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That moment, when our little bundle of joy is born, from the very first cry onwards, we are all certain and truly believe that she is the most intelligent one on the planet. We ignore the law of averages for once, as we begin to overemphasise her every action, so that anyone who is willing to lend an ear may know, that she is without doubt, ahead in achieving every milestone of her life and is indeed the smartest. We fuss over it, we fumble over it and we even surreptitiously fight with other proud parents over it. I am sure our children, if they could speak, would remark, "Okay that's ENOUGH!"
My daughter went to day care from when she was five and half months. A very prestigious, well known day care, with the best facilities... there I go again…! Anyway the first thing the centre supervisor ever said to us was, like a pin to the bloated balloon. She said, "To us, every kid is alike, you may think she is the most gifted of all, but they are all the same you know!"
Hmmm I needed some water to gulp down that one, not that I had not suspected that by myself already! But this is not about kids being all the same. No... Please go ahead and believe in your parent instincts and say it aloud, your kid is the best... Because this piece is about them being smarter than us…
So then someone who is smarter than the rest of the world, won't she catch our every lie? Lying to a genius are we? You’ve been had! She will catch you and she will wonder who to trust? Isn’t your child the most sensitive, the smartest, the most sophisticated, the most gifted, the high IQ type kid of the 21st century? I can safely say in 2016 that, all parents in this group, all of them, each and every one… are from the slow, old, long gone, whimpering twentieth century. Lying to your kid? I am sure none of you did that!
I learnt it early, from some parenting manual! Do not lie to your kid, she will not trust you, she will be distressed and not trust any grown-up. Never lie was the lesson. Oh no it is not easy! Don't lie means open up the can of worms in public, wash dirty linen in the public and put up with cantankerous toddler in broad day light and make small talk of it! Oh no it is a daunting exercise.
Sometimes, just in very extreme cases, I have lied! To save the Planet, “The water has become cold, so turn off the shower”… To save her eyes, “Oh that's a load-shedding, no TV now.” She never suspected us, we were consistent in our lies. Just a handful of consistent white lies on a daily basis. But did I ever tell her that, her grand mom was at home, so come home fast? No... Did I ever fool her into doing something for a new toy I never bought? No... No never because I did not want to tell her a verifiable lie. Something that she would just find out to be not true. Load shedding not verifiable, because she did not understand the concept of electricity back then. She did not know that a lighted tube light and a revolving fan are proof that there is current. Water is cold... she did not know how to turn the tap. The thing is, she trusted us in these lies, because we built the trust with her, by not lying to her in too many occasions, by being consistent with her.
She would ask, “Will you buy me a chocolate if I did this?”
“No you just had one, if you did this, I will give you a hug and a kiss.” I would inform her.
“Will you buy me a toy for this?” She’d negotiate.
“No we just bought you a toy yesterday, I will make a beautiful badge for you for this one.” I would counter negotiate. All transparent, verifiable conversations.
There are lies we as parents cannot do without and we have to be careful in creating an atmosphere of trust outside of those few lies! Where do babies come from? “The Stork gets it of-course!” “Where is my cake?” Well tell her, “I ate it! Since you had left it.” “Gremlin took it,” might raise suspicion. She will throw tantrum if you tell the truth? Good… she will learn that she can’t get everything by throwing tantrum and that life can at times be unpredictable!
Here is a story that stuck to me all these years. My daughter was probably two and half then. My neighbour and I took the world's smartest kid and the planet's smartest kid to the park. Both of them about the same age, played in the park, in the world's most unique ways, I can assure you, I was there!! Yes… Yes… give me the LOL.
It was probably 7:00 p.m., Probably a Friday, I still could let my daughter play a little longer, but my neighbour had something important to do at home. I agreed to spend some time at her home with the kids playing there. Plucking our toddler out of the park was a challenge back then... And here we had two terrible twos to extricate from the play area and take them no place more boring than home.
Pat! my friend made a promise to her little one, “Come home I will give you a chocolate.” The kid agreed. To my daughter I said she would not get one, she could decide whether she wanted to come or not. She agreed because her friend was going.
Soon I realised there were no chocolates at the other end! I excused myself from my neighbour’s house and rushed home and got a chocolate, hidden behind me. I offered it to the mom, so she could give it to her daughter, after my daughter and I had left. Oooh what a complicated plot!!! Silly me!
That is when she said, "You know I don't want to encourage my daughter to have chocolates, please take it back." … It was benumbing, befuddling, I stood there unable to move from where I stood, for a few seconds, with embarrassment and hurt, as the rudeness sunk in... Have I interfered? But... but she just made a promise of a chocolate... why promise one, when you will never give it? Mollified after those few moments, I began wondering. Is it possible? This mom claims her daughter is beyond her age, unabashedly with numerous anecdotes to drive in the point. Is the kid also stupid enough to not notice the lie? From then on I became a mute spectator to many many such episodes some grievouser than others…
I will leave it to the readers to guess what it did to the child. Commenting on such a sensitive topic is not my objective. Yes, better senses prevailed, when things got out of hand... Every child deserves a perfect childhood, I am sure this other kid is getting one too. Parents are not Gods. They make mistakes and that is how they grow. The bringing up happens on both ends, child brings up the parents, by their many reactions and actions. Parents bring up the child, in all the many ways we already know oodles about.
Why do we lie to our kids? What is it doing to them? Are we really solving a problem or are we creating a bigger more systemic one?
Dear Readers, This piece is about the lies that we can easily do without. Not about the Yudhishthir like truthfulness. That has its own demerits.