I am a bad parent. I lie to my children.
I lie to my children nearly everyday. I’ve told them lies, they have repeated my lies in school, and I get phone calls from stern-sounding teachers wanting to discuss their concerns about my fibbing children. That was another lie; my ex-wife gets phone calls from the teachers. Then I get the talk.
I once told my son, who was attending preschool at a Presbyterian church, the reason we celebrated the Easter Bunny was because when Jesus died and was buried in a cave, an egg-shaped rock was placed in front of the cave so Jesus couldn’t get out. The Easter Bunny pushed the rock away from the cave and saved J.C. The chocolate symbolizes the wood of the crucifixion.
We got a very nice phone call from the school to discuss what I’m teaching the children.
Sometimes I lie because my children ask far too many questions for their size. I have two little boys, 4 and 7, who are bubbling fountains of questions. Sometimes I lie because I don’t know the correct answer, but usually I lie because it’s a lot more fun.
One day while shaving, flanked by both boys quizzing me on my shaving ritual, my oldest asked me, “Dad, why do you grow hair all over your body and mommy doesn’t?” I crouched down to their level, looked them both in the eyes, and very seriously explained to them I was a werewolf. I had to shave because some people are afraid of werewolves, and I didn’t want to scare them. I watched as their eyes grew big. They both nodded obediently when I explained this was a big secret and they shouldn’t tell people I was a werewolf.
Here are the facts as I described them:
- My hair is brown when I’m a werewolf (they asked).
- I don’t transform in front of them because I’m afraid it would scare them.
- I won’t eat the dog.
- I became a werewolf when I was bitten by a werewolf when I was a boy. That makes me a 2nd Generation Werewolf.
- They may also be werewolves, but they usually won’t show until they are teenagers. They would only be half werewolf because their mother doesn’t like this werewolf business. That would make them 3rd Generation Werewolves.
- They may show signs early. I instructed them to check their feet when they woke up after a full moon. If their feet were dirty, then they were out howling at the moon.
At this point, the reader should expect a story about frightened children who could not sleep; afraid of the werewolf dad prowling around in the dark. My lie had the opposite effect: it stopped the bad dreams, monsters in the closet, and moving shadows on the wall. I hadn’t made the connection until I overheard the boys playing. My oldest, speaking as the elder statesman of the two, wished the boogyman would break into our house so they could watch me transform into a werewolf and scare him away. My youngest speculated I would only need to show the boogyman my claws and roar, and the boogyman would never scare another kid again.
My double life as a werewolf has been the answer to numerous pre-pubescent concerns. Vampires? Werewolves and vampires don’t bite each other’s children because we are equally strong. A vampire attacking a werewolf’s pups would be inviting an attack on their children. Peace is maintained through equal power; the Cold War with fangs. Zombies? Werewolves don’t taste good to zombies so they stay away from us. Of course, no self-respecting werewolf would ever eat a zombie. That’s just disgusting.
My oldest is now at the stage where he’s excessively fascinated with guns, war, and all about my military experience. Enter the werewolf; I fought in the Great Werewolf-Zombie War. Werewolves and Vampires rounded up all of the zombies and locked them into underground bunkers (because you can’t kill zombies. Duh!). You try to explain the U.S.’s foreign policy in the 21st century to a four year old. There are people running for president who can’t explain why we’re in Libya.
At dinner one night, my oldest gravely told me his teacher had explained to his class that dragons weren’t real. The child was upset with the thought that dragons didn’t exist in his world. So, like any bad parent would do: I moved dinner into the living room, and streamed a documentary on Komodo Dragons. Now, in case you don’t know, Komodo Dragons don’t breath fire, but they do have pretty nasty mouths which might as well be venomous. We couldn’t find a documentary on fire-breathing dragons because they’re hard to film. They keep melting the cameras. Armed with new knowledge, my son happily marched into school the next day and informed his teacher dragons do exist.
My question to the well-meaning adults out there: Why are your lies better than my lies? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are permissible lies because they fall into an agreeable construct we’ve all accepted? Open the imagination box wide. Better yet, kick the lid clean off. Let the kids have their imagination. It just might do you some good too.
Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity.