Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lie to your kids

If I could give just one piece of advice this Father's Day to the fathers around the world, it would be this. Lie to your children. Don't give them a straight answer to anything. When they ask you questions with straightforward answers, throw them curve balls.

Why? They absolutely love it. At various times in their lives, my children have been convinced that hippopotamuses require a special counting system, that people in Sweden don't wear clothes, that there are fire-breathing dragons still living in the mountains of Italy, and that the Minnesota Vikings will one day win the Super Bowl. Okay, perhaps that last lie is a little bit too cruel.

But there is nothing that speaks more of family than sitting at a dinner table where the father is calmly eating his dinner, the children are screaming with laughter, and the wife is rolling her eyes with a hint of a smile on her lips. It is a father's job to protect his children, and allowing them to preserve their childish joy and innocence as long as possible is one of the greatest gifts a man can give them.

They won't remember how you paid the bills. They won't remember how you taught them to read or disciplined them. But they'll absolutely remember every stupid, silly thing you told them when they were small and their eyes will light up when they do. And you know without even asking that a man is a father when a little girl he's never met before walks up to him as he sits on a park bench and asks him if it's true that people in Sweden don't wear clothes.

"Well, of course not," he answered without batting an eye, despite the t-shirt he was wearing which said "Sverige" on it. And when confronted with the evidence that he was, in fact, wearing clothes at the moment despite being Swedish, he wasn't lost for an immediate response.

"But we're not in Sweden now, are we? If we were in Sweden, then of course we wouldn't be wearing any clothes! Imagine that! Wearing clothes in Sweden?"

After the interrogation was complete and the interrogator ran off to the slide, I asked him how many kids he had. "Three," he replied. I'd never seen him before and I haven't seen him since, but I have absolutely no doubt that he's a great dad. Happy Father's Day to him and all the other dads out there.


jer_the_bear said...

I used to use the mute button on my car radio to tell my kids there was an incoming call. While I did the voices they had conversations with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, a butcher named Mel and Lazer Duck. Just random goofiness off the top of my head.

They still remember it.

VD said...

The ultimate example, of course, is Richard Adams and Watership Down. I loved reading about it and learning that his girls had reminded him about various characters he'd forgotten when he was turning those tales into that great novel.

Aeoli Pera said...

Vox, you've neglected the most important part of lying to your kids: the development of critical thinking.

Sure, it's fun and laughter and games, but kids with perfectly honest parents may never learn to screen the words of authorities for lies (unless they are force-fed the bitter red pill later in life). They don't learn to do the cognitive double take when something smells.

Don't raise your kids to believe the world is full of truth and honesty! Truth is a diamond in the rough.

Aeoli Pera said...

"Neglected" was probably an over-reach. Recalling this story, it's more likely that you (Vox) didn't grow up in a WASPy homeschool bubble, like I did.

This retraction and the unstated change of audience at the end of the previous comment (from Vox to popolus) are hinting at some unfortunate questions about my ability to preach etherwisdom.

SouthTX said...

Messing with your kids minds is one of the greatest joys of Fatherhood. Even their insidious Mom does it. You're right though. It sharpens them.

Unknown said...

I told mine a dragon lived outside that would drag me out the door by my feet. The two boys grabbed me by the arms and tried to pull me inside. The girl sat on the couch with her mother and looked at me.

That's the difference between boys and girls.

SouthTX said...

Yep. That's why I only trust the sons with high caliber weapons.

Yohami said...

I love this, but Im a bit confused. About a year ago we were talking about mints, a first kiss and dealing with your first frontal debate with an alpha... and now we're married and with kids? am I on a time capsule or something?

SouthTX said...

Not me. I am the old school redneck who married a hot old school virgin. Great kids, I ignore PMS.

David said...

When me and my sisters were young, we were very afraid of thunderstorms. To make us less afraid, my dad told us that when it thunders it just means angels in Heaven are bowling. "But what about when it lightnings ('lightninging', was the actual word)?" we asked. "That's just God turning on the light to His bathroom." After that, we were significantly less afraid of it; and for years, whenever we heard a particularly loud thunder, we'd say somebody got a strike.

Now that I'm in my early-20s, every time I hear the first rolls of thunder from a storm, I smile and think back to my childhood. I can't wait to have kids.

Badger said...

The father in Calvin and Hobbes told some real whoppers. The world was black and white until the 20th century, but painters painted color portraits because many great artists were insane.

SouthTX said...

Calvin and Hobbes is a classic. I still joke with my wife about it.

VD said...

am I on a time capsule or something?

Sorry, forgot to calibrate the time machine... anyhow, there are multiple posters here.

Yohami said...


jwshell said...

I get my hair cut about every six weeks. My hair grows into a huge afro if I let it go for awhile (I'm white as white can be), so when I get my hair cut it is quite noticeable. When I was teaching music in the public schools, a student would almost always ask if I had gotten a haircut...again, with my hair it is obvious, so I would say something like, "no, I have a computer chip in my head that automatically sheds just this amount of hair every six weeks" or "no, I got my head caught in the lawn mower last night." Kids always thought that was pretty funny

rycamor said...

Me telling the latest installment of my impromptu story to my 7-year-old son:

"So while the waves started coming over the stern and the center mast came crashing down, Kip remembered his job was to sketch and record everything that happened. Years later he turned that sketch into a full painting, and do you want to see it?"

Son's eyes getting big: "What...?"

Me: "Come with me." and I walked into my study where there is a painting of a 19th-century naval vessel foundering in deep seas.

Him, eyes bigger: "You mean... that's the actual painting? But I thought this was just a made-up story."

Me: "What do you see in front of you? Looks real to me."

Him: "But how did you get it?"

Me: "Well, that's a long story. Let's just say your Papa knows some people."

Him: "Wait... why is there a French flag? I thought this was a British ship."

Me (kid doesn't miss a thing, dangit): "Silly! Don't you remember the Captain was on all sorts of secret missions for the King? Sometimes he flew a French flag to go undercover."

Him: "You're just making it up! Busted!"

Me: "Now who are you gonna believe? Anyway, do you want to hear how they escaped?"

lyncher said...

"and allowing them to preserve their childish joy and innocence as long as possible is one of the greatest gifts a man can give them."

No way. Infantalizing children is a great disservice you do to them.

Anonymous age 70 said...

My son is in his 30's, and just starting medical residency in the Appalachians. When he was a little boy, we lived in tornado country. One day there was a tornado watch, and dark, violent clouds flying past. My wife and daughter were all panicky.

I was sitting reading a book. He asked me, "Why aren't you afraid?"

I told him, "When you see that I am afraid will be time for you to be afraid. Until then, relax and enjoy the weather."

Twenty-five years later, I visited him where he was living in medical school. He told me he remembered what I had told him when he was a little boy. He said, "I have been watching all these years, and still have not seen you look afraid."

It is amazing what things fathers do or say the kids remember the rest of their lives.

Ampontan said...

It's not just kids. Some of the Game-sters recommend teasing the dickens out of women (treating them like little girls)as one trick in the bag. I think this is a subset of teasing.

I knew a man who convinced his wife (both mid-20s) that soccer balls were made of aluminum, fire hydrants had water inside, and that in East Asia, the sun rose in the west and set in the east(because it's on the other side of the world).

He pulled it off because he was remarkably deadpan and matter-of-fact (and she was a bit gullible, to be charitable). It worked for him.

realmatt said...

"There is a way of bringing up the child of a samurai. From the time of infancy one should encourage bravery and avoid trivially frightening or teasing the child. If a person is affected by cowardice as a child, it remains a lifetime scar. It is a mistake for parents to thoughtlessly make their children dread lightening, or to have them not go into dark places, or to tell them frightening things in order to stop them from crying.
Furthermore, a child will become timid if he is scolded severely. "

However, I don't think that is what Vox is advocating.

Ari said...

My favorite was to offer my kid a candy. Then, when they were about to take it and eat it, I would grab the candy and pretend to eat it myself. When I first started doing this they were horrified because daddy "ate" their candy. But when I proceeded to pretend to pull the candy out of my nose and then give it back to them or graphically pretend to regurgitate it (complete with gagging and hacking) the kids would squeal with delight. The wife was always horrified.

Boogeyman said...

Teased and lied to my nieces (I'm basically their foster dad)since before they could talk. They've mastered irony and bullshit to world class levels.

They would always ask dumb questions, like "What're you doing?", and I'd answer, "Building a ship in a bottle", when it was obvious I was making lunch or reading. They would roll their eyes and walk out of the room.

Their cousin came to live with us for a while, a sweet girl of about 9. She came into my room and asked me what I was doing while I was answering some email. Told her I was building a ship in a bottle.

Her eyes grew wide and she asked "Really? Can I see?"

Felt bad and explained I was just joshing her.

JCclimber said...

Yeah, my poor 6 year old....
I did find the limit recently, though. Reading the bedtime story, he actually began to really cry (not the attention seeking kind) when I kept substituting my "funnier version" of one of his favorites.

And during actual homeschooling times, when we're doing real learning, the teasing tones down some, and there are no fabrications told.

But he has about 80% of the world map memorized (just countries, not cities), and is having fun deciding if Santa is more likely Norwegian, Russian, Canadian, Greenland/Danish, or what. Seems since Alaska was originally Russian, he doesn't think Santa is possibly American. My wife is great at following my lead.

We never lie or tease about God either, funny I never noticed that until now. It must be off limits to my subconscious.

JCclimber said...

Quite the stick in the mud, aren't cha?

I wish I still had more of my childish joy and innocence. I recapture it best by spending time with my son and his friends.

JCclimber said...

Well-played. I find my self having to do that more and more, as those critical thinking skills develop in him. One of the things my father taught me was that skill to some degree, at least in making up new lyrics to songs.

Loved how you incorporated a real life painting into the weave, I intend to shamelessly borrow and improvise from that one....

SouthTX said...

Wow. Glad I live in the backwoods. Me and the Mrs. love each others company. Kid's can discuss between Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Lovecraft. He was a bit twisted though.

stg58 said...

My dad was always telling us stories. For 3 or 4 years, he was 28, although he wasn't 28 for 4 years straight, and had not been 28 for many years.

He once told my brother that one of my dad's friends, a carpet layer, was missing a thumb because he had sucked it off (my brother was an infamous thumb sucker up to that point), not that he had cut it off with a carpet knife.

He told us he was 6'4" until he had us, and he shrank to 5'6" because we jumped on him so much.

I really miss him every July 19th. I have his picture up on my blog, along with the Amazon link to all of his books, to help keep his memory alive.

G said...

Great post. After I read this I went and found my 7 year old and played and teased and had a blast.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly who I was thinking of after reading this. Another favorite:
Calvin - What causes wind?
Dad - Tree sneezing.
(Cut to C&H struggling to walk in the wind)
Calvin - Boy, the trees sure are sneezing today.

John Williams said...

Infantalizing a child has to do with training them to be fully dependent on another. What we're talking about is expanding the sense of awe and wonder that comes when innocence meets new facts & fiction. As they deal with the awe & wonder, they'll realize that not all is as it seems and it's this ability to differentiate from fact and fiction that is as memorable and enjoyable as it is vital to becoming an adult that has an accurate BS sensor.

rycamor said...

Thanks. There is a lot you can do with props like that. Just look around you.

It is interesting how your frame of reference changes when something crosses over from the fictional. Even as a young man I was surprised to discover that there really was a Von Trapp family (from the Sound of Music), and that they emigrated to the USA and opened a lodge in Vermont, which you can visit to this day.

In fact, this gives me an idea: I need to tell my kids a few real stories, and portray them as fictional, until at some point I offhandedly refer to the actual event in history. "What, didn't you know? Of course it's real."

That'll keep 'em guessing...

Carlotta said...

Awesome, you just made me really miss my Daddy (passed away). He told us the most incredible stories. Like every year we HAD to get a flat faced pumpkin because they were really amazing warrior Kings who an evil witch had put a spell on. If we took them home and gave them fierce warrior faces, they would turn back into the warrior king and win against the witch.

He also told me that if I miss behaved he was taking me to Hoboken (town in NJ)! I have to tell you, that struck terror in my heart. I had no idea what the hell Hoboken was, but I did not want to go. As a teenager, we were visiting family and passed a sign for it and I actually freaked out. My parents laughed hysterically for about 30 minutes straight. Then threatened to take me there.

Ah, what a gift a Daddy is to a little girl. And how very, very long she remembers all the things He said to her and the comfort they bring.

Carlotta said...

I bet the second you Son can travel he is off to

Carlotta said...

I just wanted you to know that I truly enjoy your comments :)

Carlotta said...

OH MY! They always told me that too! And that it was right over us because our relatives (dead) were bowling against the angles and getting really rowdy.

How funny......ok, your not my Brother are you......?

Carlotta said...

Ah, my Dad and Mother told me this too. I just told that to my children when we were under the house during a tornado last year. They sung to the Lord and had a great time and never noticed how my white knuckles LOL.

Anonymous said...

I've heard it called DadTrolling. I do it all the time. Dinner is the best opportunity for this.

"Where do they get chicken fingers? From the chicken's hands, of course. You haven't seen a chicken with real fingers now, have you? Of course not, that's because kids love eating chicken fingers."

"We only eat the turkeys that don't have feathers. You never see your mother serve a turkey with feathers, do you? And you never see the bald turkeys on the farm because we eat all the bald ones."

"Asparagus? It grows on huge asparagus trees. It's really hard to pick. You find a lot of it in Italy, it likes growing next to spaghetti bushes."

"We always put the lid on the pot when we're steaming mussels. Otherwise, you'd hear 'em scream from being put in the boiling water, and then you wouldn't want to eat them. The lobsters have rubber bands on their claws because they're deaf, and they can't scream but they can sign, 'HELP ME!'"

My son (8 now) usually figures this sort of thing out, roaring with laughter about it.

SarahsDaughter said...

On long trips my father would stop at a convenience store to buy us "tranquilizers" (candy). To this day when I hear the word tranquilizer my mouth waters for my favorite candy and I think of my dad.

LP2021 Bank of LP Work in Progress said...

Hilarious post, too true.

My father regularly says absurd things that cracks the whole room up. Years ago I couldn't open a guitar case, I thought it was locked. Two sections of the case must be pressed and wow, the case opens. Til this day, we kidd around about locking this or that just for the captain to say, nah she doesn't know how to open stuff.

My aunt was remarried and showed her brother the dress. The captain, looks at the above the knee white gown/cocktail dress and says, "where is the rest of the dress?" It was the most obvious and funniest moment. We were all laughing.

Markku saw the pictures of the dress and how everyone was dressed, it was a fun time. When my dad walked his sister down the aisle he said that he was jealous of her shoes. The shoes were white, decorated with bows/lace, 6 inch heels. It was the funniest and most romantic wedding we'd ever attended. I guess that is our silly family way.

On the way home, I was asked why I didn't eat much and had a tad of the wine. I was waiting on trying the turkey dish, didn't get to. My dad says, "LP was waiting for rattlesnake to be served." He knows I have a huge ick factor; cannot handle anything icky, germy, homo, slimy, dog meat, dogs on car roofs, bugs, snakes etc. We all burst out laughing but were a tad afraid...

artie said...

I wouldn't call it lying. I would call it story telling. There's nothing that brings people close together as story telling.

(and i'm not speaking about gossiping)

Inspiring post. I hope I'll remember it when my first child arrives (which is pretty soon).

Anonymous said...

My dad told me puffy cheetos were deep fried caterpillars with cheese powder.

Randy said...

My dad taught me a ton when I was a kid. I appreciate it a lot. I plan on teaching my kids as much as possible right from the get go. Sure they can have fun and be children but I'm raising human beings. I think your idea is cute and I'll probably mess with it a little but for the most part I'm going to always tell my kids exactly how it is.

Sharon Secor said...

HA. I won't embarass myself and say exactly how long I believed that if you picked a guinea pig up by its tail, it's eye balls would drop out. It's sufficient to know that, for a significant portion of time, I did.

Sharon Secor said...

Oh, that's awesome. I'll be using tht one on my 5 year old tomorrow. Tree sneezing. LOL!

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