I recently wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about my inability to be straight with my daughter about my age. So what? Who cares. Obviously, a lot of people. 691 people to be exact. I was referred to as a "pathetic narcissist" and a "lame-o." One person offered to pray for me. I was taken aback when I read some of the comments. Many thought I was hurting my daughter and this lack of truth will somehow have a profound effect on her. She'll never trust anyone; her self-esteem will be shattered. She will have serious issues with me. She might even lock me out of the house. For good.
I honestly don't believe children need to know everything -- at least not right away. What effect will lying about Santa Claus have on her? Probably none. We used to leave cookies for the man in the red suit and carrots for the reindeer. I wonder who ate the treats? I assured her it was Santa and Rudolph. Eva once wrote a letter to Santa and didn't understand why he didn't write back. I told her he just didn't have time to answer all the letters or maybe because of the recession he had to lay-off some workers. "Huh," she said. I didn't reply to her puzzled look.
One Christmas Eve, we sat together on the couch looking at our beautiful Christmas tree when Eva said something that caught me off-guard.
"I wish I was a Christian," Eva said.
Surprised by this statement, I asked, "you're not a Christian?"
"No," she replied.
"Well then, what are you?"
"I'm Jewish," she told me.
I turned and gazed at the brightly lit tree, the presents wrapped with bows, the Christmas cards on display and a poinsettia on the dining room table. I looked back at her and said, "OK, fine you're Jewish, but I'm Catholic and so is your father, so I'll make a quick call to the North Pole and cancel your gifts. No need to exhaust Santa." Not until I sent her to catechism did she realize the fundamental differences. I wonder if that exchange on Christmas Eve will somehow come back to haunt me. I don't think she still believes in Santa, but she might or she might just act like he exists in order to get everything on her list.
How about the tooth fairy? I'm sure this lie will cause me grief later in life. I never told her the tooth fairy didn't exist. After losing her first tooth I told her to put it under the pillow and the tooth fairy will fly into her room wearing a pink tutu and leave her a little something under her pillow. She did. She left $5.00 and a note congratulating Eva and telling her to keep flossing and to use her fluoride rinse. Eva did remark the tooth fairy used the same stationary I keep in my desk. I pretended I didn't hear her. When the second tooth fell out she decided to leave a note of her own for the tooth fairy and place it under her pillow. "Please can you give my 100$," her cryptic note read. She got $1.00 and I told her it was because the tooth fairy doesn't fly around with $100.00 bills. Plus, the tooth fairy likes to see children use decimal points. One day while in my bedroom, I heard Eva yelling.
Why is there a bag of teeth in your drawer?" she asked. "
Why are you going through my drawers?" I scolded. That didn't work. Eva was standing there holding up a Ziploc bag with not only her teeth, but the note she left asking for 100 bucks. I was busted. There, in her hand, was evidence the tooth fairy is a big, fat lie. Now what? Is she damaged for life? Some well-educated shrink will have the task of repairing my emotionally dysfunctional daughter.
Eva is now a 10-year-old. I've been twisting the truth since she started bombarding me with questions. Sometimes she gets the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sometimes she gets a version of the truth and sometimes, depending on the question, she gets nothing. I have never said to her "none of your business," but sometimes it really isn't any of her business.
When I was laid-off from my job I didn't feel it was necessary to tell her my worries and how things might change. When her father was laid-off, she cried and asked me if everything would be alright. I lied and told her everything will be fine. Under certain circumstances, is there really a choice?
A few weeks ago we were heading home from school and she asked me, "what's an abortion?" I couldn't believe it. How do I explain something so complex so it makes sense to her? What am I going to say? Well Eva, it's like this. You're young and dumb and your loser boyfriend doesn't use a condom and you get knocked-up. You decide that you made a mistake so you round up some cash and find a clinic that will perform the abortion. In other words, they get rid of it. She was looking at me for an answer, but I couldn't do it. All I could do was give her a little bit of useless information and hope that it satisfies her curiosity.
"Well Eva, it's like this. When a woman is pregnant she has to go to the doctor on a regular basis. The doctor is always checking to make certain the baby is OK. Sometimes there are problems and the doctor, mommy and daddy decide it's best not to have the baby."
What the hell does that really mean? I thought to myself. I was caught off-guard and did a lousy job of twisting the truth. Fortunately for me, she didn't have any follow-up questions and seemed satisfied with this bizarre explanation.
No doubt as Eva gets older I will be faced with some interesting and tough questions, but I know I will not always be truthful. When she asks me, "Did you ever smoke pot/cigarettes" and "Did you ever drink before you turned 21?" I can honestly say I will be dishonest and tell her "No," "No," and "Never."