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Lies I've told my three year old recently.
April 9, 2008 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Lies I've told my three year old recently.
posted by boo_radley (219 comments total) 137 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's cute, and I like it. But I dispute the 'lie' in this one:

Tiny bears live in drain pipes.


Tiny bears do live in drain pipes. They are called raccoons, and if you feed them, they grow up to become giant grizzlies.

Or so I've told my neighbors kids.
posted by quin at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


Nice, but I find the lies my (former) three year old told far more creative and entertaining than the list of the lies I told them.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I will never do this to my children. It's always possible to present things as a "funny story" or "using your imagination" rather than as the truth about the universe. Childhood is confusing enough as it is.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:00 AM on April 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


Yea, I guess the difference is between using a creative analog and just creating fiction. Though, for a three year old I am not sure whether it makes too much of a difference.
posted by socalsamba at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2008


my favourite: pigs can see air
posted by tawny at 11:05 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with East Manitoba Reg...*gasp*...ional Junior Kaba...*gasp*...ddi Cham...*gasp*...pion '94. *pause*

Although sometimes I'll say something like that but then hold my face ultra still and innocent so they have a chance of figuring it out. But not with a three year old. That's just mean.
posted by DU at 11:05 AM on April 9, 2008


My uncles used to torture us children by pointing at everyday objects and referring to them by wrong names. As in, you point to the neighborhood dog and go, "See that, Timmy? That's an elephant. Can you say elephant? ELL-eh-fant. Good boy!"

I grew to hate those fuckers with the white-hot passion of a million burning suns.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:06 AM on April 9, 2008 [23 favorites]


CPB: yeah, that's a bit much. I like the fairy tale atmosphere of this list, though.
posted by boo_radley at 11:09 AM on April 9, 2008


I will always be there.

Oh, knock it off.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:09 AM on April 9, 2008 [14 favorites]


Tiny bears do live in drain pipes.

Reality can sometimes amaze you...
posted by mr_roboto at 11:10 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Boy, the trees are really sneezing today.
posted by mhoye at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2008 [20 favorites]


My uncle once told me when I was very young that his hearing-aids were actually radios that he listened to music on.

Years and years later, even though I knew what hearing aids were and the purpose for them, I didn't make the connection that those hearing-aid-like things in my uncle's ear were actual hearing-aids until I was something like 12 or 13 years old. It was a real face-palm moment.

So be careful with the young ones; at the very least don't tell them anything that they're likely to bring up in conversation many years later. I can't imagine what it'd have been like for me if the realization had occurred as the result of someone correcting me after I brought it up.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2008


My daughter, nine, sleeps in; I like to get up and be in front of the computer working by four or five a.m. Last weekend when I was putting her to bed she looked at me and said "Dad, I want to get up really early tomorrow morning like you and we can go for a walk—I've never seen what it was like outside that early." Then she told me she knew that when the morning came she would be asleep and I would decide not to disturb her, so she made me promise to wake her up no matter what.

Six-thirty the next morning, I gently nudge her shoulder as she sleeps. Her eyes open and she hits the ground running—the next thing I know she's got her coat on. "Hurry up, Dad, it's getting light!"

So we step outside, and she's amazed, first of all, that there aren't any cars (except a few taxis) or people (except some street people). We live in the West End of Vancouver so we decide to walk down to the water at English Bay and along the seawall for a bit. I'm amused that she's so amazed at the difference between this time of the day and when she's normally up, so I start making up lies: "Do you know that early in the morning like this the animals can talk?". I proceed to give a crow sitting on a lamppost a jaunty "Good Morning to you Sir!" as we pass. This gets an eye roll, because it's not like she's five and is just going to believe everything I say. Then I start making up tales about people on the seawall handing out free porridge to all the early risers. Another eye roll, but she is, as usual, moderately amused by her old man.

Then she stops and stands on the seawall, still and quiet, then says she can't believe how "smooth the water is." I agree and try to make up some kind of lie to fit the situation but nothing comes.

Next thing we know this huge, and I mean huge—it must have been forty pounds—raccoon streaks across the grass in front of us. And there are about five crows chasing it, making a hell of a racket, and they're taking turns dive-bombing it. Must be some thing that happens between crows and raccoons, but I've never seen anything like it. They chase the raccoon, who's running like hell, to the road and across it; a car screeches to a halt, narrowly avoiding hitting it. The raccoon disappears in the alley behind a hotel.

She looks at me, and I look at her. "See?," I tell her, "I told you things were different in the morning."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:12 AM on April 9, 2008 [268 favorites]


Um, that was adorable and then heartbreaking. NSFW tag, plz, 'cause crying don't fly here on the fifth floor.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Little men live inside the radio and play the music.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2008


(Regarding CitrusFreak's grandfather's hearing aid radios): I'm sure I just read a memoir somewhere in which the kid, watching his grandfather take out his teeth one night, asks about it, and the grandfather tells him everyone can do it, you just have to know how to unlatch the hook. Which the kid spends the next several years trying to figure out how to do, the grandfather never setting him straight.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Aw that is so sweet.
You are such a super dad.
posted by Flashman at 11:21 AM on April 9, 2008


When I was about 4 I asked my mother what she looked like as a baby, and she told me "oh I've always looked like this." I'm sure she was just being flippant, but I accepted the statement at face value and to this day I picture my mother as a 22" long version of her adult self as a newborn.
posted by nax at 11:22 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


So be careful with the young ones; at the very least don't tell them anything that they're likely to bring up in conversation many years later.

These can be some of the funniest and most memorable moments for the kid when they grow up, though! My partner loves to tell the story of how her grandfather told her that you can tell the temperature of frozen water by what colour it is. As an early teen, she drove past a waterfall in the middle of town with some friends and remarked that the ice must be super cold because it was green and purple. Really, it was those colours because of the chemical runoff from the local pulp mill. She was super embarrassed at the time, but it's now a story she tells when she's thinking about how much she loves her grandpa.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:22 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Somebody quick call Dave Eggers and let him know that his schtick has escaped.
posted by felix betachat at 11:22 AM on April 9, 2008 [12 favorites]


I do this all the time. See that big hill? That's where the giant is buried. That sort of thing.

I figure it's good for my daughter's brain. Stretch it a little.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:24 AM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Related: Children's Movie (and life) Spoilers, such as, "That's not really the last cookie."
posted by ericbop at 11:26 AM on April 9, 2008


If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.


I want so bad to believe this.
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:27 AM on April 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


Hmm, I remember that my mom used to tell me stuff that was 'wrong' when I was little, but it seems like once I learned the actual thing the 'wrong' version simply got canceled disappeared from memory, like a dream. The only specific think I remember was mom saying that the week started on Monday, rather then Sunday, because for a long time I was thinking that the week did end on Monday, then thinking it could be either or depending.

But it always seemed like the ones I forgot were more exotic.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is the world not wonderful enough on its own that awe must be consciously manufactured?
posted by Jpfed at 11:29 AM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


yeah, it's a really fine line between silliness and teasing. My sense from raising my two girls is this ends up being a really good way to reinforce that your responses to questions aren't to be trusted. Kids ask enough questions that have nearly unbelievable correct answers that giving them periodic bullshit messages seems stupid. When I see friends or relatives say ridiculous things to my seven year old I cringe, mostly because I can tell she's feeling a mixture of irritation and embarrassment. She likes knowledge, and hates wasting her time. Nonsense talk isn't cute to me since I had kids of my own.

Turtles - I just started my seven year old on skiing. Bar none the best part of the whole day for her is being up before light in the car watching the rest of the world wake up. If you like the early am, chance are she's going to follow you as well in that habit.
posted by docpops at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


adorable.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2008


Even as much as I adore the truth and reality adn not lying to kids, I don't see much harm in cultivating a little iamgination, as long as you're being reasonable. Almost every "lie" I told my son, I ended up correcting within minutes. He now takes some of what I say skeptically, which is fine. He should process before accepting what people tell him anyway.
posted by grubi at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Young daughter: Daddy-O, what's a soul?
Daddy-O: It's a type of fish.

Evasive but not untruthful. 20+ years later, she still remembered this conversation.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:33 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


The smoke that came out of our electric choo-choo train was made by little dwarves smoking cigars inside the locomotive.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:33 AM on April 9, 2008


You know what else is a lie? The cake.
posted by The Bellman at 11:36 AM on April 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


When I was four or five, I asked my dad why birds sitting on electrical wires didn't get electrocuted. He told me it was because they wore tiny, rubber-soled sneakers. To this day, I picture pigeons in teeny tiny Chucks.
posted by rtha at 11:38 AM on April 9, 2008 [12 favorites]


I don't know. When you're that young everything is magic. It doesn't take an adult telling you these things to dream them up. The trees talking to one another and the clouds rubbing the sky and all fish being either Jack or Lorna makes perfect sense to a young child with a vivid imagination.

When I think back on some of the "lies" my parents told me I am grateful that they sparked my imagination and allowed me to see the world in a different way.

Plus, they become these sweet little secrets that you take with you as you get older. I remember my father telling me me that geese head south for the winter to sun themselves on the beach and they honk the whole way because their luggage is so heavy. Now whenever I hear geese in the sky it really brings home memories of my father and this silly little thing that we shared.
posted by LeeJay at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


My father routinely did this to me as a child.

For years I believed that in England there were 8 days in the week. I remembering puzzling over what that eighth day was called and what happened when they went somewhere else. Never ask my Dad to explain a Beatles song.

In 1980, I was in first grade during the presidential election. In an attempt to participate in the experience, the kids were going around asking each other what political party they were. For some bizarre reason, they were asking asking "what religion are you?". Not knowing the answer, I asked my dad. I spent the next few days answering these questions with: "Anarchist" and "Neo-Olympian, you know, Zeus".

I'm not sure if I'll do the same to my daughter (she's only 2 now), but I can say for sure it's a great way to raise a cynic.
posted by malphigian at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2008 [21 favorites]


Lies To Tell Small Children
posted by Artw at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, be careful about what lies you tell your kids. I'm looking at you, Santa Claus and Jesus.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2008 [12 favorites]


malphigian has an awesome dad.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


...awe must be consciously manufactured

This is an unforgivable slur against imagination.

I would physically confront you, but I can't find my way out from under this mountain of pandas.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:41 AM on April 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


Also, cute kid.
posted by oddman at 11:41 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you pull the lever on a that box (fire alarm) candy will come out.
You can save farts in a lunch bag and use them later
posted by Gungho at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


You can save farts in a lunch bag and use them later

This is true.
posted by LeeJay at 11:44 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


My dad's standard answer to any question of mine beginning with "Why...?" was: "To make little boys ask questions!"

Love ya, Dad!
posted by LordSludge at 11:44 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I told my two kids they were adopted and taken from orphanage. If they did't behave, they could be sent back.
posted by Postroad at 11:44 AM on April 9, 2008


"Because you touch yourself at night"
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My dad had me convinced that Nixon was in trouble because he stole towels from the Watergate.

This made my recent American history course in college quite embarrassing.
posted by DenOfSizer at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


I agree with East Manitoba Reg...*gasp*...ional Junior Kaba...*gasp*...ddi Cham...*gasp*...pion '94. *pause*

The fact that you had to take so many breaths to say that only proves you would suck at Kabaddi, DU.

Now, back to my training...Kabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddikabaddi
posted by piratebowling at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


My four year old son, through his fascination with Lego, has come to be a huge Star Wars fan, despite not being old enough to see the movie (After months of nagging me, I let him try to watch the movie once. He got to the part where the Jawas capture R2D2 and he turned to me and said "Daddy, this is for older kids.")

Because of this, he's decided that every decision he makes needs the approval of Luke Skywalker.

"Daddy, does Luke Skywalker eat apples?"

"Daddy, does Luke Skywalker go to school?"

"Daddy, does Luke Skywalker wipe his behind?"

Of course, if I want him to do it, the answer is always yes. It's also works in reverse. Luke Skywalker would never hit his friends, tease the dog, or play with his poop.

And all I can say is Thank you Luke Skywalker.
posted by cjets at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2008 [93 favorites]


Also, this.
posted by ericbop at 11:47 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


When my niece was little, I convinced her that I had magic bandaids and a pen with magic medicine in it. It was just a silver metallic pen, but when she would do something to hurt herself, I'd get out a magic bandaid and carefully draw a smiley face or a heart on the top with the magic pen as she watched. Then I'd put the bandaid wherever she hurt and instantly her pain and tears were all gone.

Man, I miss magic bandaids.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:49 AM on April 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


My buddy's kid: "Dad, do penises have birthdays?"

My buddy: "...? Well, your penis is a part of your body, and your birthday was the day your body was born, so yeah, I guess penises do have birthdays."

My buddy's kid: "..."

My buddy: "..."

My buddy's kid: "But they don't have cake."
posted by middleclasstool at 11:50 AM on April 9, 2008 [46 favorites]


If you unscrew your bellybutton, your butt will fall off.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Lucy Van Pelt did this better.
posted by aswego at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


We told our kids when they were three or four that my wife and I were Sonny and Cher and recorded "I've got you Babe" after singing it in the car on a roadtrip along with the radio. They're seven now and still believe we had a recording career before they came along. Should probably set them straight pretty soon.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:53 AM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


now, not to be a downer on your fabulism party or anything, but it occurs to me that to a youth, any "truths about the world" we tell them will be interpreted similarly, which is to say "without context". The novelty is more "Lies I tell to myself with my daughter" than anything else
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 11:53 AM on April 9, 2008


I've admired friends who do this, but I found, in bringing up a child, that I usually told what I thought was consensual reality/scientific truth in answering her questions. Truth is just as remarkable as fairy tales, anyway. These explanations have certainly not impaired her creativity: she is a remarkable teenage artist now.

However, the Catholics call some untruths "lies of omission," and I sure told her a lot of those, wanting her to believe the world was a wonderful place full of love and things always get better and better.
posted by kozad at 11:55 AM on April 9, 2008


My nieces believe in the Christmas vampire, who chases Santa every Christmas Eve. He can never quite seem to catch Santa, so all he ever drinks is the milk that Santa leaves behind. That, and Sprite.

I also told them that I had Jesus's number on speed dial, but that he never called me back when I left a message.
posted by cog_nate at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


My favorite that I tell my boys is that I can blink so fast, they can't even see it.

But the best "lies" come from those exchanged between my 6 year old and his friends:

"Vampire bats live in my closet."

"I watch you when you're sleeping."
posted by Brocktoon at 11:59 AM on April 9, 2008


With the assistance of Finding Nemo, my three-year-old believes the blobby creature with stingers is called a "jellyman", said with a vaguely California surfer-dude accent. I should correct him, but I figure it can wait a couple more years. Shark bait, ooh ha ha.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of the Ethan Canin story, Emperor Of The Air. Guy overhears his schlubby neighbor and boy in the next door yard at night. Kid is asking all about the different constellations and dad is making up names for each one. For some reason I just can't imagine any good coming of telling your kids nonsense if they're old enough to hear the actual answer without being upset or confused.
posted by docpops at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2008


@Cool Papa Bell: May I mambo dogface to the banana patch, please?
posted by hanov3r at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is the world not wonderful enough on its own that awe must be consciously manufactured?
posted by Jpfed at 11:29 AM on April 9

This is an unforgivable slur against imagination.

...
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:41 AM on April 9


It is possible to use ones imagination to explore what is realistic, rather than either going off into fairyland or shutting it off to concentrate on what is already real. The realm of realistic possibility is pretty amazing and wonderful, even if it is devoid of magic.
posted by Jpfed at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2008


I usually tell me daughter the truth, especially when the truth is either interestingly complex or interestingly implausible. But every so often I lie to her outrageously. When I was little, my dad told me that tapioca pudding was made with fish eggs. You know, those little blobs in tapioca? It was incredibly plausible. So plausible that I wasn't convinced otherwise until college, and even that took some research before I'd really believe it. But am I mad at my father for this? Hell no. What kind of humorless asshole would you have to be to get mad about that? I'm actually sort of impressed -- my dad was not a big joker, as a rule.

Sort of on the same note, the Easter baskets appeared on Easter morning this year as usual. And she looked at us and said "Did the easter bunny bring these?" We both said "of course he did." She thought about it for a minute, and then said, "I think the Easter Bunny is Mommy."

That's my girl.
posted by rusty at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


But I really do have eyes in the back of my head.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shit I've been doing this to gullible friends and classmates since I was about six. I fear for my kids.
posted by Skorgu at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2008


Call me gullible. Those aren't lies, they're magical mini myths handed down from one generation to the next.
posted by not_on_display at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


I must be a boring dad. I always answer my daughter's questions as truthfully and completely as possible.

I make sure to work in as many awful puns as I can though, so she'll probably always wonder why Mommy laughs whenever Daddy answers a question.
posted by lekvar at 12:13 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


When my son was about two we were watching a free concert on the town common. He had a bag of pretzels (as required by law for two year olds) and I grabbed a couple without him knowing and then proceeded to “pick” them off a tree. I explained that it was a pretzel tree and if he came back later in the summer it would be growing those big, soft pretzels you buy from the carts.

Now he’s almost six and whenever we’re at the park he still asks me about the pretzel tree. I’m not sure if he’s just playing along of if he’s really scarred for life, but I don’t have the heart to tell him.

I’m a good dad, I really am. I just slipped up that once.
posted by bondcliff at 12:16 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


My dad used to tell me and my sister that he was going to move to Thailand and sell us.

I didn't believe him because I thought no one would want to buy me.

It's less cute than everyone elses I guess...
posted by emperor.seamus at 12:16 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sadness can be eaten.

So true. That's why I weight over 400 pounds. So...much...sadness...
posted by NoMich at 12:16 PM on April 9, 2008 [15 favorites]


I make stuff up for my kid only when he knows I'm making it up.

Except the part about the corrupting influence of out-of-control consumerism and how, as a corollary, all advertising is evil and has no interest in you or your pleasure or interests or even if you like the toy, they just want your money in fact, when it comes to those restaurants they don't even care if the food makes you sick. It actually isn't even food but just an opportunistic theft of your money for something that tastes vaguely like food but in the end will only make you sad and unhappy.

I also tell them that the candy out of the 'machines' is terrible: periodically I buy them 'real' candy that tastes good, just so they know they aren't missing anything.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Daddy drinks because you cry.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2008


If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.
Everyone knows at least one secret language.
We are all held together by invisible threads.


But all these are true! How deep does this go?!

My favorite lying-to-the-3-year-old story thus far:

Scene-setting: a box of donuts were bought that morning. Children had received their authorized donut ration until unspecified later, to be determined by parental units.

Buddy's kid: Uncle Drastic, where are the donuts?

Me: I ate them all.

Buddy's kid: Noooo!

My friends have bright kids, which makes them more fun to harmlessly lie at.

posted by Drastic at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2008


My told me his middle initial, L., stood for Lucifer.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2008


Should've previewed. Using <> tags for stage directions is a bad idea. I must be new to the web. Aforementioned "nooo!" was preceded by long thoughtful stare at me, followed by a lightbulb flash and huge grin on the kid's part.
posted by Drastic at 12:20 PM on April 9, 2008


Telling lies to children can be fun and effective. Once we dining on the patio of a Mexican restaurant. These two little free range hellions were running all over the place and chasing birds while their mother was obliviously having an adult conversation with her friend. I stopped the kids for a second and told them in a confidential manner "You know, if you put salt on a bird's tail, he won't be able to fly and you can catch him!" They ran around the patio, salt shakers in hand, chasing the grackles. Finally their mother reined them in, giving me a dirty look. I just laughed and went back to my tacos.
posted by Daddy-O at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


The sound coming from the bathroom is mommy laughing.
posted by Flashman at 12:23 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


My step kids were aged ten and five when I married their mother. Unfortunately, during that time in their life, I was deep in the throes of active alcoholism. So I have little, if any memory of what I said to them. It's almost certain, in various stages of inebriation, that I at least exaggerated, if not outright fictionalized. One of my regrets in life is that I will never get that time back ... to give them a sober step father, and to remember our interaction.

Having said that, I will never forget something my stepdaughter said to me many years later after she was a mother herself, and I had been sober for ten years and divorced from her mother. She said, "you always taught us to do the right thing." Whether she was pulling my leg, or I actually got something right, I completely filled with emotion. I will remember that the rest of my days.
posted by netbros at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wait; tapioca is not made with fish eggs?
posted by yhbc at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


And when I was a child of about five I asked my father why there were cat's eyes on the road (raised glowing disks imbedded in the road to mark lanes). He told me it was so the blind people could drive without swerving into on-coming traffic. I accepted that as fact until I was in my early twenties (including repeating it to friends). Recently however, reading Cock-Eyed, a biography of a man who lost his vision so slowly he didn't realise it was going, that he used the thump-thump of the cat's eyes under his tyres as his way of staying in his lane because he couldn't see the road.
posted by saucysault at 12:26 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


So be careful with the young ones; at the very least don't tell them anything that they're likely to bring up in conversation many years later.

When I was in pre-school or kindergarten, my mother was brought in to identify why when all the other kids repeated the poem correctly, I said:

Little Miss Muffet,
Sat on her tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
So she beat the hell out of the bug
with the spoon.


It never occurred to my mom, that I would repeat the rhyme as she had taught it to me.

To this day, I am convinced that it is a superior version.
posted by quin at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2008 [53 favorites]


Metafilter: Those aren't lies, they're magical mini myths
posted by MrVisible at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is possible to use ones imagination to explore what is realistic, rather than either going off into fairyland or shutting it off to concentrate on what is already real. The realm of realistic possibility is pretty amazing and wonderful, even if it is devoid of magic.

I only bristle at your contempt for nonreality and the needless limitation of wondering thoughts. Why should one distinction have to invalidate the other?

Hard...to breathe...so...fuzzy!
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2008


Sometimes kids won't believe the truth anyway. True story. I'm in a taxi with my niece, who is five, and my sister (her mother).

Niece: Were there dinosaurs when you were little?
Me: No the dinosaurs were all gone a long time before that.
N: Before Grandma was little even?
M: Yes, even before Grandma was little.

[Pause as five year-old tries to imagine such a time]

N: What happened to them?
M: (Glancing at my sister to determine where to go with this) Well, I don't really know for sure, but a lot of people think that a big meteor came down and hit the Earth and made a lot of dust, so the sun couldn't shine on the Earth and the plants couldn't grow, so the dinosaurs didn't have anything to eat . . . so . . . (again a glance at my sister).
Sister: (deciding to make it a teaching moment) So the dinosaurs were all gone and the small furry mammals took over, and after a very long time, the small furry mammals turned into YOU!

[Five year old is not buying this for a second.]

N: HOW did they turn into me?
S: Well, you know, you were my baby, right, but you're a little different from me, right?
N: (Warily - is this a trap?) Mmmhmmmm?
S: Well their babies were a little different from them and THEIR babies were a little different and each little difference built up and finally the babies were like people.

[Another lengthy pause. The taxi driver is now curious about how this will end.]

N: Okay, maybe, but I think maybe a good wizard came and turned all the little furry mammals into people.
S: (Not missing a beat) Yes. Well, a lot of people think that . . . but I don't think so.
posted by The Bellman at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2008 [93 favorites]


He got to the part where the Jawas capture R2D2 and he turned to me and said "Daddy, this is for older kids."
posted by cjets at 11:46 AM on April 9 [7 favorites -] [!]

Your son is smarter than most of the people I work with. Also, the 'Skywalker decision tree' seems like a fairly good way for kids to make decisions.
posted by Nabubrush at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2008


hanov3r on the Steve Martin reference: nice!
posted by grubi at 12:37 PM on April 9, 2008


When I was about five, my dad and I went to visit one of his childhood friends. We were all puttering around outside and I caught a frog --- my first one! I showed my dad, who approved. I showed his friend, who asked to see the frog. I handed it to him; he popped it in his mouth, chewed a few times, and swallowed. I was awed, disgusted, and furious.

Ten years later, a teenage me telling this story suddenly realized that maybe the frog had been surreptitiously tossed rather than eaten. The world shrank a little.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


When my daughter was 5 she asked me, "Really, now, Dad -- where do the Easter baskets come from?" By her question I figured the jig was up, and I've always considered this most egregious of the childhood lies we tell. So I fessed up: "It's me and Mom, hon. We fill the baskets and set them out in the morning."

She burst out laughing - "No, Dad, for real? Where do they really come from?" At five she knew how unlikely it was that her Mom and I could pull off that level of organization and logistics. I confessed again, explaining about the six foot tall bunny that brings baskets to every kid in the world the night before Easter. That she bought.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:39 PM on April 9, 2008 [16 favorites]


Honestly, I don't just pull this stuff with kids though. I'm an equal opportunity smart ass. In high school, I convinced my friend Heather (affectionately nicknamed "Airhead" by her friends) that there were three kinds of potatoes: the ones that grow in the ground (generally used for baked potatoes); the ones that grow on a bush (those are better for fries) and... wait for it... the tater tot tree. That she clearly bought it for a while was a giant source of astonishment to me.

Years later I caught up with her and she was getting her Masters in Political Science, clearly no longer an airhead. I was totally gobsmacked that it was the same person. We had a good laugh over the tater tot tree, though.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2008


For those who find fault with parents telling their children tales, I would remind you that the truth can be far, far harder to deal with, and indeed can be far more damaging.

When my daughter was very young (3 or 4), for instance, she asked me if the Earth would always be around. At that time, I was adamant that I would not lie to her about anything so almost instantly I replied, "well, no. Eventually, the sun will get bigger and bigger and after awhile it will destroy the whole Earth, just burn it all up".

She was understandably upset by this news (to say nothing of my wife's reaction), and so I ended up inventing all kinds of ridiculous ways to save Earth from doom. Towing it further from the Sun with long cables was what finally convinced her everything would be alright, as I recall.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


What is wrong with you people? What on earth is deceitful about encouraging the growth of imagination in your children?

I have always been a wildly imaginative child and I shudder to think how less developed my creative mind would be if my parents didn't deign to teach me about the wonders of the world before me.

Have any of you read any folklore, any mythology? It's like that, only on a smaller and more personal scale.
posted by nonmerci at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mmm, tater tot tree. I'm picturing a tractor sprinkler rumbling between the rows of trees, squirting delicious ketchup on all the tot fruit.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:47 PM on April 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


When I was small, we used to have this little plastic dancing santa decoration that would get put on display at Christmas time. Santa had one foot perpetually in the air. My Dad used to tell me that when I left the house, Santa would put his foot down, but would lift it back up again when I came back in. I would apparently step out of the door, then rush back in, to see if I could catch him. I resolved there and then that I would try not to tell ridiculous lies to little children.

Instead, when my nieces want me to read them a book they've read a million times before, I'll "reinterpret" the pictures. A tree becomes a gigantic piece of broccoli, etc. They love it, and even get into the act themselves. It's so much more fun when you do the imagining together.
posted by LN at 12:51 PM on April 9, 2008


My mom always told me I was her favorite child but not to ever tell the other 6 children because their feelings would be so hurt. I grew up feeling special. When I was an adult, I found out she told each of us that, and everyone believed it. We still believe it.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:52 PM on April 9, 2008 [13 favorites]


My fourth grade teacher told me that Judy Garland was 59 years old when she starred in The Wizard of Oz. I believed it for years, and convince many of my friends that it was true.
posted by trip and a half at 12:52 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


My grandfather used to tell us that he couldn't read.

I believed him for years. It was completely plausible, and I didn't want to take the chance of embarrassing him if it was true.

When I was a kid, I thought telling silly fibs to children was mean. Now I think it's hilarious. I must be getting old.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 12:53 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


convinced
posted by trip and a half at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2008


Now when I tell my son something true but weird, he'll often pause, look at me and say "Really?"
posted by mecran01 at 12:55 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


When my oldest daughter first heard about Santa at my in-laws house (we're Jewish, they're Christian), she said "Wait a minute - some guy's going to break in the house while we're sleeping?"

After my kids discovered that their mom was the tooth fairy, I told them that there *is* a tooth fairy, but that she works though parents (which I actually believe).
posted by jasper411 at 12:58 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


My grandfather used to do this, and had such great deadpan delivery that we all bought into it until a much later age than we had any right doing so. I'm an excellent whistler, because on car trips the windows would only roll up and down if you whistled at them; the Christmas tree would only light up if you sang carols to it; one of my cousins once got into a schoolyard scrap because no one believed that her grandpa was one of the original Beach Boys; my sister and I independently believed that mile markers on highways were relics of a decades-old intercontinental bicycle race.

You just don't see that kind of twisted sense of humor anymore. Myself, I plan to play the part of Calvin's dad (sunset in Flagstaff, Arizona, anyone?) for as long as I can get away with it.
posted by Mayor West at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


When I was four, I was an extremely ticklish child. I started school and all the kids would tickle me senseless, to the point of wetting my pants a few times. So I came home from school really upset and told my dad about it. He slapped his forehead and said, "Damn! I forgot to turn your tickle button off! I meant to do that before you started school." He quickly reached around the back of my head and gently pressed a spot at the base of my skull and made a "Donk" noise. He then told me that every body comes with a tickle button and only Daddies can turn them off and I'd never be ticklish anymore unless I wanted to be. The next day, despite many attempts, I was not ticklish and could not be tickled.

Almost thirty years later, I'm still not ticklish.

of course I just realized how very pervy the tickle button thing sounds now. D'oh.
posted by teleri025 at 1:06 PM on April 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


That salt on a bird's tail lie kept me in the backyard busy (and quiet) all summer one year, and all it cost my dad was a box of Morton's. Wonder if it would work on the hyper neighbor kid?
posted by figment of my conation at 1:09 PM on April 9, 2008


I do this all the time, to everybody. The magnetic steel plate in my head that allows me to stick quarters, nickels, and dimes (but not pennies, of course) to my forehead. The time I spent with the circus/on Soul Train/as a roadie with Black Sabbath. It backfires, though--my wife still doesn't believe that I was in the Presbyterian Secret Agents. I was. I swear it. A founding member, actually.

On the other hand, I believed until I was 35 that my parents had sent my childhood dog to live with a nice family on a farm. It took a "Friends" re-run to set me straight.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:10 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Calvin's Dad was great at this (Some of the links are broken)

This is one of the reasons I want to have kids.
posted by jpdoane at 1:10 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My uncle used to stick feathers, quill tip down, into the ground and tell me that's how bird's were made.

So I planted hundreds of them and the skies seemed filled with my creations that summer.
posted by brautigan at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2008 [10 favorites]


This thread is fantastic. It almost makes me wish I had a kid so I could tell them a bunch of tall tales.
posted by LeeJay at 1:23 PM on April 9, 2008


Santa prefers beer.

And if you eat enough carrots, you can see in the dark.
posted by juliplease at 1:31 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


MrMoonPie: Packers Tell Fans They Gave Favre to a Nice Farm Family.
posted by yhbc at 1:31 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was maybe seven I found a newt in the garden. As a huge animal fan, I wanted to keep it as a pet. My parents assured me that I shouldn't put it in a jar but that if I left it where I found it that it would still be there in the morning because that was its home. I believed them. Next day I spent hours hunting for it but it was gone. I never trusted my parents again! I'm not sure if they were concerned for the welfare of the newt or just didn't want me bringing another animal into the house.

As a general thing, I don't like teasing kids or dogs or other trusting little beings, or the kind of telling lies to make some gullible person later look/feel like an idiot that Borat specializes in. That is different from sharing fantasies with kids I guess? Is it?
posted by binturong at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2008


Does it count that until I was in my twenties I thought you had to throw the coins into the basket at the tollbooth (pre-EZ Pass) one at a time for the gate to go up? In reality, it was just my Dad hoping to catch a break from whoever might have previously overfed the basket.

I'll never get those extra two minutes per bridge back, but that's OK. I'm a cheap bastard too, now. I love you, Dad.
posted by ericbop at 1:36 PM on April 9, 2008


One of life's great, pure joys is lying to children. It's up there with making faces at them when their parents can't see.
posted by klangklangston at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


yhbc: Of course it is. But now all these people reading this thread think it isn't. Awesome, or what? Now that's how you lie to kids.
posted by rusty at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2008



This thread is fantastic. It almost makes me wish I had a kid so I could tell them a bunch of tall tales.


Seriously. Me and Mrs. Bartfast have been on the fence for years about kids but have been talking lots more about it lately. You people may have just pushed us over.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sitting on the rocky beach of an Ozark stream I pick up a flat rock and sneakily break it in half by pounding it with another rock. Then I put the two pieces back together and tell my 4 yr old grandaughter to "watch this." Then I tap the rock against my head and it breaks.

Astonished at first she mentally reviewed our history and asked if it was a trick. I confessed that it was and she was so charmed it's now an annual ritual.
posted by wrapper at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's raining because your sins make God cry.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2008


My story is your standard Santa Claus story. I was about four one Christmas eve when my parents woke me and my sister up at 4 am.

"Hey did you hear that? What's out there? Are those sleigh bells? Let's get up and look."

I had *no idea* the old man in the costume was my grandfather, not even when he asked if he could just walk out the front door instead of climbing up that dirty chimney again.

Until I was about 12, I literally got into fights with other kids defending the veracity of Santa Claus.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:57 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Come to think of it, my religious indoctrination started around age 3 -- but I can't really call it a "lie" if my folks believed it.
posted by LordSludge at 1:59 PM on April 9, 2008


There's no end to the stupid shit and tall tales people will tell your kids, mostly because they have no real idea or comfort level with relating to them as children. You want to do something incredibly awesome and loving for your kids? Become someone they know won't bullshit them from an early age. Be fascinated by their comments, curiosity, and creativity, and leave the vaudeville fantastica for Joey Nichols.
posted by docpops at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2008


There's no end to the stupid shit and tall tales people will tell your kids, mostly because they have no real idea or comfort level with relating to them as children. You want to do something incredibly awesome and loving for your kids? Become someone they know won't bullshit them from an early age.


Oh lighten up, Francis. There's no one else on this earth I trust more than my family and they told me plenty of tales.
posted by LeeJay at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


docpops writes "You want to do something incredibly awesome and loving for your kids? Become someone they know won't bullshit them from an early age."

I have learned that if you don't develop a good sense of humor and a capacity for recognizing the difference between good-natured ribbing and malicious falsehoods, then that can create some awkward work and social situations. If you learn to take even good-natured ribbing personally, then it will stick with you like an albatross.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:07 PM on April 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


I teach figure skating, and one of the things we make the tots do is wiggle backwards. Not all of them can do this, so I tell them "stick your finger in your ear and switch on the backwards switch." They do it, and every one of them can miraculously go backwards. (Well, one kid's backward switch turned out to be in his belly button.)
posted by nax at 2:17 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let me recount the lies my parents told me.

Thunder was god bowling or moving furniture around.

There was a mouse that lived in my grandfathers nose. That's why it squeaked.

Animals danced in our yard at night. And they left little rings in the grass.

Nixon was the devil and he ate children.

Grandma Shannon was not allowed to drink crazy juice becuase she would dance until her hair caught on fire.

Cigarettes calm you down.

Jello is too hard to make.

Our handyman, Glenn, lost his finger by sneezing while picking his nose.

THIS is the episode of Star Trek where Kirk and everybody loses and dies.


You people may have just pushed us over.

My god man. DON'T DO IT!

What parents don't tell their single friends is that children do not grow on food or sleep. No. They grow on consuming your mortality. They feed on your time like little temporal vampires. The more time they suck away the fitter and more adapted they get.

Sure you can deny them this vital life sustenance, but then you raise withered little nothings. So. BEWARE!
posted by tkchrist at 2:19 PM on April 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


tkchrist - heh. I Can't Imagine Why Anybody Would Want To Stop Crying

Personally I can't wait for my kid to be old enough for effective lying.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2008


Jello is too hard to make

This is completely true.
posted by docpops at 2:23 PM on April 9, 2008


No one seems to have considered that the post was poetry. He might actually have said these things to his child, but the falsehood involved is in the title. These aren't lies, they're fascinating ideas that tickle your brain.
posted by ancientgower at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2008


tkchrist writes "Nixon was the devil and he ate children."

To be fair, that one is true.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:28 PM on April 9, 2008


We are all held together by invisible threads.
This is true.

I have a friend whose socialist father taught him at the age of three that 'Margaret Thatcher' was the worst swear word in the English language. For years he couldn't understand why the BBC newsreaders were allowed to swear on the lunchtime news when everyone else had to wait until after nine o'clock.
posted by aihal at 2:29 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Nixon was the devil and he ate children.

To be fair to your parents, this was not, at the time, provably false.
posted by The Bellman at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was very small, I believed that those big rolled up bales of hay you see throughout the midwest were petrified dinosaur poop. Seemed plausible at the time. (Surprisingly, this was from my mom, and not my dad.)

My wife's grandfather told her that the blinking lights on TV towers were controlled by midgets who sat up there and turned them on, then off repeatedly. She believed that one for a long time.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


They grow on consuming your mortality. They feed on your time like little temporal vampires.

Whenever I leave my daughter with my mother my last warning to her is that her grandmother is an old lady and she has to be very careful or the old crone will try to suck the youth out of her. Which is my mother's cue to dramatically seize my daughter's neck in her 'fangs' and make loud sucking sounds. After which my daughter staggers around in her best imitation of what an aging zombie would look like, occasionally throwing in her perfect imitation of my mother's bent over "I just threw my back out" posture. I never get tired of this.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


Lies we tell ourselves: Sudanese 14-Year-Old Has Midlife Crisis
posted by blue_beetle at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2008


In our family, kids learn young, like way before kindergarten, actually, to do their own homework.

Scene: 1955, Lincoln, NE, on a late August afternoon. 5 year old me, riding in my uncle's '38 Hupmobile, my uncle at the wheel, my Dad riding shotgun, me standing on the front seat, in the middle, (no carseat, no seatbelts) so I could "see what the driver sees."

Me: "Are the signs with arrows pointing up towards the sky for airplanes?"
My dad and my uncle, together, without a hiccup: "Yep."

Scene: 1975, around Murfreesboro, TN, on a late August afternoon, riding along US 231. Me, and my two boys, passing a huge set of road signs where several roads diverge.

My older boy, aged 5: "... What about the arrows pointing up into the air?"
Me, straight faced: "They're for the airplanes."

Scene: 2001, Chattanooga, a late August afternoon. My older boy, his 5 year old son, and a friend, navigating the old U.S. highway on the way to Monteagle (as later reported to me, a little disapprovingly, by the friend).

My grandson: "Hey, why do those arrows point up at the sky?"
My son: "Otherwise, the airplanes would get lost."

We go for the classic training scenarios in this family.
posted by paulsc at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2008 [33 favorites]


When I was a kid and visited Doc Brown (my hometown only had one doctor) for a checkup, after he checked my ears he told me he saw a turtle swimming around in my head. I thought that was pretty cool.

Mr. Welch, the barber, also told me that, in his day, people had ears that would screw off so they didn't have to worry about them getting cut. I told him mine didn't screw off, and he said, "Well, sit still then, dammit." He was very likely drunk when he said this.
posted by cog_nate at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


What is wrong with you people? What on earth is deceitful about encouraging the growth of imagination in your children?

Encouraging imagination is a fantastic thing. Feeding your child bullshit and then sticking to it is how you end up in a situation where a vast majority of the world's population is the same religion as their parents. You think that's because they ALL put forth a careful analysis of faith and the cosmos, and decided that the workings of the universe are pretty much just like they were told when they were three, or because bullshit sticks with enough repetition and a little bit of chicanery?

Until I was about 12, I literally got into fights with other kids defending the veracity of Santa Claus.

Substitute Santa Claus with any major deity, and 'I was about 12' with 'the end of my life', and you can start to see the damage this can wreak.

I will happily fuck with people who are old enough to tell the difference, though, which damages my credibility enough with my peers... I'd probably just feel terribly guilty if a small child took the ridiculous things I said as gospel.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My dad always explained away the very short courtship period between him and my mom by saying that basically, he was such a stud that my mom fell in love with him at first glance and they HAD to get married right away.

It wasn't until 23 that my sister informed me that our parents were actually in an arranged marriage. I was flabbergasted, and when I called my dad out on it he couldn't believe that I still bought that story all the way into my 20s.
posted by tumbleweedjack at 2:41 PM on April 9, 2008


I was about 4 years old and was being driven somewhere in Houston in the van of a couple of family friends. My parents were on a business trip, so it was just me and these two somewhat unfamiliar babysitters. We were stuck in routinely hellish Houston traffic and weren't moving at all. They turned around to me (I was probably complaining about the traffic or something) and told me, very matter-of-factly, that if I wanted, they could make the van lift off and fly over all the traffic, and we wouldn't be stuck anymore. All I had to do was buckle up tight and look down, and promise not to look up until they said so.

I didn't believe them at first, naturally, but they insisted it was possible and really worked hard to convince me. Once I started to believe them, though, I became terrified of the prospect. They kept asking me if I wanted them to start flying the van and I kept saying no. Finally they gave up and just kept driving.

For a LONG time thereafter I was filled with as profound a sense of regret as you can have when you're only four years old - why the hell did I say no?! I passed up the chance to take a ride in a flying van! How could I have wussed out like that? Something about how forceful and serious they were just convinced me they were telling the truth, and it took a long time (I don't remember how long but let's say at least a couple years) for me to realize they were putting me on. After I realized that, my regret turned to a kind of smoldering anger that they lied to me. It's a mark of how significant an event it was in my young life that even now, 22 years later, I'm pretty sure I know the exact intersection we were stuck at.
posted by pziemba at 2:42 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I will always be there.

I call BS. Just as I am always here, you are always there.

Even if "there" happens to be under the babysitter when I score my only little league home run, you heartless bastard.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:46 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My parents told me stuff like this all the time. I didn't learn not to trust them; I learned how to tell when they were lying. I think this is a valuable skill which has served me well.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:46 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Actually, that came out a l'il bit brusque. Occasionally telling your kids that the shredded bits of tire on the side of the highway are from the Rock 'Gators that leap out and bite truck wheels isn't that wild, because it's demonstrably silly, and it's clearly a story. It's the repeated incidences that stick with a kid like the "Easter Bunny" or whatever that don't really do much except demonstrate rather clearly, at the age of 4-7 or so, that your parents will lie to you for as long as they can, until you figure out not to trust them as implicitly.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2008


After I realized that, my regret turned to a kind of smoldering anger that they lied to me.

QED.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:48 PM on April 9, 2008


FatherDagon, did you know that plates of beans are actually reincarnated Metafilter derails? They are.
posted by cog_nate at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I once told a small girl that the large piles of sulphur on Vancouver's North Shore was where they made Gatorade. She believed me for a long time and as a result I felt bad about it. She was 22 at the time.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:00 PM on April 9, 2008


Oh, and I once believed my Dad when he said that he saw a gnome when he was out hunting. I was about 5 at the time. I brought it up in class in Grade 2 or 3 that gnomes were indeed real. The fallout was not pretty.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:05 PM on April 9, 2008


Raul here. Funny what can happen to a little blog post you write in a hurry before going to bed...

It seems to me that most of the reactions to the post have to do with with people's own childhoods. The comment I enjoyed the most was by someone called Lopez on my blog, who wrote "We Latins tell our children these lies because we know they are actually truest truths." Some of the childhood memories I hold most dear are of sitting with my grandparents as they would riff back and forth telling stories of the times when they were young and the birds could talk, or of the family of sprites that lived beneath the house, or of the ladder to the stars. I knew they weren't true, but I wanted them to be... I hope to give my son some of that...

One small correction. Someone posted a picture that was supposed to be of the 3 year old in question, that's actually my one year old. The 3 year old is here.
posted by raulgutierrez at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2008 [17 favorites]


I can't wait for when that kid is five and no longer believes that all fish are named Lorna because one of them is named "Nemo" and he has a lot of officially licensed merchandise that is necessary for a happy modern life.
posted by Kiablokirk at 3:27 PM on April 9, 2008


A while back I told a girl I was dating that here in Canada (she was from Australia, and living in Ottawa, where it was just starting to edge into winter) people sometimes died on really cold days by taking a deep breath outside, which caused their lungs to freeze. I forgot about this little fib, and a couple of months later I asked her how she was handling the extreme cold of wintertime in Ottawa. She told me she was doing alright, but that she was being very careful to breathe very shallowly as she walked around...
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:28 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Among other things, my folks told me the following:

Smelt have one head and two tails.
Santa eats the cookies and drinks the scotch we put out for him every year, and Rudolph takes a bite out of the carrot.
When they went into their room in the afternoon, they were taking naps.
They got us from the Indians for a sack of beads, and they weren't so sure it was a good trade.

In all those cases, my belief shaded painlessly into awareness tinged with affection and humor.

Hell, I still put out cookies (and a carrot!) and write a note to Santa every Christmas Eve!

I feel sad for all the hyper-rationalists who carry around a heavy sense of betrayal over all the lies their parents told them.

For me, those early glimpses of my parents as actual people with fully functional imaginations and senses of humor are among my funniest and sweetest memories.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:31 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


His lies are so much better than mine were when my son was three!
posted by LarryC at 3:32 PM on April 9, 2008


Welcome Raul, it would appear that your little blog post has brought a lot of people more than a bit of joy. And that's pretty awesome! Hope you like the place and decide to stick around.
posted by quin at 3:33 PM on April 9, 2008


Oh, and I remember being amazed to learn that my oldest cousin had a detachable thumb. Later, I found out that his father, my uncle,l had one too! I figured it ran in their family.

(On preview: Welcome, Raul, and thanks.)
posted by trip and a half at 3:36 PM on April 9, 2008


Hey--welcome Raul! Cute kid.
posted by LarryC at 3:36 PM on April 9, 2008


I just realized the irony of a post about telling lies to children ... is posted by a MeFite whose nickname (boo_radley) is taken from a book where one of the central plot points is how children come to believe, and later realize the truth about, the rumors and imaginations about the reclusive boy that lives next door.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:37 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Me (4 years old): Dad? How do ninjas fight so good?

Dad: Because they can READ YOUR MIND.
posted by chugg at 3:40 PM on April 9, 2008


Dad to me at 4: Eli Whitney invented cotton gin. They don't like alcohol in Canada, so they put the cotton gin outside to let the alcohol evaporate and then they call it cotton canaday.

Dad to me at 5: It didn't used to be called "an apple"; it was "a napple". But one day George Washington was writing it down and he sneezed and it came out as "an apple" and that's what we call it today.

Me at 7 on a visit to Hermann Park in Houston: Dad, why is this Hermann guy famous?
Dad: He invented the Dewey Decimal System.
Me: No, I just read about that -- that was Melvil Dewey.
Dad (without missing a beat): Herman Melville was his pen name.
posted by joaquim at 3:47 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, that's true.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on April 9, 2008


Daddy two peepees.
posted by ymgve at 3:51 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


The big story my dad told to me and my brother was the one about the spanking machine at the reform school down the road. Whenever one of his kids was really bad, he would get the principal of the reform school on the phone (a.k.a. my uncle Brian), who would tell us all about how we would be tied down on the conveyor belt and hit with revolving-hands-on-sticks until our bottoms were sore, and maybe even longer because, you see, the principal was a busy man and had lots of bad boys to take care of, and sometimes it was hard to keep track of them all...

There was also the time he took us along while he went to go look at cars. Right before we pulled into the parking lot he told us he was trading in his car for a new one and that we were part of the trade-in deal; he proceeded to get out of the car, leave us locked in the backseat thanks to the child-proof door locks, and go find the two meanest-looking salesguys at the dealer to find us and kick the tires of the car and generally get us to piss our pants.

Now that I think about it, my dad was a bit of a bastard sometimes...
posted by xbonesgt at 4:35 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


That last post was too hasty. I wish I had more time. There are too many of family fables to even attempt to fully cover.

One of my favorites was watching a war movie and then talking to my grandfather about whatever war was being depicted. And he would deliberately confuse me.

me: Did you fight in the war?

Grandpa: You bet. The war between the states. To liberate France from Napoleon.

me: When was that?

Grandpa: Thursday.

----------

The other one was that he said he had a pet ant. A pet ant named Herman. Or sometimes Eugene. And that god damned pet ant was always ratting me out. One time Herman told him that I had gotten into his golf bag in the garage and stolen some balls. That is when I finally demanded to see this ant. He bent down on the porch and picked up an ant. "Herman... this is Todd. Todd - Herman." Got to admit. looking back that was pretty smart. Before I ever attempted anything naughty I checked for ants. I learned there is always an ant around.
posted by tkchrist at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2008 [13 favorites]


My daughter came home one day singing a new song:
"Tom, the rabbit yes maam
Has a mighty habit, yes maam"

Which I changed to:
"Tom, the robot, yes man
has a shiny metal ass, man"

And then I realized that she may repeat this and tried to make her forget the song :-/
posted by subaruwrx at 4:45 PM on April 9, 2008


One of my favorite websites, iusedtobelieve.com, has a lot of stories like this. If you look up the stories about ice cream vans, it's remarkable how many kids were told that the ice cream van's song meant that they were all out of ice cream.

My dad told plenty of outrageous stories, but my favorite to remember wasn't even meant for me specifically. Our family has a very Irish name; let's use O'Brien. In second grade, I ran across a short manuscript my father had prepared on the genealogy of our family, which is still a mystery for us to this day. The manuscript claimed that our family could be traced directly back to an ancient king of Ireland, Hugh Janus O'Brien.

I immediately decided that I was a princess of Ireland, made myself a clover crown, and told everybody I could for days thereafter. I even talked about it in show-and-tell. As with most kids, the phase passed, and I don't remember how I lost interest. But I was pretty much a grown woman before the day I stopped and said to myself: Hugh Janus O'Brien.

posted by Countess Elena at 4:50 PM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's really great to lie to kids when you're a camp counselor because you're not responsible for any long term effects that your lies may have. In the summer I'd say right around 40% of everything I say to campers is a bald-faced lie. It is a long-standing camp tradition and, really, tons of fun.

I teach skin diving and can dive pretty deep into the lake- farther than any of the kids, at least. The reason that this is important is that nearly every kid under 12 at camp thinks that there is an "underwater gazebo" a little ways out from the swimming area, just a little farther down than they can swim. Skin diving instructors get to hang out there. We listen to music on our sweet sound system and eat the walleye fillets we fry ourselves in our deep fat fryer. Some kids are skeptical but they are normally convinced by our true believers, who would, if called, go to war over my honor and the existence of the gazebo.

I do this because I was at one time a camper there and believed every thing my counselors every told me. Everything. And I always came home and repeated it to my parents. Looking back on these conversations, I don't know what to think about the fact that my folks always just smirked but never pointed out how obviously false the tales I was repeating actually were. I wish that I could follow my campers home to see how their parents react.
posted by PhatLobley at 4:53 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My parents told me those rolled up bales of hay on the side of the road were Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street and I totally believed it. I still think of it when I see them.

My dad worked nights and on Christmas Eve always said he saw Santa overhead in his sleigh and I didn't doubt him for a minute. I took it as proof that he really did exist and therefore believed even longer than most of my friends.
posted by jdl at 5:05 PM on April 9, 2008


On a long drive through the American West you can press the buttons on the dashboard in a certain order and the car's afterburners will ignite and you'll go real fast for a few seconds.

The car won't do it in cities, the buttons change every day, and for some reason the car delays just long enough for a father to check his mirrors for the police.

Also, burls on trees are caused by bees and wasps stinging the tree by accident.
posted by Science! at 5:17 PM on April 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


[this is the best thing ever]
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:19 PM on April 9, 2008


Dad (pointing out birds visiting birdbath in cold climate, midwinter, with not-obvious heater plugged in, to visitors not from the cold): Boy, sure am glad the birds are active today.

Them: Why's that?

Dad: Because if they didn't keep coming in and stirring up the water by swimming a bit, that water'd freeze right solid, and it's a pain to keep pulling out the ice.

Them: Oooooh.

Me: Leaving to another room before I can't hold the laughter any more. It was really cool to finally be on the side that got it.

************************************
Me (looking intently at multiple drainage culverts under road separating two orchards): Oh, good. I was afraid they hadn't put 'em in...

Her (following the bait right to the surface): Who hadn't put what in?

Me (right on cue): A way for the bees to get from one side to the other. If they don't put those tunnels in, they can't get across, and the pollination doesn't come off right.

Her: Ooooooh.
.
.
.
several minutes pass
.
.
.
Can't they just fly across the road?

Me: Well, I suppose they could, if they had to.

I just love playing to my audience. As above, thanks Dad!
posted by LoraxGuy at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


my parents weren't really around when i was a kid, but my brothers had an ongoing doozy of a story.

i was always a little leery of the basement under our house. why not? dark, a little smelly, and there was one corner that we were absolutely NOT supposed to go near. (the corner, i realized much later, where my mom had stashed all my dad's shit after she kicked him out).

my brothers, knowing that i was a sneaky little sneed, told me that the real reason i couldn't go back to that part of the basement was that mom had another kid down there. not a kid she'd given birth to, but one she just.... found. they called her "crazy annie." she had never bathed, pooped and peed into the drain in the floor, and ate the dogfood that our irish setter left behind. crazy annie had yellow eyes and green teeth, 8 inch long ragged fingernails and would screech like a banshee if i disturbed her. that was, of course, right before she'd attack me and try to eat me, being tired of dog food of course.

nothing good came out of this whole thing, really. i had nightmares for years. when i saw 'the exorcist' at an unbelievably young age, i came to identify the pea-soup scene with crazy annie. crazy annie became posessed annie. and my brothers took great glee in torturing me for a long time.

even now, when i occasionally see them, they all still laugh at what an idiot i was for believing them.

the moral of this story? i learned at an early age that trusting my family or origin is a baaaaaaaaaaaaaad thing. it's a lesson that served me well.
posted by CitizenD at 5:39 PM on April 9, 2008


"My dad told plenty of outrageous stories, but my favorite to remember wasn't even meant for me specifically. Our family has a very Irish name; let's use O'Brien. In second grade, I ran across a short manuscript my father had prepared on the genealogy of our family, which is still a mystery for us to this day. The manuscript claimed that our family could be traced directly back to an ancient king of Ireland, Hugh Janus O'Brien."

My great uncle, oldest of the line, recounted on his deathbed the story of how our family came to America.

You see, we left during the late 1800s, after our minor nobility had run afoul of Bismark, who'd forced us into a 99-year lease, essentially stealing our land. Oh, woe was the tale, but the lease was nearly up. We only needed to return to Germany and reclaim our rightful name and our lands. He assured the family that this would be easy, so long as we knew our true German surname. He exhorted the family: Go now and get what's coming to us! Go now and proclaim yourself a Witzbold!
posted by klangklangston at 5:48 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had none of this. No fancy stories or tall tales beyond Father Christmas/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy/God. Make-believe was frowned on: truth was paramount. I was taught to trust people and believe what I was told.

As I grew older, it took several years for my schoolmates to kick the last of my utter credulousness out of me.
posted by Hogshead at 6:03 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank you for coming by, Raul.

Nice writing, and parenting.
posted by yhbc at 6:20 PM on April 9, 2008


We told my sister that the "eject" button on the car stereo caused the roof to open up and the occupant of the front passenger seat to be sent flying. She later reported having believed this for many years.

My family has a habit of slightly messing with the names of items. My folks called Kraft Singles "Shingles" when I was little, and it took me until college to realize that that wasn't exactly a marketable name. I even had a rationale for it: after all, they're the right shape for roofing shingles.
posted by matematichica at 6:24 PM on April 9, 2008


I lie because I care.
posted by wrapper at 6:50 PM on April 9, 2008


"kids love jokes. so one day i told my 7 year old nephew that i would take him to disney world. instead, i drove him to a burned out warehouse and said, "uh oh, disney world burned down." he cried and cried, but deep down i bet he thought it was pretty funny."

-Jack Handy
posted by ChrisNoXmas at 6:57 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are the sweet lies: A tiny person 6 inches high lives in the blue light of the Santa Fe building in Chicago. She thinks we're all the same size as her when she looks down at us."

Then there are the destructive lies (overheard in a bloodwork lab, told to a 4-year old by her mother): "When the needle sticks you it will tickle"

The first "lie" created a decade of stories about the little person and her disappointment when she found out we were giants, and what she did about it (or does about it, I assume she still lives there, as I never heard different)

The second "lie" is how you destroy a child's trust, because 5 minutes later, her mother was proven to be, if not a liar, then an idiot.
posted by nax at 7:02 PM on April 9, 2008


my dad would take my brother and I fishing, of course we were too wiggly and too busy messing around in the water to catch fish. He would but we wouldn't. He always told us we just weren't holding our mouth right. So there would be two kids on the side of the lake trying to figure out the right way to hold our mouth to catch a fish....I had a theory about my dads mustache...

I love this thread
posted by meeshell at 7:06 PM on April 9, 2008


When I was very small, I believed that those big rolled up bales of hay you see throughout the midwest were petrified dinosaur poop.

Cow eggs.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


One year when I was about 4 or 5, my mother put this creepy plastic elf up on the curtain rod before Christmas. She told my brother and I it was watching what we did and it would tell Santa on us if we were bad.

I remember deliberately doing something bad to test if the elf thing was real, while my brother wailed in terror and begged me to stop it because we wouldn't get any Christmas presents this year. And then when Christmas rolled around I was really smug that I figured the whole thing out. We still got our presents even though I was not very good and so therefore Santa was a fraud.

To this day, I still remember what that elf looked like, even though it's probably been gone for almost 30 years.

I tell my daughter all manners of tall tales and she has never believed a damned thing I've ever told her. One of the first sentences to come out of her mouth was, "Mom! Be serious!" But I still tell her ridiculous things all the time anyway.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 7:13 PM on April 9, 2008


This marvelous thread from 2002, about crazy childhood beliefs, is one of the first things I remember reading on Mefi - and is worth reading if you like this one.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:17 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, it's embarrasing to read what you wrote almost six years ago, and have no recollection of writing at all (or even thinking!)

However, I so still say (or at least think) what th'?
posted by yhbc at 7:28 PM on April 9, 2008


My mom always used to send us to bed at like 7pm. She said that all kids needed 10 hours of sleep or they wouldn't grow up right. Knowing we were supposed to be sleeping but weren't tired, we would hide under the covers with a flashlight reading comic books for hours instead.

Flash forward, my sister was letting my niece go to bed at like 10pm. I got all upset thinking she'd end up brain damaged or something if she didn't get ten hours of sleep. Finally, sense kicked in and I realized that my mom had lied and I felt really dumb.

One day I finally asked my mom about it. She responded, "Who do you think bought those flashlights and comic books?"
posted by miss lynnster at 7:38 PM on April 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


Apparently I'm going to hell. For telling our 4-year-old goddaughter that yes, our street in London was teeming with foxes the night before (true) and that when people walked down the street they all bundled into that lot over there with the boat on a trailer in it (true).

And that the foxes lived in the boat and used it to go on holiday to France in the summer, after first towing it to Dover with tricycles and a rope.
posted by genghis at 7:40 PM on April 9, 2008


"Tom, the rabbit yes maam
Has a mighty habit, yes maam"

Which I changed to:
"Tom, the robot, yes man
has a shiny metal ass, man"


They're teaching her songs about rabbits with drug problems, and you're worried about a little robot ass?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2008


You've got to tell your kids safe lies. A lot of what has been said in this thread is pretty harmless if the kid believes it, and pretty harmless if they don't. They're very useful critical thinking exercises. It trains their tiny bullshit meters, so that when people tell them things that can be harmful they have the skills to detect the lies. They learn that not everything that people say is going to be true. The fact that people still fall for schticks like the old Nigerian Prince scheme is proof positive that there are a lot of bullshit detectors out there that need work.

My 13 year old sister is a good case in point. I spun yarns at her mercilessly when she was a sprog, and these days it would take a criminal mastermind to pull one over on her.
posted by Jilder at 9:17 PM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


File under "trivial childhood truths that can be more confusing than lies":

At about age four I discovered those occasional "floating color blobs" that hover against the walls a few yards before one's eyes after one has stared at a bright lamp for several moments and/or rubbed one's eyes too hard for too long (habits in which I apparently engaged quite often during the Nixon administration). These “color blobs” to me were like tie-dyed clouds passing intermittently across the 1960’s wallpaper encompassing my normal breakfasts and boring naptimes and I was puzzled and mystified by the amorphousness of their floating realities—I mean, What were they? What did they do? And why?

And I—being of a simple and unassuming nature unable to yet comprehend any possibility of a truly independent experience--assumed that anyone else in a room with me also saw the same psychedelic mirages that I did. So, one evening I pointed one out to my mother just as this drowsy, Technicolor amoeba hovered about the general vicinity of some nondescript box atop the tall, second-hand armoire in my parent's bedroom (where Mom and I retreated each week beneath a puke-yellow Sears electric blanket to watch The Carol Burnett show on our family’s only TV set )

I asked Mom: “What's that up there by the--?"

"SHHHH," she interrupted--her tone scolding and defensive. "That's daddy's birthday present!," she whisper-shouted.

All discussion of floating color blobs effectively ended right then and there. (Though of course my child-mind was left to wonder WTF was Daddy going to do with THAT??) And, well, my unsuccessful 1973 inquiry on floating visual illusions left me to grow up more confused than I was already destined to. Not to mention perpetually baffled by people’s inexplicable wants and desires and intentions.

But on the plus side: In college, most of my friends at one point or another experienced the dreaded “bad trip” involving recreational hallucinogens. But not me. I suppose I was conditioned from childhood to readily accept the surreal with the banal and mundane without panicking. Thanks Mom!!
posted by applemeat at 9:36 PM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


When I was a small kid, we had a rooster statue that crowed when you clapped your hands in front of it is a special way. I loved playing with that rooster, and would sneak up on it all day to hear it.

One day I was talking to my mum about that era, and I told her how weird it was that I could clap right to make it crow, but my little brother never managed it even though I tried to teach him.

Then of course she confessed that my dad used to watch me sneaking up on the statue from his office, and made the noise himself. I believed this until I was 25, and even then took quite a bit of convincing.
posted by indienial at 9:41 PM on April 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


Was your mother smoking a joint, appleweed? Seriously, 'cause I know mine did, and I ended up tripping (I would look down my legs and my feet would be soooooo far away!)
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 PM on April 9, 2008


There are fossilized remains of the posterous and its predecessor, the preposterous, all throughout this area.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:53 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


This one's not mine:

..My father, when I was around 3 or 4, would regularly ask me where milk came from. Being an intelligent child, I replied 'Cows', which would appear to be correct.
However, my Father, being the 'funny bugger' that he is, would advise me that I was correct, but he enjoyed adding that it was possible to get milk from trees, and, in fact, that is where we got our milk from. 'Bollocks' (or some such 3 year old variant) I replied, "Milk comes from Cows and cows alone"

I went to bed one evening, and The Great Bald One (TM) had an evil gleam in his eye.

I awoke, refreshed from my peaceful slumber, and my Father, excited, pointed out of the window. "There" he cried triumphantly. "Milk. On the Tree. I'll go and pick it now". And there, lo and behold, milk bottles were hanging, white and proud from the tree. He had tied milk bottles to the tree.

After that day, for a good while after, whenever people would ask where milk came from, I would reply "cows. And Trees"

He's just that kind of man. And I have become him with my own son. Lying to children for your own amusement is very funny, it is big, and it is clever.

posted by sebastienbailard at 10:05 PM on April 9, 2008


Only cold water will put fires out. Never put hot water on a fire!

My dad, the fireman, told me that when I was about six. About ten years later I worked it out.
posted by vbfg at 11:56 PM on April 9, 2008


I'm sure I've written this here somewhere before but...

When I asked dad where electricity came from he told me they shipped it over from England.

I once overheard him and mum talking about putting a gazebo in the backyard, so I asked what a gazebo was and of course he told me it was an animal that lives in Africa. After that I was much taken with the thought of vast herds of gazebos sweeping majestically across the Serengeti. I wish it were true.

And that big scar on his leg? Fighting a dragon, m'boy. Fighting a dragon.
posted by Ritchie at 2:22 AM on April 10, 2008


I may be just cynical but the linked article seems like BS to me. The 'lies' are all just a lead-in to the overly-melancholic last one.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 3:13 AM on April 10, 2008


Next thing we know this huge, and I mean huge—it must have been forty pounds—raccoon streaks across the grass in front of us. And there are about five crows chasing it, making a hell of a racket,

I read this as "five cows chasing it," which really got my attention—I even considered getting up earlier from now on.
posted by theredpen at 4:00 AM on April 10, 2008


I once persuaded my little sister that my Grandad's Rizlas were tissues for midgets.
posted by biffa at 4:04 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Mom told us that the wind rushing past us was actually the angels rushing by on their way to do their work.

Except I still don't believe that's a lie.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:15 AM on April 10, 2008


My three year old, while watching the European Cup football (soccer) with me, asked if Arsene Wenger (the Arsenal manager/coach) bites.

I lied and said no.
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 4:30 AM on April 10, 2008


My mom told us that kiddie size ice cream cones are bigger than large because kids like ice cream more than adults.
posted by k8t at 4:45 AM on April 10, 2008


I've been trying some amateur psychology to try to get my 4 year old daughter into good music from a young age (it makes long car journeys a lot more fun).

I started off by telling her that Yabby You (70s dub artist) was Scooby Doo's cousin, and to this day she more or less instantly demands to listen to Yabby You / 'Jesus Dread' in the car. She's also big fan of Buju Banton (Scooby Doo's BFF) - and particularly likes 'Me Too Bad', which is a song about how Buju didn't eat all his dinner or go to bed on time.

It's kind of a fun game, although slightly annoying that it's now impossible to listen to any music at all without having planned out in advance a familial, social or professional relationship between the artist and Scooby Doo.
posted by bifter at 5:06 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


We got screwed on ice cream too, come to think of it.

When we were growing up, there was no ice cream truck. There was only the music truck. The music truck would come through our cul-de-sac playing its music and we'd all run and press our noses to the front window, straining to hear the same dueling-banjos-on-a-xylophone or whatever the hell it was playing every summer evening.

Dad was a smart one. If we ran outside, we wouldn't be able to hear the music any more.

"What about all the other kids who chase the music truck?"

"They can't hear the music. Their parents haven't told them why."

Cruel parents, they must have - I remember thinking.

And so it became our little secret - why would we let all the other kids in on the music we got to listen to when we could watch them foolishly chase it down the street, deaf to its symphony?

See, the music truck would come through the cul-de-sac to get everyone out of their houses, but then he'd drive back past our house and stop at the corner, out of view of our front window, where he'd conduct his business, with the music off. We were always turned back to our coloring or whatever it was we had been previously occupied by at that point.

Until one time dad's sister visited town.

"THE MUSIC TRUCK!" somebody screamed that first evening, and we ran to the window. Dad was in the back yard on the BBQ. Mom was in the kitchen. Aunt Cindy looked at us and realized instantly what was going on.

Handing us each a dollar, she said, "Why don't you go outside and give this to the Music Man to thank him?"

"Because we won't be able to hear the music then." (Duh, Aunt Cindy.)

"Oh no," she nodded her head, "You can always hear the music truck when you're holding a dollar.

Suffice to say mom and dad were not happy with Aunt Cindy for that one.

To their credit, we didn't have a lot to go around growing up, and I've never held it against them. If I ever have kids (and I hope I do), I'm going to lie through my teeth to them, just like my dad did to us, all in good fun.

But I'll always work hard enough to make sure there's enough money for the ice cream truck.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:10 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and we used to always lie to the new kids who came to work at the supermarket I worked at growing up. Good times, that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:13 AM on April 10, 2008


I ran these by my five-year-old last night, and here's what he said:

Trees talk to each other at night = Yes

All fish are named either Lorna or Jack = No

Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose = Really?

Tiny bears live in drain pipes = Ok

If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky = Yes

The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago = Yes

Everyone knows at least one secret language = Yes. For Mom it's French.

When nobody is looking, I can fly = No

We are all held together by invisible threads = No (I argued with him on this one)

Books get lonely too = Yes

Sadness can be eaten = No

I chickened out on the last one...

-----

I also told my kids that the round bales (some of them are covered in shiny green plastic) were cow eggs. Even at three yo, they weren't buying it.
posted by sneebler at 5:24 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


This thread was a lot of fun. My story is that my Dad used to move his wrist to make the sun's reflection off his watch move around the room or car and tell us that it was Tinkerbell. I believed in faeries for a really long time.
posted by carolr at 5:52 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


My late father-in-law told his two young daughters that the reason he had long black hair was because an Indian (Native American). Years later, when my sister-in-law grew up and applied to college she checked the "Native American" box on her application. So there she was, hoping to get a full scholarship. She then went back to him for whatever sort of proof you need to say you are from X Tribe or Y Tribe.

He was confused as hell. She said to him "You told us when we were little that we were Indian!" He laughed and told her that he was joking with them. I also laughed. Heartily. (because its a funny story) I guess she believed it all those years. :)

In other news, Santa Claus may or may not be real.

We all tell lies. Get over it.
posted by mrzer0 at 6:11 AM on April 10, 2008


I love reading all these stories.. and it makes me wonder what will happen when the time comes that our Peanut will begin asking questions. I think I'll take my Dad's approach.

I was watching a TV show about aliens when I was a kid, and I made the comment on how ugly they are. Without skipping a beat.. my Dad put down his newspaper, looked at the TV screen and said, "They don't look like that", and went back to reading his paper. I was in too much shock to question him.
I still wonder to this day....
posted by czechmate at 6:16 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


We give money out for falling teeth in our house, but the tooth fairy doesn't deliver it.

Instead, this old guy in a bathrobe comes into the rooms of the children with a crumpled dollar in his hands. He tries putting it under the pillow, but makes such a racket and ends up incidentally tickling the child, that they can't help but wake up.

The next day, I'll patently deny that anything happened. "There's no such thing as a Daddy Fairy," I'll tell them, over and over. The best part about it is the look in their eyes: They get the joke, they're sharing it, and we keep that between the two of us.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:24 AM on April 10, 2008


I'm delighted to hear that other neighborhoods had a music truck! Our son had temper issues when he was little, so rather than set ourselves up for a tantrum any time we weren't going to let him have ice cream, we lied through our teeth. Since he was the only child on our block, the music truck never stopped anywhere he could see it. He was probably 10 before he found out he'd been had.
posted by ancientgower at 7:52 AM on April 10, 2008


We got screwed on ice cream too, come to think of it.
When we were growing up, there was no ice cream truck. There was only the music truck.


My Ex's older siblings grew up thinking it was the FISH WAGON. No kid grows up begging for money for the fish wagon.
posted by piratebowling at 9:49 AM on April 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


We forgot my young son's tooth fairy payment once. So we explained that, since we'd moved, and hadn't notified the Tooth Fairy, he (or she) couldn't find us. That night we put a sign on the door saying Tooth Fairy Yes. Lo and behold, cash under pillow, everyone happy. Such deceptions are great fun for parents, and in retrospect, for kids. As rusty says, What kind of humorless asshole would you have to be to get mad about that?
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2008


It’s all fun and games until someone forms a weird cult around their received beliefs, recruits all the other children and overthrows adult rule.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


My parents told us whoppers, and I'm generally in the "it helps develop the bullshit meter" camp. One of the most common responses when we'd ask my parents, "What's for supper?" was "Fricasseed gorilla." "Again?"

We looked forward, with both anticipation and trepidation, to our first taste of sirloin snake.

We knew, without a doubt, that Rudolph and his reindeer pals absolutely loved Cheerios and would take off sooner (resulting in fewer presents) if they didn't get any to snack on.

Those big rolls of hay by the roadside? Turds from the giant rabbit. You can catch him if you follow the turd trail long enough and fast enough.

Thanks to my father's lesson in etiquette before I started kindergarten, I knew to say "Yessirree bobcat!" and "Nossirree bobcat!" to my teacher, instead of the more lax manners we used with family, saying just "Yes ma'am" and "No ma'am."

They were tellers of tall tales, certainly (don't ever take one of my mother's stories at face value), but they also never made a threat they weren't perfectly willing to follow through, which led to a terrified 4th-grade-me when my teacher threatened to hang us all by our toenails if we didn't straighten up.

Flash-forward to a vacation with my kids at about 7 and 9, in which we drive past a group of people on horseback. "Look, girls! Giraffes! What do giraffes say?" "MEOW!" they chorused. My co-worker/friend who was along still brings that up as one of the best family moments she's ever seen, about 8 years later.

The spirit and intent matters. If it's about fun, imagination, and maybe teaching a kid a little about gullibility, it's good. If it's about scaring a kid or preserving the illusion of all-knowing adults, it sucks.
posted by notashroom at 10:28 AM on April 10, 2008 [12 favorites]


Riding on the highway, I always marveled at the 18-wheelers. I loved it when the truck was branded with it's contents: Coca Cola, K-mart, whatever. But what about the 98% of the trucks that were plain white? What did my parents tell me after asking them on so many car trips?: Toilet Paper.

It made sense, but the answer was so boring.
posted by yeti at 1:17 PM on April 10, 2008


I can't wait to have kids so that I can warp their naive little minds.

Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.

This one is especially good because it involves a presupposition failure. That's a good tactic... I'll bet a lot of kids can't deal with that. I'll have to remember that.
posted by painquale at 2:01 PM on April 10, 2008


But if you taught a kid their ABCs in QWERTY order, would they be a better typist? That's what I want to know.
posted by rifflesby at 3:22 PM on April 10, 2008


I have kids of my own who I've lied to many times but just thought of one I told to complete strangers. I got my wisdom teeth out for the usual reasons. They wrapped my head up to get some ice packs to stick around my jaw and my mouth was stuffed with cotton. I'm sure I looked in bad shape to a child.

Leaving the waiting room I saw a couple of kids waiting with their Mom. I just said "Ate too much candy".

Mean, but I wasn't in a good mood.
posted by poppo at 5:20 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lies we tell our children about World of Warcraft
posted by blue_beetle at 8:03 PM on April 10, 2008


I have decided to adopt an unwavering honesty policy with my children, but my four year old hasn't made it easy.

When we somehow got onto the topic of death, I decided to take all the drama out of the phenomenon and assure her with a matter-of-fact "Well everyone dies! I'll die and you'll die..."

I hadn't assumed such glibness would later find me hugging a tearful child whimpering "I don't want to die!"

I reassured her that she wouldn't be dying for a long, long time... deciding to take the merciful route in sparing her the "probably...." Sometimes honesty needs a break.


And my, how honesty can complicate the seemingly innocuous questions:

"Daddy, what are you drinking?"

"Well, sweetie, it's Pepsi, with a little bit of rum."

"What's rum?"

"It's a type of alcohol." (fearing the inevitable...)

"What's alcohol?"

"Well, it's a chemical compou... it's grain that has fermen...

...

I'm drinking Pirate Pepsi!"
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:49 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mr. Anthropomorphism: We tell our two-year-old wine is "grown-up juice." "Would you like a sip? You probably won't like it."

I expect this works because we more frequently make the same offer/warning for coffee. Don't know if it's actually true for mixed drinks, though.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:17 PM on April 10, 2008


My brother told my niece that when you fart you have to put your hand up in the air. Adults don't have to, but it's really important that kids do. This was a hilarious joke that sort of became commonplace and so no-one thought to say anything to her about not doing it when she went to kinder. Her teacher thought her parents were total assholes.
posted by Rubyspicer at 9:41 PM on April 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


Kids, don't listen to your teachers about dictionaries and Wikipedia and books and stuff. If you want the truth, go to metafilter.com!
posted by kozad at 10:23 PM on April 10, 2008


That I am still clean and doing good and I will come see him this weekend.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:44 AM on April 11, 2008


Obligatory traumatized-by-dad story: That mean-looking iron contraption hanging on the wall in the basement is the Skin-Peeler, an unexplained but terrifying device, references to which kept me in line for quite a few years. Til I realized it was telescoping fireplace tongs.

But those worn-down slivers of sea-shell lining you find on the beach sometimes?
Whale toenails.
posted by hippugeek at 11:10 PM on April 12, 2008


hippugeek, I'll see your "Skin Peeler" and raise you "the weird guy who lives in the front room of the basement". To this day my kids (now 19 and 22) won't go into that room (it's where we used to keep the Christmas presents).
posted by nax at 5:41 AM on April 13, 2008


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