Little white lies can be a parent’s best friend. They aren’t meant to be malicious; they are more about making life easier on everyone—parents, kids and the strangers who just happen to be traveling in the same circles at that moment in time. Yes, it is best to always be honest with kids. But sometimes a white lie is the key to happiness for parents and for kids.
1. The “Fish Stop Biting” Lie
For my dad and uncle, the little white lie was necessary because it was the only way to end a fishing trip without tears. This happened when I was about 5. My aunt and uncle owned a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin and had invited us to come stay with them for a week. The first day, we headed to the lily pads at the lake’s edge to fish. There were five of us under age 7. We weren’t doing any of the fishing heavy lifting. That was all on my dad and uncle.
All we did was hold out our poles for them to bait with a worm, drop the line into the water, almost immediately snag a tiny little blue gill, pull it out and hold the line out for Dad or Uncle Dick to take the fish off the hook. The cycle started again—bait the hook, catch a fish, remove the fish, bait the hook, catch a fish, remove the fish….
We never had so much fun. To them, it must have felt like a day on the factory floor making widgets—boring, repetitive and exhausting.
They started making noise about having enough fish, but we would have none of it. We were having a great time! We could have gone on all night!
Then Dad dropped the Big Lie. “We can’t fish any more tonight,” he said. “The fish stop biting at 5 o’clock.”
We dropped our poles and ran off to find something else to do.
But here’s the big punchline: Being a city girl, I never went fishing again. One day, when I was working as a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, a colleague announced that he was leaving early to go fishing that night.
I was dumbfounded. “But you can’t fish at night,” I told him. “The fish stop biting at 5 o’clock.”
Even as it was coming out of my 25-year-old mouth, I realized how ridiculous it sounded. It didn’t help a bit when my colleague asked, “What? Do you think they have little fishy watches so they can tell the time?”
2. The Ice Cream Truck Lie
Like me, a very good friend spent years believing the Big Lie her parents told. In her case, it was Mom who came up with the ingenious lie. When the ice cream truck would come down the street, she told the kids that the driver rings the bell so everyone knows he’s out of ice cream and is heading back to reload. She believed it until she was a teenager.
Another friend told a similar lie to her kids when they had friends over for a play day. She didn’t have enough money to treat all six kids to ice cream, so she told them the truck was empty but if kids dance to the music as he goes by, he’ll return the next day with a full truck. She not only saved the cash, she got the kids moving.
3. The Chuck E. Cheese Lie
When my kids were little, I used to pay a babysitter to take them to Chuck E. Cheese so I wouldn’t have to. Later, during a road trip, the kids spotted a Chuck E. Cheese as we were looking for a place to have dinner. They begged to go in, I told them that only babysitters were allowed to take kids there, so I couldn’t do it. Luckily, at that point they were too young to realize that they had seen their friends’ parents in there. If they had, I would have had to ‘fess up that it was only a rule in our house.
A friend with a similar aversion to Chuck E. Cheese told her kids that people could only go in if they were invited to a birthday party—which was the only way her kids ever stepped foot inside a Chuck E. Cheese.
4. The “I’m Turning This Car Around If You Don’t Stop Fighting” Lie
She was dreading the family vacation road trip because she knew the kids would be fighting the whole way. So she started with the warning early. A week before the trip was planned, she reminded the kids regularly that if they didn’t behave she would turn the car around and come home. It didn’t matter if she was at the end of the block or a block from their final destination.
Sure enough, the day came. They packed their bags and loaded up the car. She was barely a mile away before the kids started fighting in the back seat. “That’s it,” she said. “I warned you.”
To the kids’ horror, she turned the car around, drove home and instructed the kids to unpack the car.
They were stunned and chagrined. After a week of apologies and remorse, she agreed to give them one more chance. The next weekend, they packed the car again and headed off on a blissful, week-long, fight-free vacation.
That mom’s Big Lie? The vacation was actually planned for that second week.
What Big Lies have you told your kids to ensure a happy, peaceful, whining-free family vacation? Share with us in the comments below.