This post is a flashback from the archives. It was originally published 6 years ago, when my kids were 4, 7, and 11. Our daily lives have changed significantly since those days, but I still maintain that establishing an honest, trusting relationship with your kids when they’re young will lead to a more peaceful experience of the teen years. Also, skip the Santa lie. I’ve lived to regret that one!
She was passing through the kitchen when she spotted me in the corner near the sink. “What are you eating?” My daughter has an amazing nose for sweets. “Huh? Me?” I pulled the spoon out of my mouth, clean, evidence erased.
I don’t lie to my kids, as a rule. There are exceptions like Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the stories about how tough my life was when I was their age. I’m sticking with tradition, that’s all.
She put her hands on her hips, trying to stare me down, waiting for me to fess up.
“It’s nothing really,” I started to tell her. “It’s a little chocolate chip cookie dough.”
“Are you making cookies?” Ah, the innocence of a seven-year-old.
She asks quietly, sensing she has stumbled upon a secret of mine, “Can I try it?”
I let her have a little from the package in the fridge, wishing I hadn’t succumbed to my old addiction last night in the far corner of ShopRite. The lighting there made me disoriented, confused. I meant to grab tofu.
One bite and she wants more. “No, you can only have a little or it could give you a terrible stomach ache.” I think this must be a true statement, because mothers everywhere tell it to their children. It’s never made me the slightest bit sick, but as a recovering sugar addict I have a high tolerance.
She had a taste — moderation is key — and avoided a sugar high (hers, not mine, which was lovely). I don’t want my girls to have this addiction that drives them to consume sweets compulsively and battle with blueberry pie. I still wouldn’t want to meet a slice in a dark coffee shop late at night.
Kids appreciate honesty. They don’t like learning from friends that Santa is a myth or from Grandma that you didn’t have it so bad when you were a kid. They don’t know how much it hurt to sit on the floor playing Atari, pressing that little red button without rest, hoping to make it to the next level of Breakout or Space Invaders.
My 11-year-old often shocks me with horribly difficult questions. Sometimes I ask her to come back later and ask me again, hoping she’ll forget. When pressured, I honestly blurt out the answer. I throw it all out there without an ounce of sugar to coat the truth.
And it works.
Speak the truth, but leave immediately after. Slovenian Proverb