Motherhood: The Fine Art of Deception

George Washington, the father of our country, is often quoted as having said, “I cannot tell a lie.” And that is why he is the father of our country and not the mother. Mothers lie. We have to. It’s a survival skill.

Now, if you are reading this and saying to yourself, “I am always honest with my children,” you are in fact lying, at least to yourself.

Who among us has not scarfed down the last Oreo while standing at the sink only to hear a tiny little voice from below ask, “Mommy where did my Oreo go?” And as you are wiping the luscious rich black crumbs from your mouth with your sleeve, you respond, “Idoftnowhuthppndtoofit! (cough cough) “Maybe a bear came in and got it.”

Other times we deceive our precious babies in an act of self-preservation.

Today Sean insisted on putting salt on his food. Do you think I’m crazy enough to hand him the salt shaker? And do you think I want to spend my one last nerve on this conversation:

Sean: I want to put salt on.
AM: No. No salt.
Sean: Why not?
AM: It comes out too fast and it’ll make a mess.
Sean: No it won’t.
AM: Yes. Yes it will.
Sean: No. No it won’t. Please?
AM: Sean, I think I know how our salt shaker works, okay? Trust me on this.
Sean: I want to put salt on.
AM: No.
Sean: Why not?
AM: Because I am a mean mean salt-hording woman, that’s why.
Sean: Mom, can I put salt on?
Pfffft! (That would be the sound of my last nerve fizzing like bad firecracker.)

So, instead I said, “Ok! Let me get the salt shaker for you!” And then with my back turned, I stuffed Saran wrap down inside the shaker and screwed the lid back on.

“Here!” I said as I handed it to him with a wicked grin, “Go crazy! Knock yourself out!” And he shook and shook and shook the salt shaker to his little heart’s content and we all lived happily everafter.

Now there are some things about which I will not lie, important things. Like the other day, when he asked me where babies come from, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I have no idea. Go ask your father.”

Fess up ladies. You know you’ve told a little white one here or there to the kiddos. If you don’t think so, let me just jog your memory: Santa.

54 thoughts on “Motherhood: The Fine Art of Deception

  1. My older friend and mommy mentor taught me the art of mommy-deception when she explained the trick behind convincing your child that if their favorite doll could poo-poo in the potty, they could too… Doll sits on potty, and when mom takes doll off potty, lo and behold, floating inside the potty are… chocolate-covered cheetos! So began my years of mommy-deception.


  2. I don’t consider the Santa thing lying. Santa (St. Nicholas) was a real person, I’ve been to his chuch (Holland) and grave. The way I look at it is that Santa still lives in the hearts of all those who believe in him and continue his tradition of giving. So if I ever get the “you lied to me?” the answer is no, I didn’t. And in my house, if you believe Santa still comes, if you don’t, guess what?

    Now, that’s not to say I don’t fib to TS all the time. My favorite used to be that we were out of things (treats) but she knows where I keep them all & can (and does) use her stepstool to check. She thinks I’m a bit slow because I’ll tell her we’re out of ice cream and she’ll say, “no we’re not, I’ll show you where it is mama.” Apparently I’d forgotten.


  3. We don’t really do Santa in our house because we have St. Nicholas. And our son (5) understands that Santa is one way of “experiencing” St. Nicholas. We’ve never done the Easter Bunny, but we do the Tooth Fairy. We read lots of elves and fairies types of stories, so that one’s not too hard to explain.

    I, too, believe very strongly in telling my children the truth, but I believe it should be balanced by both the need for appropriate information (do they really need to know that there are more fruit snacks, but they can’t have any?) and the magic of childhood and fairy tales. I want to cultivate my children’s imaginations and part of that is not always knowing whether something is real or not, or suspending belief in order to enter into the fun and joy of a tradition. Just because we don’t “believe” in Santa doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a presence in our Christmas celebration, since after all, everything Santa, aka St. Nicholas, does is to the glory of God. That said, we don’t talk about Santa bringing gifts only if the kids have been “good.” God doesn’t work like that and so neither does Santa.

    I don’t want my kids to be such realists that they can’t take in the wonder of the Christmas story or the mystery of the Eucharist. Some things simply cannot be explained. We always look for the kernel of truth in even secular traditions to show how everything points back to the all-encompassing love of God.

    Mystery and magical wonder is something I try to cultivate in myself, because I’m so literal. I want to be able to look for mermaids in the water and dragons in the clouds. My children are my only hope!

    And I do think that “because I said so” is a perfectly reasonable explanation. After all, even God says that sometimes!


  4. Very clever! I’m sure I’ve lied to my 2yr old plenty of times, like “sorry, there’s no more juice” (after he’s had 5 cups already) or “we’ll go for a walk later” (when I’m too tired to get all dressed up to go outside and I know he’ll forget by ‘later’). Though I try not to lie about bigger stuff. I always knew Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny weren’t real, but it was still fun to pretend, that’s how I’ll raise my kids.


  5. How about the blanket fairy ? Did you know that the blanket fairy CANNOT come to retrieve threadbare blankets of any kind WITHOUT parental permission ?
    How was I supposed to know that he had heard a blanket fairy story in kindergarten that day and had contrived his own money making scheme ?!!!


  6. Just came over from Rocks in my Dryer. What a great post!!!

    We believe in Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny & we’ll believe in the Tooth Fairy when that first tooth falls out (our oldest is 5, youngest is 2). I was raised believing these things, and now instead of feeling everyone is a liar, I’m more apt to believe everything I hear – even though I know the truth.

    I just think how much fun my parents had making up such wonderful stories to tell us kids (including the reindeer bells on the rooftop, courtesy of Daddy) and how blessed we’ve been that every Christmas that I can recall, there has been at least one child around who still believed in Santa, so even we adults got to share in the magic.

    My kids know where babies come from, and how they are born – the truth, not sugar coated. They know about God & Jesus and the birth & the Resurrection – and my oldest shares these stories with friends & family much more than he talks about Santa. I think even my 5 year old may know that Santa is just magic, but Jesus is forever.

    Let kids be kids – they grow up too fast anyway. Let them believe in the magic as long as they want to.


  7. We have no problem lying to our kids. Now that they are older it isn’t quite as easy, but they believe the “lies” that they want to believe, like Santa Claus. As for God, if you’re children only believe because you tell them to, they will never develop a real faith of their own.


  8. I hide bags of gummy bears in my closet. I have finally discovered that the only way they won’t be found is to hang the bag on a hanger in the back of the closet. I love the Saran Wrap idea – brilliant!


  9. This was hilarious! I love it. When I was little my parents took me to this place that served frog legs. I LOVED them! My dad told me the frogs willingly donated their legs and then left the resteraunt in little wheel chairs. That is a whopper. So in turn, yes I have fibbed about the last oreo. (Or 3.) I am just a product of my environment. 🙂


  10. It’s called a diplomatic lie, LOL! I remember when my kids wanted 2 cookies, but I only wanted them to have 1. The trick is…break the cookie in half when they aren’t looking. Of course, this only works until they are old enough to know what a half cookie looks like!


  11. Now that all that is behind me I admit you are absolutely tellin’ the truth. I also give you high marks for not saying, “…because I said so.” The saran wrap was a stroke of genius!


  12. Imagination is a wonderful thing.My kids still write hysterical letters to Father Christmas on Christmas eve if they come home for Christmas. They are 29, 25 and 17. And “he” still writes even more priceless replies. And when I tried to STOP dipping 3 fingers in talcum powder to leave bunny prints all over the house, there was a near riot. They were not traumatised by discovering the truth at all, and are great well adjusted adults! And how many of you would tell a whining child, 5 minutes into an 8 hr car journey that he will have to sit there for exactly 7 hours and 55 minutes more????


  13. That’s funny. I lie all the time. For instance the other day my husband put a dollar underneath my 7 year olds pillow and forgot to take the tooth. He asked me what was up with that and I told him sometimes the tooth fairy can’t reach all the way underneath the pillow and if you leave it there today while your at school she will somehow find the time to pick it up.


  14. Oh for heaven’s sake! My mother lied to me all the time! Not about big stuff, but all the little stuff mentioned here. To this day there is no one I trust and respect more than my mom. I had “sleeping” goldfish going to visit thier friends in the sewer, art work in a very special safe place, and happy meal toys that went to poor children. I grew up just fine and continue that fine tradition with my own kids! There is way too much cr*p in this world that my kids are faced with, I’m going to let them believe in Santa and magic and that every piece of art created by thier hands is amazing enough to keep and that there is a lovely farm where really old dogs go as long as absolutely possible!

    And since I don’t get paid to do my job I am going to eat that last cookie and have no guilt about telling them bears took it!


  15. Once again I have turned on my computer to spend ten minutes and then I was reading Rocks in my Dryer and found this link. Now it has been two hours and I am laughing my butt off. What a great sense of perspective you have!

    I had to explain a deer on the side of the road that was (dead)laying down to my son who has autism. Lord forgive me, I said she was sleeping.


  16. Having grown up in a family full of liers (my grandmother just asked me yesterday if I wasn’t lying to her about the results of my daughters MRI) we have chosen to not lie to our children at ALL, includig all the fun stuff. So, I’m with TCC. We honestly tell them no and sometimes we say we will explain when they are older or give a simplified version. We often honestly tell them that something is allowed for us because we are parents and get to make the decisions and they will be able to make that decision when they are older. I guess that makes us unusual but it is too important for us to stick to our guns in this and keep their trust in the future.


  17. A comment that came to me via email from Kit who had a run-in with TypePad:

    Typepad and I seem to have a problem. So I thought I’d email my comment to you, just to show that I’ve been paying attention!

    I don’t know how I’m going to explain the Father Christmas business to my son when he eventually tumbles to it. He’s eight and still believes. It is a kind of magic really, if you think that all over the world parents are telling the same stories and making magic happen for their kids – human magic. Fairies angels and bearded gentlemen in red coats are welcome in our house.

    Hopefully the problem will go away on its own, I’m missing the comment process.



  18. I try to look at lies to my kids like I’m just discriminating carefully what information they need to know. That’s just good parenting. Part of the joy of childhood is being blissfully naive and unaware of the total reality of life. The longer we can preserve that the better as far as I am concerned. I am guilty of the artwork one, and I have to tell the same lie about all the crappy toys that come in the happy meals, too. I think parents should be exempt from the Santa/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny lie though. I mean, they did exist at one time right? ;>) And I’d rather tell a lie about why the bedroom door is locked than have to make up a story about WTH I am doing when they walk in on us. And they WILL walk in on us. Now THAT would be traumatic!


  19. Okay, let’s revert back to the Santa lie. I know it’s terrible to make up such a story, but that lie gave me one of the best memories of my life.

    It was my first Christmas as a single mom in my new, little Cape Cod. My kids slept upstairs in the two attic bedrooms. The living room was located immediately to the left of the stairs leading to their bedrooms. I admittingly went way overboard on my credit card to try and give them a great Christmas, despite our circumstances. Because of this, our tiny living room was covered in gifts from stem to stern. All I can remember from this particular Christmas morning was my two kids running down the stairs and stopping midway in disbelief. As their mouths dropped open, my daughter squealed, “WOW…We must’ve been really good this year!!!”

    Sorry, that was a lie well worth it.


  20. I don’t want my boys to lie to me so I won’t lie to them. That means in our house there is no Santa or Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. We celebrate the birth and resurrection of Jesus and my oldest hasn’t lost any teeth yet but when he does we may choose to reward him somehow. When my son asked why Bruce in “Finding Nemo” started to chase Dory and Marlin I told him a watered down version (but still the truth) of how sharks can react to the smell of blood..and he was 3. We have also explained to him – in terms that he understands – where babies come from. We (my husband and I) want to be their primary source of information…our kids NEED to be able to trust us no matter what. And when the explanation seems too complex for them to handle, I have told them they need to trust me. And when I don’t know the answer I tell them “I don’t know”…and we either look it up or we talk about what faith is. Honesty might be less creative but it is the easier road for me.


  21. I am totally going to use the saran wrap in the salt shaker trick. I make a concerted effort to never lie, regardless of the situation. Probably the one I do most is telling Abigail that the cookies/fruit snacks/whatever are “all gone” when I just don’t want her to eat anymore. But I’ve got it easy right now, because she can’t actually talk much yet, so she’s not asking any tough questions!


  22. You really are brilliant, that quick on your toes. And your second paragraph made me howl with laughter. Idealistic ain’t for mamas.

    I’m getting really tired of the questions like, “how did that baby get in your tummy” and “how is it going to get out.”

    Lie, lie, lie. I’ll fix it later. Maybe.


  23. Oh, the Sarah wrap bit was perfect… You are just stinkin’ brilliant.

    And there would not be enough room on your blog to cover my mommy lies. Looking above, it seems like a lot of them have been mentioned, so I love that I’m in the same boat. I just hope that we’re not in the same boat with the last Oreo…

    And my newest lie (that I’m aware of because let’s face it, I’m sure I lie to my kids without even knowing it, I’m that good) happened last night when our bedroom door was locked and our daughter wanted to come in and she asked why the door was locked and what we were doing…. “Ummm, nothing honey…”


  24. I do my best not to lie to the kids. We don’t “do” Santa because we don’t want them to think that we would lie about Jesus. I guess I would even fess up about the Oreo, IF I would ever put such a gross cookie in my mouth! YUK! I just keep my own stash of cookies, White Chocolate Macadamia Nuts! They can’t have those. “Whatcha eatin’ mommy?” “Nufin, honey.” hehe, thats my lie. Technically, its about gone, so really I’m not eating it anymore, right??
    God bless,


  25. Wait…are you saying that Santa is a LIE?

    I NEVER lie to my child (and if you believe that I have some oceanfront land I can sell you in Nevada…be worth a lot of money when California falls into the ocean…)


  26. Genius! Pure Genius! Just remember to remove the saran wrap for your own (and Antique Daddy’s) use later!

    *on another note my parents STILL give us presents from “Santa” even though the youngest child in the family is now 20!


  27. This is classic. I have a switch to close the salt shaker, but it’s just a matter of time before they realize the “chch” sound I make isn’t their salt!
    I have the “Where did my artwork go?” question to deal with almost daily. Hey- it’s for their own safety. What a fire hazard our house would be if I kept all 10 drawings everyday.
    Yes, that’s it. A fire hazard. Safety….


  28. Oh my. Where to begin? Santa. They think I’m an elf (seriously). The Easter Pig. Leprechauns. And that’s just your everyday fairy stuff. Don’t get me started on the, “Hey! Where’s my beautiful masterpiece from school and all those math papers I did?” lie.


  29. My one ongoing lie is, “Mommy knows everything!” That’s pretty all-encompassing & sometimes I even delude myself into thinking it’s true!


  30. We are all liars!! I can still remember the day that my son then 10, found out about the well you know the man in the big red suit ( Am I afraid your little ones will be reading this?) he kept saying… You mean you LIED to me? Daddy lied to me? Grandma and Grandpa… you get the picture, it culminated with YOU ARE ALL LIARS!!!! yes, I guess sometimes we are…. and just think when you are a dad you can lie to!!!!


  31. Yep. Mine usually come in the form of answering the question, “Mom, where did my ______________ go?” And truthfully – at the moment that question is asked I don’t know precisely where the trash guys took it, so when I say I don’t know, I mean it. But I’d never tell them I threw it away…

    Am I terrible?


  32. Sweet indeed. I am currently indulging my darling three-year-old boy with the delusion that we are going to get married. When he asked me, I said: “But I’m already married to Daddy.” He replied: “But you can marry me too because I love you and you are bootiful!” Well, how could I say no?


  33. I do my honest best to not lie to my kids. They know, and if they don’t, the figure it out soon. I hated being lied to or tricked as a kid, it made me feel dumb. I’m not going to pass that on to my kids if I can help it.

    A lot of people think I’m cruel, but Christmas is about Jesus, so I don’t have to lie about Santa.

    I will concede the Oreo thing, but with 5 kids and one last Oreo, what’s a mom to do? 🙂


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