say, “Well, what about Erin’s omnipotence? What kind of misogynist patriarchy is this?” let me stop you. I’m The Mom. Thus, my legitimacy as reigning, sovereign authority is unquestioned.
Anyway, back to the propaganda machine. Nate and Sam believe that if they work really hard and they’re always nice to people, they’ll gradually earn these superpowers as Tighe’s will simultaneously recede. It’s a very real transfer of power, but requires no formal ceremony or swearing in.
Consequently, Nate and Sam take two things very seriously: 1) working hard and never giving up and 2) being nice and having a lot of friends.
Both good qualities.
Occasionally they backfire on us. Like, Nate wants me to arrange play dates for him ALL THE TIME. Like, multiple in a day. And for kids we don’t even know. Like the Egyptian kid who shared breadsticks with him on the Staten Island Ferry.
Trust me, if you or your child has never been invited to a play date at our house, it’s only a result of my own laziness, not because Nate hasn’t requested it.
Or last week when Sam and I had a forty-minute battle in which he refused to back down. I won’t go into details of the argument for Sam’s sake—I think I divulged enough about him last week. But, seriously—forty minutes of screaming and tears. Both of us screaming, both of us crying, interspersed with moments of calm, though irrational, dialogue laying out our arguments. He’s relentless, never gives up! No matter how absurd his argument was. And believe me, it was ridiculous. He’s a stubborn guy.
But otherwise, the resolve to work hard and never give up is a great quality. I’ve seen it in Nate on the soccer field. He sprints down the turf with no real direction, puffing out his chest, pumping his arms as hard as possible, lifting those knees, and turning back to giggle with his friends.
And Sam—if he can sit and work on a puzzle, tirelessly, until he puts in the last piece, that’s a win! Those skills are transferrable to learning to read, to practicing the guitar, to learning to golf, to pursuing a love interest. I mean, at some point, we’ll have to teach him that ‘no means no,’ but as Dr. Leo Marvin famously instructed: baby steps.
“Nate, Sam, whoever has the most friends in life wins!” I tell them over and over.
“But what does that mean?” Nate will say.
“It means that you’ll be a lot happier in life if you have a lot of friends and loved ones.”
And so they refer to everyone as their “friends.” It’s kind of endearing. If we’re being totally honest, Nate’s also inclined to hold grudges fiercer than the mafia. It’s usually the result of a miscommunication, but he takes it pretty seriously. It requires a lot of coaching on our part to get him to forgive and forget.
And then he immediately requests a play date with his one-time nemesis.
And he doesn’t give up until he gets it.
All in the name of one day possessing x-ray vision. And super-speed. Perhaps super-strength. Or the ability to fly. Or—I’m hoping—to clean up their Legos in record time.