Tuesday 9 April 2013

The lie-enforcing brigade

One of those times of year has just past –by which I mean one of those times when, if you don’t openly lie to children, you get told off.

You see, no-one will see any problem in telling my sons, indeed insisting that it is so if they say something implying otherwise, that Christmas presents are brought by a fat man wearing Coca-Cola red clothes, and that Easter chocolate has been dropped by flying bells (for you English readers: my understanding is that you get told it’s done by a rabbit, which is marginally more plausible actually. In France, it’s the bells that flew all the way to Rome on good Friday, not a place particularly known for its chocolate production but never mind, where they filled up and, on their way back to the local church where they will ring again on Easter day, dropped their goodies. That the bells are, though silent, clearly visible in many a church tower during the interval is apparently not something that one is encouraged to enquire about).

That, even if I have just before that said that I did not want them exposed to these stories –well, unless they are clearly told that there is no truth to them, that is. Actually that should be irrelevant: surely, when in doubt, the default option should be not to lie. But no, not a chance. Here it’s, even when it has been made clear that they should not be lied to, they will be in the next breath whereas, oh boy, will you get shushed if you dare have a quiet conversation with an adult within 100 yards of a child that will imply that parents or other humans have something to do with it. And my son will get a stern correction if he mentions how creative was one of the places that his granny hid an egg “no, it was not granny, it was the bells.”

Some may see this as trivial but I resent this, and believe it is a slippery slope. OK, lies that are a mere simplification of a true story are probably fine. But here we have completely made-up ones, that are not in any way simplifications, indeed they are very confusing (if chocolate eggs can be dropped from the sky and stay intact, why am I told off for not taking care of less fragile things? If bells can fly, why can’t I? How can something be in two places at the same time? How can a person I’ve never seen know my behaviour throughout the year, am I being spied upon? And so on…). And I resent the lie getting the default setting. Socially, you have no right to be offended if someone just states to your child that God made the world in 7 days and provided him with his food for the day. But you will be told that you interfere if you tell someone else’s child that there is zero evidence of the existence of a deity and that all of that are just stories told by humans, and probably made-up. Just like those stating that the sun will stop rising if you don’t throw a virgin to the volcano every solstice or so, or that the reason that 10 years bond interest rates are low is because you slashed Government spending (oops, sorry, that one was lie to adults, not lie do children, I’m not allowed to reveal it –it’s like the “Democracy means government by the people” one).

I can live with not saying anything to someone else’s child and giving empty answers to his direct questions (but no child is ever going to get a confirmation of nonsense from me. Children will never be born in cabbages and roses, mice won’t really collect their teeth and so on…). Now if you can’t bring yourself to be truthful to mine, have the decency to shut up.

Yes, I know, I’ll be told that children need to have the right to dreams and wonders. Well, again, it’s not for others to decide what my children need. But in any case, if you think that truth is incompatible with wonders, then you have not been paying attention. And the great thing with the actual wonders is that, when you start questioning them, they just lead to even more discoveries. Starting from the knowledge that a shared moment of love can give rise to someone who is at the same time a bit of each of his parents and someone else entirely, you can embark upon a never ending string of investigations. Now ask “how do kids get into vegetables and flowers? Aren’t they much too big anyway?” and you won’t go very far.
Now, my kids know how to pretend and have fun with it –the thing is, they know when it’s pretend. They will make it clear, too (if we then pretend that we are scared by their impression of a ferocious animal, for example –“it wasn’t for real!”). They (well, the elder one at least, not sure that at 19 months, his brother really remembered it) also know that the moon causes tides. It never seemed to restrict their creativity.

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