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July 14, 2020

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When to lie to your children

A mother's musings

By Liz Gordon-Hancock
When is it appropriate to lie to your children?

The reason I'm even asking myself that question is because my father-in-law has severe dementia/Alzheimer's and there are scenarios where lying to him is actually the best thing to do for him, in that moment.

When my father-in-law first went into the nursing home, he was perpetually panicky about the cost of his care and would demand my husband tell him how much was in his bank account. In this case, lying to him was the best thing to do.

So, when is it appropriate to lie to your children?

When they've guessed what you bought them for their birthday, I believe this is an appropriate moment to put on your poker face and tell a lie.

Then there's the tactical lie to avoid an awkward issue: "Didn't you know babies are brought by stork?" 

And when we take the children out to eat, I do often say "The restaurant is out of chocolate milk, so you'll have to drink water." (Or a very discerning waitress will say that for me.)

I'm on the fence about whether to tell the truth concerning what I did with my child's eleventh crayon masterpiece; I recycled it, but I'm tempted to say "I've misplaced it." Other times, I do admit it's in the bin.

But for me, the buck stops with Santa Claus.  I'm gently warning all - my kids might run rough-shod over your carefully laid Christmas magic if you ask "What did you ask Santa Claus for?"

We don't believe in Santa Claus in our household and I do not teach my children about him, his reindeer or the North Pole. (Have you ever actually looked up the North Pole in an atlas? It's in the middle of an ocean - no land in sight!)

I realize I sound like Scrooge to many, but I just can't lie to my children for the first eight or so years of their life.

Don't even get me started on the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. Let's not have a discussion about the Elf on the Shelf either. 

What's wrong with Santa Claus, the elf, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny?  Nothing, except that it involves you lying to your kids, including some fun but clear subterfuge to enable the lie to be continued.

Ever eaten the cookies for Santa? Ever snuck into their bedroom at night to put presents in the stockings or extract a tooth from under their pillow to leave a coin in its place? This is subterfuge. 

My husband snuck into our girls' room to eat the chocolate left for the leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day. My five-year-old had followed a glitter trail left by a leprechaun at preschool that day, so she apparently believed they existed and insisted on putting out chocolate for him so he'd move in to her room. My husband decided it would be fun to play along. So I've totally done it.

Is that why you do Santa Claus? Because it's fun?

We sometimes have to go to great lengths (and spend quite a bit of money) to follow through with this whole Claus scenario.

Am I the only one that thinks this is crazy?

I admit that there is a magic in the Christmas season, and, unlike adults, children are still able to fully, truly believe in magical things. That ability to Believe is a great gift.

However, my children and I can enjoy the whole Christmas season without having a jolly old man in the mix.

Liz Gordon-Hancock, daughter of Bob and Deb Beer, graduated from BHS in 2000. She attended Ohio Northern University, and received her bachelor's in English Literature in 2004. She attends County Line Church of the Brethren.

As part of her studies, she spent her junior year in Wales, United Kingdom, at the University of Wales, Lampeter, where she met her future husband, Robert Gordon-Hancock.

After graduation, she married and moved to London, England. She could hear Big Ben chime the top of the hour from their studio apartment. She commuted on a red, double-decker bus, crossing the River Thames, every weekday for work.

But London was not ideal for raising children, so the Gordon-Hancocks bought a house in Witham, Essex, where they had two children (under free, national healthcare).

After 10 years in the UK, the Gordon-Hancocks moved back to Bluffton to raise their kids in small-town America. They now have three children, Alenah (age 7), Isla (age 6) and Elliot (age 2).