Birds and bees, storks and frogs … and little white lies
By Mae White
A few weeks ago I picked up my 5-year-old son from school and asked him how his day was. His 7-year-old brother was at a friend’s house. We had a brief pleasant exchange of words, then he threw me a curve ball by asking, “Mommy, where do babies come from?”
Luckily not much in life surprises me anymore. Still, I have to admit I was slightly taken aback. I knew this conversation would take place, someday, but his older brother had never even hinted at the birds and the bees.
Needless to say I had to answer this loaded question. Instead of everything I considered using for a reply — such as the stereotypical “the stork comes and drops the babies from the sky” or the deflecting “go ask your dad” — I said,” When mommies and daddies love each other they may decide they want to have a baby so they discuss it and then make the decision and, wham, you were born 9 months later.”
Surprise. The kid did not like that reply, because he said, “Well HOW does that happen?” Guess I should have stuck with the stork.
Hmmm, just what do you tell your 5-year old son when he honestly wants the truth? Of course you don’t tell him the complete truth. The experience, however, did bring me back to something I have been pondering recently. Do we tell our children small white lies to keep them from so called harm? Or do we tell these lies to protect ourselves?
Because, really, a 5-year-old is not ready for, “A man and a women get together and have sex, and no they don’t have to be in love. Then if they didn’t have protection (intentional or not), boom, 9 months later a baby is born.”
What I ended up saying along with the man and woman being in love, blah blah, was, “I’ll tell you the rest when you are older … MUCH older.” Thankfully he was distracted by something and we were able to move on.
It seems these white lies happen frequently when we have small children. Seriously, I have been trying to count how many I might tell my kids in any given day.
I love my kids more than anything; when they feel good, so do I. Therefore, I believe it’s okay to sometimes tell these harmless lies as long as I really think about each one and why I am telling it. Sometimes those white lies are mixed with a serving of the truth.
For instance, when my son’s frog died, instead of making some candy-coated crap up, I told the truth. “Hoppy went to a better place where he can jump forever and ever with all his froggy friends,” I explained to him. Then I did add that well, yes, he died. And then I cried. Okay, maybe the truth is not so comforting, but I could empathize and my son was happy about that. Now, was all that really the truth? In a way yes. I made up the part about froggy heaven, but it’s just as plausible as people heaven. And we all need a little bit of heaven once in a while.
At the end of the day, it’s okay to “lie” to your kids when it’s absolutely necessary; just make sure you think about it. Do you really need to protect them in that instance? If yes, then I say go for it, because life is difficult for parents, let alone kids. And 5-year-olds have enough on their plate just growing up, without the cold, hard truth constantly staring them in the face.
When not spending time (inconspicuously) at her home in Mammoth Lakes, Mae White can be found with her family at her villa in Tuscany. Her background may be in the creative arts, but her common sense approach to parenting has provided a second outlet to contribute to the world. E-mail her here at The Sheet. We’ll make sure she gets your comments.